On the 27th of March Nigel Rodenhurst came into Trinity Saint David, the Lampeter campus, to talk about his work. When I heard he was talking I thought, “Strange the man running the student support in uni has the same name.” But I shrugged and thought nothing of it.
Then on the 27th as I sat pen posed I got a shock as Nigel walked in. I waved and to his credit, he waved back without giving me that – you mad – look. He has worked at the university for a number of years, but he came to talk to us about writing trauma. Hi doctoral thesis was on the Jewish-American dis/simulation and looked at how people responded to anti-Semitism and post-traumatic stress. At least, that is the gist I got. It was really interesting though about how to write trauma and how to make it believable.
We were tasked with writing a piece on trauma, either fiction or non-fiction. I chose fiction.
It started like a trickle of water from a tap; a steady drip, drip. Carrie came into school and she appeared her normal self, but throughout the day she changed. It began with a joke.
“Hey, do you know…” and with that Kevin reamed off a funny story, I forget what about now. I do remember the reaction from Carrie. Nothing. This was very odd, she had fancied Kevin for months and would show it by hanging on his every word and over-reacting to his jokes. Even he stopped and looked at her when she didn’t react. Not a smile, not even a look, she just stared about six inches above his right shoulder, unblinking.
“You alright?” I’d asked. She’d just sneered.
Then she’d got a question wrong in history. That doesn’t happen. She didn’t know the answer. Then in her favourite lesson she had just sat there. It was just so odd. Normally she’d be the centre of attention, throwing paint around and laughing. She just sat, her hands folded neatly in her lap. I noticed then that her socks didn’t match. One had a lace trim and the other plain. Carrie is a twin set and pearls type. I’ve seen her colour co-ordinate the art room when she was asked to clean up as punishment over bullying.
After art I was pondering this and wandered into the toilets. There were her friends, all gathered around her, all trying to console her and in the middle, Carrie. She wasn’t just crying, she was screaming. Tears poured from her eyes and she appeared violent in her grief. I’m afraid I chickened out, I ran, but just as I left I heard:
I put two and two together. Carrie had just turned sixteen and it appeared her parents’ present had been to tell her the truth – that she was adopted. How can you do that to your own daughter?
I don’t like her, Carrie. Hell, half the time she is the bane of my existence, but I do pity her. Carrie with her high marks, lace and pearls.
Okay, so I know it isn’t my best but I did find it difficult to write about trauma. He did say after that it is much easier to write a personal piece and it was then that I realised my favourite book – “Touching the Void” by Joe Simpson – is completely about trauma. It is autobiographical and if you can get a copy then go and read it. It was also made into a movie, which is excellent as the actor, isn’t – it is Joe re-living the experience. I have to recommend it completely. I am re-reading it. Not because I don’t know the story but to study how Joe wrote about his trauma so effectively.