Salt Institute for Documentary Studies

Located in Portland, Maine, the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies offers a 15-week immersion program for advanced undergraduate and graduate students in documentary writing, photography, or radio.
This blog is an update of current Salt students insights and musings.


post divorce and unrequited love

he's a stranger so when he picks up the phone i tell him i'm the girl from salt and then i say "so, tell me about..." and i trail off and then he says "--my failed marriage?" he tells me about his failed marriage. and he tells me how much he still loves his ex wife. he tells me about quitting drinking on the same day she left him. he tells me it was too late. then he tells me about his ex wife's new boyfriend who, as it turns out, was accused not long ago of sexually assaulting a 16 year old girl. so he tells the boyfriend to stay away from his daughter or he'd (something) (he didn't say) and then the boyfriend gets a restraining order so that if this man ran into the boyfriend (or the ex wife) at the supermarket he would have 90 seconds to flee the premises. a breakdown of his nine year old daughter followed in which she asked, "why can't you come to my field hockey games when mom can?" and then more meetings with lawyers. and then (and this is where i come in) a desperate, yet endearing posting on craig's list titled: post divorce and unrequited love.

i don't know what to tell you. i was story hunting. i was scared and afraid that a piece about an alpaca pageant would be silly and without depth. i wanted yearning in my stories. sadness, pain, struggle, turmoil, then hope, reflection, a peace. i went to craig's list. i went to the missed connections section of craig's list. and there beneath the notes written to the girl who works the hotdog cart, the other girl with the nice ass on brackett street ("was i on brackett street earlier today?" asked ariel) was this letter about unrequited love from a man desperate to get what he once had back. i thought it might be a story about a man trying to transfrom, about second chances, about forgiveness, about what it must be like to love someone, really love someone, you are not even allowed to stand in the same supermarket with.

so i emailed him. i told him about salt and stories on the radio. and he wrote me back within the hour: "Thank you for your interest in my posting on Craig's List." as if i had inquired about renting a venue. on the phone he was more or less back to his missed connections self: heartbroken, alone, in pain. yet sober and a little proud. i asked him if he thought his ex wife might have seen the letter he wrote her. he said no, that i was the only one who replied to the ad. and at this point it became almost overwhelming clear: what, no really--what am i doing on the phone with this person right now?

we did not stay on the phone for very long. at some point i registered that i was not the right person to reply to the missed connections posting. i was not in fact the right person to be hearing this story. i went with him to a dark desperate place and then i hung up and i went all alone to the salt building to pay the rest of my tuition and transcribe tape from the alpaca farm. it felt awkward and all wrong and the only thing i could think to do was send him a thank you email with only more radio, in this case a link to an episode of this american life, in which a nine year old girl writes letters to the mayor of new york city asking for help in getting her parents to stop divorcing and stay together.

No comments: