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Drunk or Hysterical Driving

with friends

with friends

Three police cars surrounded us. I sat at the wheel of my car waiting to be told what to do and dazzled by all the flashing lights. All that–for me!

An officer told me to get out of my car. I told my passenger, K., to keep quiet. Keeping K. quiet ever was a challenge. Keeping a drunk K. quiet was a feat. One time she and a friend simulated sex on the side of a busy road. I didn’t need her vying for more attention when she wasn’t even 21.

I stood next to my Chevy hatchback, pulled over on the main drag through town. It was late on a Monday night. The officer who asked for my license was short, heavyset, and bald. He had me follow him to the back of my car and his headlights illuminated us for the world. He looked up at me, his hands on his hips. “Have you been drinking?”

“No, sir.” Then I remembered tasting a friend’s drink. One sip. Maybe he could smell that? “Well, I had a sip–”

“Don’t lie to me. You lie to me and I’ll take you to jail.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You were at that bar back there, weren’t you?”

“Yes, sir, but just to pick up my friend.”

“You’re from Florida?” He pointed to my Florida plates.

“Yes, sir.”

“You want to know why we stopped you?”

I wanted to ask why it took three police cars to stop a 21 year old college girl. “Yes, sir.”

“You did this.” He made this gesture with his hand as if he were brushing hair out of his eyes. “Thought you might be drunk or hysterical.”

“Oh. Well…” I had no idea how to respond.

“And you were going 40 in a 30. Did you know that?”

“No, sir.”

“Now I want you to get in your car and drive home. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, sir.”

“If you go anywhere else, if you don’t go straight home, I’ll know and you’ll be in big trouble. Now where are you going?”

“Home, sir.”

He nodded. “I’ll find out if you’ve lied to me.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And no speeding.”

I was shaking when I got back in my car.

You think you know what you’re writing until someone comes along and points out the things you didn’t know were in your words. You look back over what you’ve done. “Really?” you might ask. Now, most readers are sharper than a man who thinks a girl brushing her hair out of eyes is actually in trouble or up to no good, but that doesn’t mean that a line I put down without thinking, won’t be the line another soul picks up and sees in a whole new way.

This could freeze you up. Every word has to count, they teach you writing class, but if I think too much about that, I wouldn’t write at all.

What have you written that has been misunderstood? Did that misunderstanding make you see your work in a new way that made you happy? Or did it just tick you off?

6 thoughts on “Drunk or Hysterical Driving

  1. I found that when I wrote poetry and got it workshopped (eons ago, in college) what people read into it was hysterically bizarre at times, very deep and insightful in others–and practically never what I was thinking when I wrote it. As far as fiction goes, my crit partners don’t go into theme and how it made them feel too awful much. I don’t generally find my purpose was misinterpreted, e.g. where the story was going, what I was trying to express in terms of characters, but sometimes it does surprise me. the novella I subbed a hunk of last time it was my turn had a character on the first page who’s single line was interpreted as being hate toward a new guy, when it was just military hazing. I don’t believe any of them have been in the military, though, so perhaps they didn’t get it because of that. I shall never know. But I did leave it as is!

  2. I’ve never been angered by someone misunderstanding my work. I just figure that’s the part I need to spend more time on, if it was misunderstood in a bad way. But a lot of times it’s misunderstood in a good way, and it sparks me to build on that.

  3. I agree with sherri. I’ve never been angered by someone misunderstanding. If they read something bad into it, I figure I need to fix something. If they read into it something that makes it more complex and interesting, I am highly pleased with my subconscious, or maybe theirs, and just grin and say “cool.”

  4. The only times I’ve really been upset by someone’s misinterpreting my words — misjudging my intent — was in letters or emails which I posted in haste.

    As far as “real” writing, the comments you’ve already got could pretty much speak for me, too. Rowena’s last sentence did make me laugh out loud, though!

  5. That’s the trouble with words – you release them into the world thinking that they’ve taken wing and are sailing to their intended destination. Unfortunately, someone else sees them as an insult, or even a personal attack (I have a few older blogs I could tell you about where that’s exactly what happened). As writers, we are responsible to tell our truth, but we can’t control how others will read those words. That’s the risk we take by making public declarations of honesty. However, if we worried too much about what others thought of our words, we’d never let them out at all now, would we.

  6. It has probably happened to me, but I can’t really remember having someone completely misunderstand something I’ve written in my fiction. But I’ve certainly received comments that have surprised me, or I’ve received no comments about something that I thought surely warranted some kind of comment. I’ve never gotten angry at any critique, but I’ve often felt frustration at myself for not getting it right.

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