A Tangled Woman

Based on The Tent Delivery Woman’s Ride

Prompt: What do these texts suggest to you about the impact significant events have on an individual’s ability to determine their own destiny?



Mother was like a coiled rope thrown in the back of a truck – a mess of twisted fibres. Abrasive and frayed at the ends was she, but just as determined to bear unreasonable loads as her three-ply would allow. She was a sallow, wiry woman – hard to hold, harder to love, but easy to respect. And she liked the way she was just fine.


With her as the sole architect, our small family was pitched like a temporary building. Like a tent. It was only her taught-rope support that held the billows of familial canvas aloft. Perhaps she saved us with her rigidity, but perhaps she was the reason our fabric wore so thin, so fast.


All this reminiscence runs through my head as my Ford and I clunk across the border-line, back to Alabama. After twenty-five years I’m going back home. Home. Back to the untended acreage of my small, fragile childhood. To the place where I last saw my mother’s heel sweeping out across the house’s threshold.


I think of that moment often – scuffed suede ankle-boots, a ripped storm-door clanging, an engine turning over, a cloud of dust issuing from a storm moving further and further from me. I was fifteen.


I don’t know how long I waited at the kitchen table, looking past the porch through grimy glass, half-hoping to see her dust storm reverse its steps up our driveway, half-hoping I’d never see it again. I never did see that cloud roll up to the house, even after two months of growing desperation. And after exactly two months, I finally made a choice. Taking my destiny into my own hands, I thought. I locked the door behind me.


Right after one of our arguments, I always felt so alive. Hot blood coursed through my temples and my usually ice-cold fingertips were radiating heat like an engine after a long drive. But after my pulse ebbed, regret always began to flood my veins. Usually that too faded, eventually, but this time, regret flowed through me like cold syrup. I felt gummed up from the inside, cold and stiff. And that damned sludge in me never left. Even still, I think, only in the heat of argument does that molten lead in me thaw out. Perhaps that’s why Maggie and I are always –


My thoughts stop short. As if pulled here by an invisible rope, one steadily tugged by a ghostly pair of hands, my truck had found its way right back to the old driveway. This was the spot my mother used to park her Corsica. The grass underneath in that patch is still dead, I see. Something like a flying ember lodges in my throat. After twenty-five years you’d think the grass would grow back.


I pull up beside the dead patch and shift into park. Sitting in the dark like that, I suddenly hear how quiet the night is without an engine running. My mind is blank; I realise I am not breathing. I should go inside. Yes, I should. So I pull on the door handle and step out into the night.


Once I’m up on the porch, I kick my suede boots off at the door step – out of habit I guess. I try the handle, expecting it to be locked. After twenty-five years- but it swings right open.


I’m in the kitchen now, overcome by a feeling don’t understand. Moonlight streams through the window, casting four little rectangles upon the kitchen table. Dust dances around me like an army of ballerinas, caught up mid-performance by some great tornado. I see, on the corner of the table, a small piece of yellowed paper with faded writing on it. Apprehensively, I approach, pick it up, see the date, the name at the bottom and suddenly something tangibly thick snaps.


I am on my knees sobbing and sobbing and my hands shake so hard I can hardly see the paper in front of me. With hot, molten fury tears splatter on the letter. It is from my mother. And my hands knead at my face as I struggle to read the words she had written. She came back. Her words are running through me like lava and I am heaving, choking on my own tears. Her letter said she was frantically looking for me, that she had regret, such regret. She had come home and found me nowhere. She had left the note there, hoping I’d come home and find it. It was dated. Two months and one day from when I had last seen her walk out the door. I had missed her by a day. One day and then a lifetime after that. Looking up from the taught letter, stretched between balled fists, I see my own suede boots on the porch outside through the open front door and I am awash with guilt.


Right then, my own baby, my Maggie’s face comes to me. I see her back at home, all alone. She is only fifteen. I left her, all alone. I told myself it was just the heat of the moment. I’ve been gone for a week. A week to make this pilgrimage back to the place where I think I lost my soul. I am no different from my own mother. I tried so hard to forge something different for my girl, something new – our own destiny. And now I see mother must have tied a rope around my ankle. When she and her Corsica stormed out my life, she must have dragged a part of me in tow. She has been dragging me my whole life; I’ve never made a decision without conceding to a tug from her ropes. Maggie, my girl, I am so sorry. A dread begins to fill me – what if I come home and she isn’t there.


I rush to my truck, leaving my own suede shoes on the mat – there is no time. I must get home to Maggie – Oh God. As I rev the engine, I feel as though something around my heart has loosened, like some kind of knot unravelling. With each mile closer to my baby girl, I feel a new cord pulling me forward – more strongly that before. This, finally, is my choice: I will not be this tangled woman any longer.

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4 thoughts on “A Tangled Woman

  1. Wow, Lauryn!

    EXCELLENT connection back to both the prompt and the text–specifically the text. The fact that your response itself was titled “A Tangled Woman” alludes to a thorough exploration of the text even before your audience has read the response, which, from an examiner’s perspective, proves, right from the start, that you know what you are doing. This is further emphasized by your specific integration of lines/images from the poem itself. For instance, “And she liked the way she was just fine” or your opening line, “Mother was like a coiled rope thrown in the back of a truck – a mess of twisted fibres.” That said, these are not the only integrations you made either–you did this multiple times, which, again, proves the insightful extent to which you considered the text. Bravo!

    I just have a few suggestions in terms of improvements:

    – Small grammatical error. Instead of saying, “I’m in the kitchen now, overcome by a feeling I don’t understand.” you said, “I’m in the kitchen now, overcome by a feeling don’t understand.” So you’re just missing the “I” there.
    – Correct me if you’re wrong, but I believe instead of “a cloud of dust issuing from a storm moving further and further from me,.” It should be farther, since you are referring to physical distance. But, again, correct me if I’m wrong.
    – That being said, instead of “further and further” and “sobbing and sobbing” I would suggest just using each word once, to make the sentences less wordy. So, for example, instead of, “I am on my knees sobbing and sobbing” I think it would have been better if you just said “I am on my knees sobbing.” If that makes sense.

    Anyway, those are just some nitpicky things. Other than that–JUST WOW. I am especially in love with the line, “Dust dances around me like an army of ballerinas, caught up mid-performance by some great tornado.” BEAUTIFUL.

    It was a pleasure reading this!

    Lots of love,

    1. Dear Jade,

      Thanks so much for reading my story! And thanks for finding those little mistakes. You know how it is when you stare at something long enough and you stop seeing it.

      About the further vs. farther thing, I can see where you’re coming from. I had hoped to convey both the physical distance, but also the symbolic distance the mother created between her and her daughter through abandonment. I’m not sure which one to use when I want both meanings. Help?

      Anyways, thanks again love.


  2. Dearest Lauryn,

    This piece is simply amazing!!! I’m sure you are told that about all of your work, but this is just incredible!

    Like Jade said, the tie to the text is so wonderful – you used the “tangled” imagery perfectly, and so it is made clear from the very start that you are very, very capable. I thought that the spacing and the tone really conveyed the emotions of the woman, especially as things began to fall apart as “something tangibly thick snaps.” I also loved how the woman realized the parallels in her story and her daughter’s; I thought that using the cyclical nature of pain with the prompt was rather clever.

    As for improvements, Jade has picked up on the things I would have mentioned. I do have one request, though – and it is a rather selfish one. Could you post your theme statement for this piece? I would love to know how you came up with this!

    Once again, this blog was fantastic! It really was a wonderful experience to have you in this class; I have learned so much from you and I will be sad to see you go. But a comment should end on a positive note, so thank you for this semester!

    Yours truly,

    1. Dearest Tarannum,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed reading my story! It is really good to know that my attempts to connect to the prompt worked.

      As far as a theme statement goes, I don’t exactly remember what I said, but this was the idea behind it: When an individual attempts to create a new destiny apart from a tragic past, she must overcome the far-reaching psychological consequences of that trauma by addressing it directly. One who never confronts ghosts of the past will never escape their influence, finding oneself unintentionally retracing the very steps that lead to the initial conflict.
      I’m not sure if that makes any sense, but that’s sort of the idea I had.

      Anyways, I hope all your exams went well and thanks again for reading!


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