I’d like to just lie in my bedroom. Not this one. I fantasize about the one that I’ll be in – above some bar where I’ll wash dishes on Main Street in a small town no one has heard of in one of the less interesting United States – right after I run away from it all.

I sit down regularly to write my will – not in a histrionic act of attention-getting drama, but, I imagine, in a slow and methodical way. I detail every item I own and who should have it. I list out all of my debts and the corresponding items that can be sold to cover them, which ones can go fuck themselves, and I give addresses of people who should shoulder the burden of one or two. I politely dispose of all of my unusable items so that no one else has to – my credit card statements, old magazines, bits of string on the art shelf that I’ve always meant to do something with, but that no one else would see the usefulness of. I leave my daughter all my old journals and scraps of paper with notes – for the day when she seeks answers from my thoughts.

I write each of my children a long letter and tell them that I love them and that I envision their amazing future lives. But this is where I always stop. I can never get past this point. I know intuitively that a child is better off with a parent who struggles to think, eat, breathe, do right, keep going, find the strength or the right answers, prevent harm, or keep fighting the fight, righting the boat than with a parent who suddenly doesn’t exist anymore at all.

But I keep returning to this place. The need to disappear.

I want to go to a place where memories are ghosts who shake their chains at me in private, rather than in the public sphere of jobs and ex-husbands and school behavior meetings and internet communities where everyone else seems so fucking disturbingly fine.

I have no desire to kill myself. This is not a cry for help.


She told me she was pregnant on a Thursday. I bought her a yellow and white bouquet of Gerber daisies and lilies. A card. I gave her both and asked, “So? What’s the plan?”

We went to the doctor on a Tuesday. She was given the medication and told to rest. We all waited uncomfortably until her eyes became glossy and she started to giggle.

I stood on one side of her, holding her hand, her partner stood on the other doing the same. He was quiet, withdrawn. Anxiety was a cloud that hovered over our heads in the cold room as the doctor busied herself. I watched both through my eyes and from a place up and to the right, like a thought bubble. I kept grabbing myself from above and pulling me into my own brain, trying desperately to experience the moment. I saw the tube placed on the table and struggled to make an emotional connection to it. But nothing.

She sat on the exam table and the nurse asked, “So? What do you want to do for birth control then?”

Her partner mumbled, looked at the ground.

Papers were passed to her. She signed them in between sobs and giggles, eyes unable to focus. Two small sticks were injected into her arm. She was safe for three years.

I took her home, walked her into her room. I smelled damp decay and, as I helped her settle into bed, noticed the bouquet I’d given her wilting on her floor, still in its cellophane covering.

“You never put those in water,” I said.

“What are they for now?” she asked as she drifted off to sleep.

Three months later I got a letter from her. “I had to have the birth control removed,” it said. “It was making me sick. I’m pregnant. I’m keeping it.”


You call me on Sundays. We talk for fifteen minutes or an hour. You tell me about the meatloaf you made. You excuse yourself off the phone by saying that your ice tea is melting. You ask about my children like you would about the recent rainstorm. You wonder about my life like I’m a stranger you’ve met in the lobby of a doctor’s office.

I don’t ask about you. I know that if you’re going to tell me about your life, it’ll be in sudden, furtive whispers.  One second you’ll be thumping your chest about how long it’s been since you’ve had a cigarette (14 months), a drink of alcohol (six years), or any drugs (ten years), and the next second, in the middle of your sentence, you’ll say hurriedly and in a hushed voice, “I’ve been saving up my tips. I almost packed my stuff the other day.” And I’ll know that he’s left the room.

I know he’s in the room most of the time, though.

“Do you ever read my writing,” I’ll ask.

“No, not so much. Not much of an opportunity,” you’ll say too loudly. Codespeak for: I’m not allowed to get on the internet. My every move is watched. I still have one addiction left to battle and I’m not ready to face it.


“You made it out, Gloria,” my therapist said recently. “Most people never do. You graduated college and left an abusive marriage when all the odds were stacked up against you. You made it out by a fingernail.”

“I was raised to believe you respect children at all costs,” said my ex-husband. “You were raised by abusers and were taught that’s the way things are. Now, now! Don’t get defensive. You know it’s true. This is what you’ve told me.”

“Fuck him,” said everyone else.

These are things you’re not supposed to write about, I tell myself. These are the thoughts and experiences that will get you in trouble, that belong to other people. You’ve no right. No one wants to hear about it anyway.

Philosophy and feminism and politics and anecdotes and humor – especially humor – are the fires that keep the coyotes at bay, I say. They are shields and they can be so tiringly heavy to hold. Sometimes I just want to put them down. And sleep.

TAGS: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

GLORIA HARRISON is a writer whose work has been featured on The Nervous Breakdown, Fictionaut, and This American Life. Gloria was the lead editor for The Portland Red Guide: Sites & Stories of Our Radical Past by Michael Munk, which was published through Ooligan Press in 2007. She was also a contributing editor to Pete Anthony's book, Immaculate, for which she received a high five and a ten dollar gift card to Stumptown Coffee. Gloria graduated from Portland State University with her B.A. in English in 2006 and now focuses on her own writing. She had a work of flash fiction published in The Bear Deluxe Magazine (No. 26). You can follow her on Twitter here.

Gloria lives in Portland, Oregon with her school-age twin boys. She is currently working on both a memoir and her first novel. You can contact Gloria via her Facebook page.

107 responses to “Things You’re Not Supposed to Say”

  1. Ashley Menchaca (NOlady) says:

    Yay!! You posted!
    I can’t wait to hear what everyone has to say!

  2. Irene Zion says:


    Everyone wants to disappear sometimes,
    but if you’re a grown-up
    and you have a child,
    you suck up and do.

    • Gloria Harrison says:


      • Irene Zion says:

        That’s why it’s sad
        that kids always want to
        grow up,
        believing it’s
        on the other side.

        • Gloria says:

          If only we could warn them.

        • Tammy Allen says:

          Why don’t we? Why don’t we tell them what can and most likely will happen? Why can’t we teach them how to cope in a constructive way? Who says you can’t tell them? Why didn’t anyone tell me? Why was I told I was special? Why wasn’t I able to at least see it coming? Cuz they’re to young to understand? Cuz you have to experience things for yourself? I don’t buy it. You can steer them in the right direction with honesty. If they don’t get it at least you tried. You don’t have to say I told you so. Just love them and tell them they’ll work through it. Give them more tools. Stay present. Be involved. Take a break give yourself room to recoup. Get back to it.

  3. Meg Worden says:

    Gloria, I really connected to this. The layers of your experience are palpable. I just read it twice…and believe that what you wrote about here are exactly the things you should have. You have guts. Thank you for posting it. It is beautiful.
    I just moved to Portland and have an 8 yr old boy. I would love to have a coffee sometime and we can compare escape plans.
    Mine usually involves a roadside diner.

  4. Don Mitchell says:

    Keep those coyotes at bay, Gloria. This and your other piece make a nice pair.

    • Gloria says:

      You mean my last piece about the female teacher? Thanks, Don. I hadn’t thought about that, but I think you’re right. I think that if I’m going to be the one to write the teacher I envision, I have to know about her first. I think honesty and truth are key components in there.

  5. Jen says:

    Yes, yes. The shields!
    I do love you so, Gloria.

  6. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    “These are things you’re not supposed to write about, I tell myself. These are the thoughts and experiences that will get you in trouble, that belong to other people. You’ve no right.”

    I’m going to stick my big fat opinion in here, Gloria. This is your life and it’s just as valid as the lives “that belong to other people.” My guess? You’re doing the best job of making those realities beautiful with the application of truth. You have every right to tell your story. It’s your story and I, if invited to do so, intend to gratefully read every word of it.

    If there is a secret handshake for “hell-to-the-fucking-yes-sista” then I’m reaching out with it, woman. You know what to do.

    • Gloria says:

      Thanks, Lisa Rae. You know, in a lot of ways this piece was an experiment in tone and pacing. It is also an experiment in telling my experience of another’s experience in a way that isn’t exploitative or otherwise rude. I don’t know… You do this very well, LR. I wish sometimes that I were better at fiction or that I would just take that plunge and write fiction, because I’m pretty sure that’s the best way to navigate those waters.

      • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

        One of the greatest responsibilities of writing, for me, is ethical boundaries. It requires an astounding commitment to honesty. It also requires a willingness to take a risk for the sake of truth. Some risks are worth taking. Others are careless. As the writer, those choices are up to you. I don’t know if the fiction/nonfiction distinction matters to people who feel they are being exposed. Does changing somebody’s name and saying “this isn’t true” make the person the story is based on feel any better? Does it make the writer feel any better? I don’t know. Depends on the person I guess, and also on the story. I’ve always been a fiction writer. Recently my stories just don’t ring true unless I commit to memoir, which is humbling.

        • Gloria says:

          I appreciate this, Lisa Rae. Especially: It requires an astounding commitment to honesty. I think that’s right on.

          I’d love to read some of your fiction sometime.

      • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

        PS: Another thought on second look:
        “an experiment in telling my experience of another’s experience”
        Is this what you’re doing? Because you are present in these experiences… They are happening to you. You may not feel that the drama is yours because you are focused on what is happening to the person who is with you in the room or in the conversation. What interests me, as the reader, is your interior, your environment, the nature of your focus. What is happening to you, Gloria? Know what I mean? You’re real. Your feelings are equally valid, however quiet they may feel in contrast to what’s going on center stage. That’s really interesting, human stuff.

        • Gloria says:

          I think it is the most interesting human stuff. I agree. And when I read other people’s nonfiction writing, I never used to wonder, “How did person X feel about being written about?” But I do now. I’m paying closer and closer attention to how others do it. And I’m respecting more and more their choice to write, recognizing the bravery it involves.

  7. Matt says:

    We’re writers. Everything that happens in our lives, every thought or feeling we have, is the palette with which to create our art.

    Write about – and say – whatever you damn well please.

    • dwoz says:

      I dunno…

      I was thinking that maybe “stuff that goes into the hopper of the sausage mill” was a more apt metaphor than “palette”

      Making sausage is a queasy process, indeed!

    • Gloria says:

      Yes, and you certainly are skilled at that, Matt.

      I heard an author say recently that every family that has a writer in their ranks also has an assassin in their ranks. That struck me.

      Did you ever have to get over the “getting in trouble” hump?

      • Matt says:

        Oh, hell no. A large chunk of my family isn’t speaking to me anymore, and one ex-girlfriend is pretty furious with me.

        Somewhere along the line I developed the ability to shrug my shoulders and say, “fuck it.” Strangely, the threshold at which I hit that point gets lower and lower the older I get….

  8. David says:

    Sometimes, in cruise at 35,000 feet, passengers asleep, George (the auto pilot) doing the work, I let my mind wander a bit. I fly single pilot, so even with passengers on board, there is an immense solitude. Six miles above the earth, no other aircraft within miles, the radio chatter a background din; an immense solitude.

    When I let my thoughts go, I think about stepping from the aircraft and falling through the cold air. I think about the four minute fall. I think about no one being able to reach me in any way. It is not to die; life is too short already. It is to shed the voices on the radio, the passengers in the back, and the destination. It is to shed everything.

    It is not a logical thought, nor is it one I have ever considered even for a second. The reality is not welcoming: air at -40 and not thick enough to keep me conscious more then a few minutes, and then there is that certain death thing, but the thought comes often. In that moment, it seems it would be peace.

    • dwoz says:

      Now I know why existentialism is not a job requirement for commercial pilots.

    • Gloria says:

      Wow, David. You never fail to surprise me. Your words are beautiful and descriptive and yes – I understand the impulse. I once heard someone say that when you’re standing on the edge of a cliff and you’re feeling afraid of the plunge, it isn’t falling that frightens you, but, rather, the urge to jump. I get it.

  9. Lorna says:

    Excuse me if I’m wrong, but isn’t telling yourself what you can’t write sort of like someone telling you not to feel feelings that you feel? I say write it anyway. You never need to have another read it. But perhaps the writing of it is the escape you need.

    Just my two cents.

    • Gloria says:

      Hi Lorna,

      Thank you so much for your comments. And yes, you’re right: feel what you feel and write what you write. I agree. I think the real task for me – the place where I’d like to grow as a public writer – is to figure out how to do this in the literary way. How to be both honest and respectful of other’s boundaries at the same time. I wonder if any memoir/non-fiction writer who ever did it well has ever figured that out. I mean, I have no desire to write my own version of Chicken Soup For the Soul. The other thing I’ve always worried about, honestly, is litigation and retaliation. I’ve been ostensibly writing my memoir for most of the year and I’m so pukingly tired of the navel gazing self reflection crap. What I’m really missing is the straight reporting piece. Does that make sense?


      Thank you again for commenting, Lorna. I appreciate it.

      • Lorna says:

        “I’m so pukingly tired of the navel gazing self reflection crap.”

        Yes, yes. It makes sense. It’s the same struggle I have been having lately when trying to figure out when and how I should open my mouth these days….. How can I say what I need to say, make my point clear AND respect the other persons values and boundaries. I suppose we all struggle with these things.

  10. jmblaine says:

    Glad you
    said things
    you weren’t
    supposed to say
    if more people
    the world
    might taste more


    • Gloria says:

      “…the world might taste more freedom” made me tear up a little. Thank you, JM. I appreciate your comment very much.

  11. Jen Violi says:

    “memories are ghosts who shake their chains at me in private”–what an amazing line. And I felt the chains shaking all the way through, letting your reader close in to the haunted house, evoking tenderness and sadness and wistfulness and lots of other nesses. Except for Loch Ness–you probably already had enough monsters, huh? Regardless, I loved reading this, and allow me to reiterate what I hope I’ve said before and will continue to say to you: Your words matter.

    • Gloria says:

      Yes, but Loch Ness is imaginary and she seems to be smiling in the photos. Also, she’s Scottish. And I’m pretty sure that if my monsters had Scottish accents, I’d at least enjoy listening to them more. 🙂

      Thank you for reading, Ms. Jen Violi, you amazing writer.

      And soon, we dance!

  12. Great and truthful stuff here, Gloria.

    You write about anything, I’ll read it.

  13. Joe Daly says:

    Yanno, the women who write from TNB are fucking gutsy, and this piece is a great example of the kind of writing that makes me so proud to be a contributor. I love the way you weave implications and truths together to come up with some stunning episodes.

    Vivid gut-punches throughout are very effective. After the first one, you know that each story will end with a punch, and you don’t disappoint.

    Thank you, Gloria, for chewing me up and spitting me out. 🙂

    • Gloria says:

      Thank you, Joe Daly, for reading. I appreciate your comments very much. I like writing here, too. We are a bunch of ballsy broads.

  14. D.R. Haney says:

    I like the elliptical, episodic form of this, Gloria.

    I, too, have recurring thoughts of disappearing. I often see myself living in a remote cabin in the Yukon, or on a boat, far away at sea. However, I’m never washing dishes. I’m not forced to earn a living in my own fantasies of disappearing.

    Oh, and of course, it’s always tricky, what a writer “can” say and “can’t.” I’ve gotten into a lot of trouble when I’ve defied the “can’t,” but I regret nothing, as the old song goes.

    • Gloria says:

      Ah, thanks Duke! This means loads coming from you.

      You’ve gotten in trouble? I’d be really interested in hearing more about that – the situation, the conversation, the outcome – if you’d be interested in sharing.

      Thank you so much for your comment.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        Actually, I think I was somewhat inspired by this post to write my new one, since, really, there can be repercussions from broadcasting one’s views of public figures. I learned this last year, when I jokingly insulted a Playboy model on the boards here at TNB. (The full account is in Subversia — hint, hint.)

        Meanwhile, twice last year, I had arguments over my TNB pieces: once because I’d left someone out of an account in a post, and once because the same person was included.

        Back in the MySpace days, I posted a blog in which I mentioned that I gave a friend a beer that I’d randomly (and drunkenly) picked up, already open, at a party. My friend drank the beer and presumably became host to a stranger’s germs, only to learn about it later at MySpace. He was not amused.

        I once had a girlfriend read my journal, which led to my being kicked out of our apartment and a bout of homelessness.

        I based a character in Banned for Life on a girl who was upset about it, though, overall, her reaction was fairly level-headed. (“I read and feel like I want to throw up,” she said, “and then I tell myself, ‘Well, it’s sort of a compliment,’ and then I read some more and I want to throw up again.”)

        In general, I think it’s a tricky thing when we’re writing about “our” lives, since our lives never belong entirely to us. At the same time, if we aren’t to write about our lives (and even in fiction, one way or another, we’re doing so), what are we to write about?

        • Gloria says:

          The journal thing is lame and you should’ve gotten a pass on that. A journal is sacred. Lame, lame, lame. I was with my exhusband for ten years and the whole time he had a journal. When we separated, I swear to you that we separated from strangers, having never actually gotten to know one another. And that long decade that was my twenties, I longed many times to read his journal – to figure him out and know him. But I never did. Until the end. I went into his music room a few days before I moved out, opened it up, and read that he thought I ate like a pig and that he hoped that I left and wasn’t able to make it out in the world, just so I could come back to him and ask for help and he couldn’t wait to tell me no. It was like a punch in the gut. But my reaction wasn’t anger toward him, but toward myself. “Well, that’s what you fucking get for reading his journal!” is what I thought.

          Your final question is exactly right, Duke. And it’s the place to back to which I keep circling.

  15. I loved this – every word.

  16. JSBreukelaar says:

    A nice piece. Very gutsy. I really connected to the ‘You call me on Sundays’ section, and the line, ‘And I’ll know that he’s left the room.’ A story in itself, clearly. Thanks for this.

    • Gloria says:

      Yes. A long story. A book in itself, you know? I’m sure you do. I get the feeling you do.

      Thank you for reading and for your kind comment.

  17. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    I am not a gutsy writer at all, so I always admire it when I see it … and see it done so well, so candidly and so fluidly. Nicely done, Gloria. Thanks for writing about things you’re “not supposed to write about it” so maybe someday the rest of us (okay, me) will follow your example and get a little braver 😉

    • Gloria says:

      I like what you write, Cynthia. And you do it really well. But yeah – if there’s something else you’d like to say, say it, man. It feels…relieving. Like not being constipated anymore.

  18. What a wonderful, strong piece of writing.

  19. Greg Olear says:

    Not a memoir, no no no. A novel that reads like a memoir. With the standard disclaimer up front: the characters in this work are fictional. Any similarity to any other person, living or dead, is a complete coincidence, yadda yadda yadda.

    Fiction is the paper bag over the 40 of malt liquor that lets us drink in the street without breaking the open container law.

    Also: Portland is like a larger version of New Paltz, as we’ve discussed; having spent the last month in one of those less interesting United States, I assure you that you’re better off where you are!

    Great stuff, Gloria.

    • Gloria says:

      “Fiction is the paper bag over the 40 of malt liquor that lets us drink in the street without breaking the open container law.” bwahahahahahahahaha – – This might be the greatest metaphor I’ve read in weeks. Thanks, Greg.

      I appreciate you reading. 🙂

      • Greg Olear says:

        Thanks — I was pleased with that one. I had written an actual literal line about fiction being a disguise, or some such thing, when it hit me.

        But I mean it. You should be writing a novel, not a memoir.

        • Gloria says:

          You know what? I think you’re right. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve gone back and forth on this issue in the last six months, Greg? I’m starting to get a little seasick.

          At the end of it all, though, I really do think you’re right. Honestly? Secretly? I’m afraid of fiction. But, nonetheless, it’s a lot easier to think of it as Old English truth in a brown paper bag. Really just the perfect metaphor.

        • dwoz says:

          I’m sorry to bust in on the conversation, but I think the issue of “afraid of fiction” is about being afraid of plausible deniability and suspension of disbelief.

          It’s hard, because if you write what’s real, when you read back it sounds so outlandish that people will say…oh, yeah…right.

          LRC has a very good handle on it…just writing enough to create a frame, and not hard-baking it so that the reader says “enough!”

          But, you are a good writer. You worry too much.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Afraid, Gloria? Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?

  20. Michelle says:

    Hello Miss Lovely!

    This was kind of intense to read – but not in a bad way. More like in a “light-bulb moment, a-ha!, etc. etc.” way.

    (Apologies in advance for this being so long.) ♥


    That place of needing to disappear- I know it very well. Oddly enough, I used to get that (along with what I suspect were periodic anxiety attacks) even when I was a child.

    It’s funny that now, as I enter the early morning of day number seven in the hospital, and feeling that I have disappeared in some ways, I’m thinking it probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You know, the disappearing.

    I also feel sort of forced to consider that the truth is I’ve been living my life as a kind of dry run of “being disappeared” for about the last six years; with my sights set on moving to another, better state as soon as possible, I’ve essentially been a passive spectator in my life, at best. Not unlike “watching both through my eyes and from a place up and to the right… But it’s only now, in this situation, that I’m actually feeling some desire to want to try desperately to experience the moment(s)…

    And facing the possibility that I may in fact disappear in the near future for real, as in permanent-like, six-feet-under-style (or maybe scattered about the mountains — unlike you I have not considered my will in the slightest), I am surprised to find that I actually do have some regret over checking out of my life here because I have been so focused on plans to move disappear to another, better place, in the future. I’m suddenly thinking of so many things that I still want to do; things that of course I’ve thought about before but brushed off– because I haven’t really been invested in my present life, I didn’t really give a shit (besides working and achieving the ultimate goal; then I would(could) have peace, happiness, tranquility and all that stuff).

    But as prosaic as it is, a situation like this… the prospect of death becoming real rather than an abstract notion… actually has prompted me to reevaluate my perspective, and to realize that I maybe do want to give a shit in the now, and that I maybe don’t have to hold off on experiencing life simply because I am not yet where I really want to be geographically; to embrace the fact that I am here, and not disappeared.

  21. Becky Palapala says:

    I have fantasies about running away. I think that’s universal.

    I’ve only, physically actually run away once. Maybe twice, if you consider a round trip, in which I was running from different things on the different legs of the trip.

    Anyway, good ol’ Dad has always said, “Wherever you go, there you are.” It’s an AA thing, I think, but broadly applicable. Those old drunks tend to be fairly wise once they sober up and manage to stay that way.

    Anyway, I think of this mantra a lot.

    Most of whatever you’d run from wouldn’t be anything it’s possible to run from. Like, we externalize our grief, our disappointments, our stresses, etc., but much of what we truly struggle with is internal, and we take that anywhere we go.

    (This, of course, bars the obvious situations in which physically running–leaving–is indeed advisable, like if you’re in an abusive relationship, but in a more metaphorical sense, even then, maybe.)

    And, beyond that, it’s just life. Life has these things. Even a life spent “there,” washing dishes above a diner, for example, has these things.

    There are a number of ways to take such a sentiment, the more pessimistic being, “Well, then, what’s the point if life just sucks everywhere???”

    The more optimistic, or at least pleasant and proactive, is: You can run from that beast that you’ll be forced to face eventually anyway, or you can turn on him and draw your proverbial sword right where you stand.

    By “you,” I mean anyone, including me.

    I like the idea of making my stand. I have delusions of heroics like that.

    Great piece, G.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      “I like the idea of making my stand. I have delusions of heroics like that.”

      I love that you do, too.

      You know that scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – where Jennifer Grey’s character is losing her mind because she knows someone is in her house and she’s up in her bedroom and she’s calling down to the kitchen and calling the cops and, finally, she sneaks downstairs and comes face to face with the principal and smashes him in the face and generally defends herself quite well, but while screaming the entire time? You know that scene? That’s how I tend to make my stands (of which, there are many). Or, at least, how I envision it happening. For all I know, I could be way more graceful than that.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        That works, too!

        What would we call that particular brand of Life Fu?

        Not Drunken Master because that’s something else.

        Some kind of master. Panicked Master? Unwitting/Unwilling Master? I don’t know.

        It’s a decent strategy, though. Accidental Surprise Attack!

  22. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    This was beautiful and gut-wrenching and everything that great writing is supposed to be, as far as I see it. So thanks for saying it.

  23. Debbie says:

    This really resonated with me: “You made it out……Most people never do. You graduated college and left an abusive marriage when all the odds were stacked up against you. You made it out by a fingernail.”

    I often have recurring thoughts of disappearing and I’m finally at a place in my life where I’d have the guts too. But, and there is always a but, the only thing stopping me is my kids, I’d never leave them. Must admit, they are the only positive aspect of my life right now.

    I agree with what others have said here. You write about anything you please. Thank you for having the courage to write about things people aren’t supposed to say.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      I don’t know, Debbie. I think the jury (the one that lives in my head) is still out about which is the greater act of courage – remaining solid or disappearing. Kids do render the whole argument moot though, don’t they. Damn kids. Damn sweet lovely smiley stinky loud loving sticky-faced kids. I love those guys.

      Thank you, Debbie, for reading.

  24. Jessica Blau says:

    Excellent–Bravo! Thanks for posting this.

    Do I have reread it to find the hidden purse of Ally Sheedy?

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      Ha ha ha. No. I was referring to the scene in The Breakfast Club where Allison says, “Want to see what’s in my purse?” and Bender and Brian say, “No!” in unison, but she dumps her purse out anyway. I’ve been trying to find a working title for my memoir (because Working Title isn’t cutting it for me), so I’ve settled on “Excerpts from: Ally Sheedy’s Purse.” Because I think it’s funny. 🙂

      Thanks for reading, Jessica. I appreciate your thoughts.

  25. Mary Richert says:

    Fuck yes, Gloria. This piece is great. I know those things you’re not allowed to write about, too. The ones that are private to your family but allowed in your personal notebook are one thing, but the ones you can’t let yourself write down for fear they will become true (when they already are) are quite another. Putting things on the internet is optional, but self-censorship is, too. You (we) absolutely have the right to write them, though, because if we don’t write them, if we don’t acknowledge them, if we don’t practice our art … then what are we here for?

  26. Zara Potts says:

    Yes, writing about the things you’re not supposed to write about can be a dangerous profession.
    I certainly have suffered fall out from this, and while I stand by everything I write, I am sorry that it has hurt people.
    Keep writing Gloria. Writing is truth. Truth is beauty. Truth sets you free.

    • Gloria says:

      Yes. You were a journalist, right? I’ll bet that’s a seriously tough gig.

      Thank you, Z.

      • Zara Potts says:

        I was talking more about my personal writing.. It has certainly cost me… but yes, as a journalist too, I guess!!

        • Gloria says:

          Has it?? Your personal writing? Duke says the same thing above. I wonder what everyone on TNB alone would say about this subject if we took a poll. I don’t know if everyone stepping up and saying “yep, me too” would be a comfort.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Yes. Half of my immediate family don’t talk to me anymore. People I have had long term relationships with don’t speak to me anymore. But you know what? All the people who truly meant something to me and to whom I truly mean something to.. are so supportive. And that is what matters.
          But yes. It certainly comes at a cost.

  27. Richard Cox says:

    This is great, Gloria. And I understand the hesitation in writing about something too personal in memoir form. But as we’ve discussed, and Greg mentions, fiction is the way out here. Although even then you can run into problems. Just ask Pat Conroy.

    This is one of your better-written pieces, my friend. If not your best. I’d say you’re on the right track with the larger work. 🙂

    • Gloria says:

      Damn. Now I have to Google Pat Conroy.

      I appreciate your support, Richard. And your endlessly great advice. And this very sweet comment.

      Thank you. 😉

  28. Nice piece, Gloria. Philosophy and feminism and humor may keep the coyotes at bay, but it’s the list of people that can go fuck themselves that really does the trick, I find. Ally Sheedy’s Captain Crunch and mayo sandwich!

    • Gloria says:

      “…it’s the list of people that can go fuck themselves that really does the trick…” Heh. That’s a rather long list, now that you mention it, Sean. And as I get older and care less about pleasing people, the list grows.

      Ally Sheedy’s Captain Crunch and mayo sandwich would also be a tremendous working title.

  29. Simon Smithson says:

    To second others: ‘I want to go to a place where memories are ghosts who shake their chains at me in private,’ – I liked this one!

    I don’t think anyone’s ever come up with a codified rule of what to write and what boundaries to cross in the quest to express oneself without denying the freedom of someone else to not be expressed… it’s probably a case-by-case basis unless you’re going to take it to either extreme and say always yes or always no.

    Ah, disclaimers.

    • Gloria says:

      Thanks, Simon. I liked that line, too. I wrote this one differently than anything I’ve ever written before. I was impassioned during the whole thing and each episode came out in a mad rush. I closed my eyes a lot with my chin pointed up at the ceiling when I wrote certain parts (like Jerry Lee Lewis playing the piano) and that line was one of those. After experiencing that, I fear chronic neck pain is in my future as I get further into my novel.

      You know, Simon, I respect the way you write about other people in your pieces and have paid close attention to this in your writing more than many others. You maintain a high level of respect and ethics without sacrificing the truth. Kudos.

  30. Marni Grossman says:

    Isn’t it funny how, even when your bread and butter is confessional writing, there are things you can’t say? Stuff that you ought not talk about?

    This was so brave, Gloria.

    • Gloria says:

      It is funny. The conclusion that I’ve come to is that it’s a dance and my job is to figure out how to avoid toes.

      Thanks for reading, Marni. I appreciate it.

  31. Tawni says:

    I especially relate to the first part of this, about running away. It’s something so simple that we take for granted… until there are children involved. I have had a touch of feeling-trapped-fever since having a child. It was never a concern before, because I could easily leave if I decided I was finished with a relationship. Most of my “getting away from it all” fantasies involve a very private, peaceful, secluded house in the country. (:

    “I was raised to believe you respect children at all costs,” said my ex-husband. “You were raised by abusers and were taught that’s the way things are. Now, now! Don’t get defensive. You know it’s true. This is what you’ve told me.”

    Fuck him. Fuck him ten times. Asshole.

    I think you should put down the shields for good. You are amazing, and have so much to share. This is such an honest piece, G. I love it. xoxo.

  32. Simone says:

    ”Philosophy and feminism and politics and anecdotes and humor – especially humor – are the fires that keep the coyotes at bay, I say. They are shields and they can be so tiringly heavy to hold.”

    Ain’t that true?

    Gloria, this is my favourite piece of yours. It’s honest, raw and beautiful.

    ”Keeping quiet and negativity are the enemies of development and a disregard for every individual’s right to express their views.

    ~ Her Highness Shaikha Sabeeka

  33. Gregory Messina says:

    That was wonderful.

    And this line is awesome; I’m jealous you came up with it and not me:
    I watched both through my eyes and from a place up and to the right, like a thought bubble.

  34. Shannon says:

    i’m late to the game and lazy with the reading of the comments, but i wanted to say, i’ve just finished reading everything you’ve written that’s posted on TNB and this really (in conjunction with the rest) makes me want to give you a huge hug and/or this laurel and a hearty handshake (some people aren’t huggers).

    the first part of this piece is where i was this time last year. except i have no kids. and i don’t have a job i’m particularly in love with or that i feel like i need to keep. i didn’t have anyone in my life that i saw everyday – i didn’t think anyone would really notice my being gone.
    so, i did it. i sold everything bar the items that fit into my osprey porter (the tiny one – i didn’t want to have to deal with checking baggage), wrote 2 letters, changed my name and bought a one way ticket to europe. i wanted to disappear. probably not for the same reasons as you though. and i thought i did an ok job, but i found out later that i didn’t. OOPS!
    lots of stuff happened. i realized that annoyingly stupid cliche was true: wherever you go, there you are. gah! sometimes i just want to stuff that cliche into a cannon and shoot it up some truly horrible person’s ass.
    i came back, got my name back, admitted my asshole-d-ness (because the way i did it really was kind of shitty) and now i’m trying to fix things enough to do what i want to do rather than what i need to do.
    i’ll never regret doing this. i wouldn’t know what i know now if i didn’t do it.
    but you’ve gotta be super committed to doing it (i had major commitment issues even before i left). and maybe do a LOT more research than i did if you ever do end up doing it. it’s hard to get a job of any kind in the EU if you’re not a citizen. heck, it’s hard to get one in some places even if you ARE a citizen. so, if you intend to stay out long, learn to busk. 🙂

    i’m not saying do it and i’m not saying don’t do it, i’m just saying that i TOTALLY relate.

    ps – another thing to keep in mind when thinking about this – make sure you aren’t wanting to run away from being awesome. yes, being awesome is work and lots of responsibility but, when it comes right down to it, it’s AWESOME. listen to storm large (and marianne williamson, who the original quote came from): “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” powerful, awesome… same thing. 🙂

    now that i get to the end, this isn’t what i meant it to be. i don’t mean to be a waggling finger, just a cautionary whale… tale. oh well.

    • Gloria says:

      Holy cow, Shannon. I don’t know what to say. I’m humbled that you’ve read all of my posts and that you have such kind words. Thank you. Sincerely. Thank you so much.

      And your own story! Wow! You packed a lot of detail into a few short paragraphs, but I can only imagine how much lengthier your story must actually be. So many questions…

      I appreciate your practical and useful advice for me, should I ever actually run away. 😉 All good stuff.

      Yes, Storm Large is amazing and I love her and I love that I did that interview. I think about that advice quite a lot, actually.

      You didn’t seem like you were wagging your finger at all. Thank you for your comments.

      • Shannon says:

        i’m a voracious reader (wasn’t today just the perfect day to tuck in and read ALL DAY LONG) and richard cox said i should start stalking you rather than him (i think he’s getting tired of all my nun talk), so i did. you can blame him. 😉

        of all the stuff i’ve read so far on here (cheese and rice! there is A LOT of rad stuff here) yours is definitely what i relate to the most, even though i don’t want to relate to some of it – not in a bad way, just in a “am i ready to admit that yet?” kind of way. the fact that you can write in a way that makes people ask that of themselves should be all you need to know that you’re awesome at this writing thing.

        i only recently made my way to portland so i didn’t get to see any of the storm large bruhaha when she was starting out and around and such but your interview with her made me LOVE her! what an ass-kicker.

        you can ask me any questions you want about running away. i’m a-ok at answering questions although i’m a master at the unintentional TMI. just a warning.



  35. Elaine Cramer says:

    Hi Gloria,
    I agree with the general consensus, great piece. Of course, I am a fan. I’m excited thinking about your memoir/novel. It’s gonna be awesome.
    Don’t hate me because I disappeared… 🙂 I miss you!!

    • Gloria says:



      I’ll take the rest of my comment off the board, except to say: thank you so much for reading!!

  36. Tammy Allen says:

    so many comments. i couldn’t read them all. You know I’m brutally honest, pretty much to a fault I throw my baggage on the table like a slaughtered, gutted animal – that’s a lot of meat to paint with and shitloads of blood.

    I miss you. I don’t visit TNB too often. It intimidates me.

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