Kay Castaneda is retired from a career as a college writing instructor and special education tutor. She earned a B.A. and M.A. in English at Indiana University. Her publications include poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction in literary journals plus articles about education for reference books. Kay attended writing seminars in Lithuania, Scotland, and Mexico. She dreams of going camping in Alaska someday and visiting Israel. Her hobbies include reading, especially Russian novels, biographies, watching crime shows on TV and genealogy. Kay’s talents include daydreaming, inventing characters for future writing and baking. She published a novel based on her experiences growing up in the Midwest, Emmie of Indianapolis. She is currently researching the history of Ireland for a novel based on her ancestors. Her work in progress is a mystery novel with an amateur female sleuth. Future plans include teaching online writing classes plus creating her home art studio. Her husband says that she is addicted to reading and this is true. She loves to eat at Mom and Pop diners and browse in antique stores and flea markets. Kay lives in Indiana with her husband Tony, son Richard and dog Buddy.
September 2018: I Used to Be Crazy But Now I’m Not
I can say it now. I used to be crazy. Then I moved to another place where someone, me, put me in a sort of witness protection program. Now my neighbors, friends and coworkers have no idea about my past. Only my family knows. I am not in hiding now. I just went somewhere comfy and safe.
This place looks lovely today, and the view of those purple gray mountains so solid against the pink sky keeps me in awe. I’m relaxing on the beach now, digging my feet into the white sand. I peek out of my blue sunglasses. I didn’t buy black ones on purpose. I’m amazed at how the people tiptoe out in the water, not enough to drown, just enough to get the feel of the cool water on their legs. They don’t go far enough to tempt the sharks but stay on the lookout in case they have to run back to the safety of the shore.
I want to be like the other swimmers, so I’m taking note of how they behave, having fun while confronting danger. I want to be like them. I get up now out of my hammock and finish the last of my cool iced tea. I slip into my gauzy sundress, leaving the floppy straw hat on my head. It has a yellow flower tucked into the band, and I make sure the wind doesn’t blow it away. I find my flip-flops buried under the sand. My towel is damp, so I shake it out, making sure to get it as dry as I can.
I head back to my room at this sweet little hotel. The price was not outlandish, and the food is pretty tasty. The atmosphere is serene. The magenta bougainvillea smells so sweet and everywhere it is clean. I’m acting in a new role now, but not at this location. The costumes were designed by me. I interchange them now according to what show I’m in.
As an actress, which is so different from my previous jobs, I have the authority to write my own dialogue and try many interpretations. I am free to give the story a new title if I please. The audience might not give me applause. Maybe all I will get is just silence or congratulations. I might be invisible on the stage. Some may bring me flowers or candy. Others could give recommendations to see my play. Perhaps they will write a good review for the public. I’m free to apply whatever makeup and masks I’m in the mood for. The history of the original character and the plot is hazy because nobody is around who remembers.
I went through rehab, learned to act as I’m supposed to, took lessons how to walk, to stand, to pose, to gesture. Interacting with the other characters was the hardest to learn. Don’t ask. I won’t tell where I used to work. My past shows were different varieties, so crowded, loud, expensive, way out in places nobody heard of. People did not have transportation or motivation to go. Most of all, they had no desire to watch or listen. It wasn’t very relevant to them. Those literary tropes appear now where once they hid; “The Other”, “The Double”, “The Stand-in”, “Best Supporting Actress For Me.” I can use them now for my benefit.
Who wrote the story? Who cares? Why me? Doesn’t matter. I was there. I erased the character from the page. I have new activities now that I couldn’t do before. You will see me reading, writing, baking, singing and riding trains to faraway places. My past occupations such as sleeping, moaning, howling and crawling on the floor were not that fun. I’m older now. I feel softer, more flexible and strong enough to walk and move about.
Before, the noise came upon me, and I could not resist it. I had no power to send it back where it came from, likely Hell. Selective stories are the only ones I tell now. I display photographs that suit me, flatter me, and show me in a good light. They must be taken with a quality camera by a professional photographer that I approve of and don’t have to pay. There is no fee other than smiling.
It was a terrible show, that past one, but I had to see it. I was forced to. I won’t return, I promise. No more tickets remain. I ripped them up and stomped them on the floor.
Where did you go today?
I traveled far to visit with an old woman
who told me a tale of when she lived
behind a barbed-wire fence.
The fence was rusty and sticky
with the sweat of a million unwashed hands.
Her friends stood beside her, holding her up
because she was starving, freezing, shivering,
and so hot her head hung down.
The women, all of them, supported her
and warned her not to cry or whimper any more.
When she arrived home, their faces
entered into the distant prison of her mind
where she guarded them with love
so they would be safe
and nobody could ever,
ever force them to leave.
Her name is Hannah, Esther, Paula, Sophia,
Bernadette, Margaret, Luella, Greta, Jocelyn,
Michaela, Sarah, Anna, Lynne, Unknown.