The instructions: Pick a book off your shelf. Close eyes. Random flip. Point to a word. Write down that word, the three words before it and the three words after it. Write for 5 minutes on that. Part 2 of the instructions: read it backward and find a sentence that makes sense and “has energy; it surprises you… The phrase must make a kind of sense; it must possess its own inner sense at the very least” (I can imagine what this professor would be like in person…)
The only book I had handy was an anthology from a lit class. I landed on something from A.R. Ammons (who?) titled “Corsons Inlet” – lines 117 and 118: Open – Possibilities of escape – No route shut.
The door was open. Why wasn’t I taking it? I had been trying for so long to escape and now here it was. But why? Why is the possibility of escape now right here. Wide open. Reluctantly, I go. My heart is pounding in my chest. I can hear it too. I need to calm down. If I’m so focused on how scared I am, I might miss hearing something… like that. What was that? I press against the wall, barely daring to look around the corner to see if what I heard was really there. A sigh of relief. It was my imagination. The route was still open. As I continue down the corridor, I can feel myself wanting to relax. Excitement at the prospect of finally being free. But what will I do once I’m out? Won’t they come looking for me? I’ll be on the run for the rest of my life. Always looking over my shoulder, wondering when they will find me and lock me back up. A different sort of prison, but one I believe will be better than what I’m leaving behind. I hope. Sure, there was a bed – if that’s what you want to call it. And meals. Again, if that’s what you want to call it. And a roof over my head. It could be freezing, raining, or burning up outside and I was oblivious. If I leave, I’d be on my own to find shelter and food. But surely it would be better than this. God, please let it be better than this. Another corner… slow, quick glance around the corner. It still looks clear. Where is everyone? Seriously. For months (or has it only been days? Weeks? Or maybe even years? I don’t know… but it seems like it’s been forever that they’ve been checking on me every … I have no idea. All sense of time is gone. I just knew that as soon as I felt certain that they were gone, they’d show up again. So where are they now? At the end of the hall there’s an elevator. I’m torn. Do I take it and risk there being someone in there as the doors open? Could I pass as one of them if there were? No, I don’t think so. I’ll take the stairs. I close the door as quietly as possible behind me but it still seems to echo up and down the stairwell. I tense, waiting for some sound of an alarm, but none comes. Then it hits me … up or down? Were they holding me up on a high floor and I need to go down to ground level or was I in some dungeon and freedom is up? Okay. Calm down. Floors are usually numbered and … yep, there it is. I’m on 17. I go down the stairs until I see the next floor’s number. 16. Alright then. Down it is. No route shut. I go reluctantly.