The Story Behind the Story: “Pulse”

I originally wrote this piece in 2006 while taking a class at the University of Arizona’s Poetry Center. The class focused on hybrid fiction and poetry, and I felt particularly enamored with the idea of experimenting with form. I have always written both poetry and fiction, and as a young writer, I still had not encountered cross-genre or hybrid pieces, so this opened up all kinds of new writing opportunities for me. While I was in love with the writing styles that I was encountering, I was also going through a breakup of sorts. After two years in college, I found myself in the middle of a complicated and confusing love affair with a boy I had dated in high school. We managed to be both friends and lovers through the first two years of college; however, I could feel my own infatuation with him inhibiting me from meeting anyone else. So after much thought, lots of dramatic conversations, phone calls that were far too long and heady, I ended our friendship. I still feel a deep, although necessary, loss at the thought of having let four years of friendship and our romantic relationship simply cease to exist, but I also know that with his exit came other opportunities to move beyond what we had shared.
As a way of processing my friendship with this former lover, I kept coming back to how we came together and how we came apart. At the same time, I kept coming back to a conversation that I had with my mother while I was still in high school. I had just been dumped for the first time, and as an angst ridden seventeen-year-old, I had no idea how to make sense of what had happened.  My mother offered condolences in many forms, but what I remember the most was when she said, “In many ways, you’ve experienced a death.” Between my obsession with fragmentation and this simple idea given to me by my mother, I thought of structuring this story based on a life. What does a relationship look like from beginning to end? What had mine looked like with this man? As I started to tell this particular story, I paused to think about where the relationship was most fragile, birth; when it was most immature, adolescence; when it was at its height of maturity, adulthood; and when exactly it had come to a close, death. So as I mined the memories of this relationship, I used the structure of a life to choose the moments that mattered most to this story. While the story is fiction, much of what’s written is based off the experiences and feelings I had with that boy ten years ago.

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About Erin Armstrong

Erin Armstrong received her MFA from The University of Arizona in 2011. Her work has appeared in The Blue Guitar, FoundPolariods, Marco Polo Magazine, and is forthcoming in InkinThirds, Harmony Magazine, and The Museum of Americana: a Literary Review. Additionally, she writes a weekly poetry series for Channillo. She lives in Seattle, Washington.