to chance encounters
stories to share
suffering to compare
darting black flies
looking for blood
I remember writing this piece during one of the summer workshops at the University of New Brunswick. It was after the first night there & having met the other writers for drinks, chit-chat & introductions outside of the classroom setting. I think it was around a bonfire or perhaps in the common room of the residence.
Once the usual get-to-know-you information was exchanged – hometown, writing experience etc we moved to more personal stuff mainly bad experiences. Surgeries that went wrong, partners who betrayed etc. I didn’t really have much to contribute about tribulations & as the tribulations escalated it became a contest of who suffered & survived the worst. You had a ovarian cyst , well I had cancer of the brain – top that!
It’s like The Dance of the Seven Veils where we are selective about what gets revealed & never reveal how many veils there actually are. People bonded over shared, similar, unpleasant experiences. At that time I had had no major surgeries, no criminal assaults, no car accidents, no relationships, no children – I was not all that interesting until the workshop really got going & my insightful, no-holds-barred self was revealed.
This shared-disaster pattern is one I’ve seen repeated often over the years I’ve taken workshops, participated in consumer panels, participated in pharmaceutical drug research studies. Strangers quickly bond over shared experiences & if you don’t share you are left on your own, most of the time. Which allows me to focus on why I am there in the first – which isn’t to be liked but to learn.