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Listen

May 29th, 1932


How are you? What a stupid question. It's not like I'm actually going to tell a stranger that I'm not having a good day. Why is it that in our society it's considered polite to ask someone how they are? I think it's impolite to pretend like you actually care. There are too many things going on right now to be caring about everyone else's problems.

They've begun to call it the Great Depression. What a name. Because, obviously, it's anything but great. At sixteen I'm the oldest in my family and have to take care of my mother, younger sister, and younger brother while my father's at work.

Oh yes, my mother. She's sick. Very. Typical storyline. Diphtheria, we think, even though it's usually a childhood illness.

I'm not exactly sure where I'm going with this...I just saw the typewriter sitting on the desk and began clicking away.

Well, I just went to check up on my mother, and she wasn't doing well. Fury. It filled me up like a balloon. Why do these things happen to some people, and not to others? I was so, so angry I began tearing precious paper. One after another. Rip. Rip. Rip. Only when I sat amidst all the scraps did I realize what I'd done. I began cleaning up the scraps, when suddenly a strange urge overwhelmed me. I've never been much of a writer, or an artist, but I began to fill the scraps with writing. Poems. Phrases. Sketches. It was more of a stream of conscious thing than actually trying to come up with something specific. But now the pile of ink stained pages sits in front of me. I guess I'll hold on to them. Just in case.

August 23rd, 1932


The medical bills are piling up, like I knew they would. It doesn't look like Father is going to lose his job soon, but it's all a matter of time. My thirteen year old sister dropped out of school now that she's finished junior high. That made me upset. I knew she had to, to support us, but I still haven't gotten over the fact that I didn't get a chance to finish school. I always had these crazy dreams of going to college, something that only happened to a few lucky, wealthy girls. Rose, my sister, had such a future. She was a better student than I, and I honestly believe she could've done something big with her life. All that's gone, like the topsoil of Oklahoma.

This time I was more reasonable. Loss has become a regular thing now for my family, and many others for that matter. I wasn't blinded by rage, so I had enough sense to scrawl my nonsense on the back of a soup can label. Now that I'm going back and reading it I'm thinking, "Did I really write that?" Because, actually, it's pretty good.

October 17th, 1932


Death.

Such a scary word to so many, but I actually find it relieving. Yes, my mother died today. And yes, it fills me with a strong emotion. I haven't decided which one yet. In a sense, it was good that Mother left this world. It's a very tough world to be in right now, and there's no need for her to wallow in agony.

But don't be fooled by my calm composure. Inside I am screaming. In fact, I was on the outside too, thirty minutes ago. I lit a match, started a fire. I gathered the scraps of nothing I'd created and was about to toss them in. I really would've too, if the fire hadn't been so bright. It was almost mesmerizing the way the flames danced and cast shadows. Then I noticed my fingers were scratching something in the dirt, as if they had a mind of their own and weren't a part of me at all. A simple poem, about the heat of the flames. And I decided to keep it. It, along with all the other things I'd written.

February 13th, 1933


Writing has become a regular thing for me. And drawing. Anything I can find that can be written on is written on. Anything that can be drawn on is drawn on. Whenever a thought crosses my mind, I put it down. Just a couple of times a week. It's gotten pretty messy though, all these scraps. But, I suppose, the truth isn't neat.

June 12th, 1933


I've begun to keep a journal of the stuff I've been writing. I glued all the scraps of what I've done on the pages (the journal cost me a fortune, by the way). Most of the papers were written on the back too, so I copied that down. It's rewarding seeing everything put together. Too bad I'll never show it to anyone.

July 31st, 1944


I'm twenty-eight now. Ancient, or at least it feels that way. Eleven years have gone by since I first started writing. I've never run out of things to write about. Sometimes I'd even jot down a few words about lunch, or a pretty dress. Usually, though, it's more serious. Especially right now. The Great Depression may have ended, but now we are suffering through a second world war. Will the hard times ever come to an end?

Rose and I are both married. My younger brother, Daniel, and my father are both away fighting. I still haven't told anybody about the journal I keep or the sketches I draw. I don't think I ever will.

March 2nd, 1945


He died.

Daniel.

In the war.

On the day of my 29th birthday.

Need I say more?

January 1st, 1955


Annus novus, vita nova.

New year, new life.

I wish it was. I wish I could wipe away my troubled past and start fresh. But a new year doesn't do that. It just makes me remember the other years, all thirty-eight of them. It's especially hard to forget the past when it sits documented around me. Fifteen notebooks, all full. Each one reminding me.

It seems so stupid now. I never was a writer. All the things I wrote were childish. I really didn't know what I was doing. I'm not going to be a child anymore. No more "writing." I'll keep the journals, but put them away. Maybe I'll look back at them and have a good laugh one day. Someday.

September 7th, 1968


Wow. It's crazy to be using this typewriter. I'd forgotten about this, and the things I'd typed. I was moving an old couch up to the attic when I stumbled across some boxes. Inside were a bunch of faded notebooks. I didn't really even recall writing what I wrote in them. But then I found you, dear typewriter, and read the pages still clamped on the paper table. It struck me as odd that I wrote about writing. And the last entry, from 1955, gives me chills. How could I dismiss my feelings?

I feel an urge to do something with the scraps and journals. Actually, I feel an urge to continue writing. Instead, though, I'm going to talk. I just went and bought an audio cassette recorder and a bunch of tapes. I told my husband not to bother me, and locked myself in our room. I don't know what I'm going to say, but it doesn't really matter. I'm reading some of the journals aloud, and adding my own things. I just got through talking for an hour straight. My throat feels scratchy and my voice is hoarse.

And nothing's ever felt better.

December 19th, 1968


I'm never going to run out of things to say. The Great Depression, World War II, the Vietnam War...but why all negative things? I never wrote about my first child being born, or any of the happy headlines. Maybe joy isn't as strong of an emotion as anger or grief. That shouldn't be the case.

I've continued to record myself talking. It might seem pointless, and maybe it is, but it's a good way to let my feelings out. I just sit down and say a few things about my day. Some are boring, and some are interesting. I still don't know what to do with any of this, but does it matter? I have many more years to figure that out.

Lately the content of the tapes has been more lighthearted. Good. There should be more happiness in the world.

April 28th, 1971


Boxes and boxes of tapes.

Boxes and boxes of notebooks.

I feel like they shouldn't be kept boxed up. That they should be let out.

But where?

November 30, 1998


Time.

Ticking ticking ticking away.

Sixty-six years have passed since I first lost myself in writing on those little scraps of paper. Oh, no. I didn't mean lost. I meant found.

Would you believe that I'm 82? Would you believe that it's almost the year 2000? I surely don't believe it. So many things have happened over all the years. And, except for some gaps, I have it all documented. Yes, I've continued recording. It's gotten so lonely now though, with my husband gone. Talking to an inanimate object alone in my house just isn't fulfilling. And besides, the cassettes just take up room. They just gather dust.

And now I think I really am going crazy. I went out on a street corner today and just began babbling. Babbling about everything I'd written, drawn, and said. Most ignored me. Some looked at me like I was crazy. Some shook their heads and clucked their tongues, as if they felt sorry for a complete stranger. I wasn't looking for sympathy. I'm not so sure I was looking for anything.

Except for someone to listen.

June 12th, 2010


People think I'm homeless, but I assure them I'm not. Just an old woman with lots of things to say. The police don't make me move. I think they understand.

Another twelve years gone by. Every day I'm out there talking.

But, I'm 94 years old. I know my time is coming. And it would kill me (no pun intended) to see those cassettes and notebooks never shared with anyone before I die. I never even showed them to Rose, or my mother, or Daniel, or my father, or my husband.

So, to make up for not showing them to my family, I'll show them to the world.

I tear out every page from every journal. I gather all the tapes. And I begin to walk. I tie a page to a tree, slip one under a door. I put a bunch of pages in separate bottles and set them out at sea. I leave a cassette in a mailbox, or even in the middle of the sidewalk.


Everywhere.

May 29th, 2011


It took almost a year, but the boxes are emptied. I'm satisfied. It's not like I think what I have to say is more important than what everyone else says. In fact, that's not the case at all.

I spread my word around so everybody can make up their own mind. So they can read from my experiences and grow stronger. So they'll know that they're not alone. So they can find a way to let out what they're feeling.

I just want to do what everybody wants to do. To outlive my life. I didn't want to fade away, with nothing to leave behind. Patricia Darling. What a name. Now, maybe, many will know it.

When I was talking on the sidewalk, thousands heard me. Many will hear me on the tapes. And many will hear my voice speaking through the notes. But only a few will really understand.

Only a few, will listen.




Join the Discussion


This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

TheMouseWins said...
May 24, 2012 at 3:33 pm:

I kind of like this...

In the beginning, I think it might be more interesting if you stuck in some lingo from the 1930s ('swell' was the 'hot' back then), because that would be the language Darling used. And it can't all be bad stuff; what if the first thing she wrote about was seeing something interesting, radical, so amazing (talkies, anyone?) that she had to write about it. Just a line or two. That's all.

Overall, this is an excellent piece that could use some additions.

 
chat.hmmThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Aug. 17, 2012 at 8:02 am :
Thanks for the advice! I love the idea of using some of the terms that were common of the time period. I'll go back and edit this!
 
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