This class has helped me to realize that I have potential. Ever since elementary school, I have always done my best in English classes. In part, this is because of my love of reading. But it is also because I am good at writing. I have written a lot of literary criticism in my school career, but I never really considered writing creatively. This class has shown me that, even if I don’t have the imagination to write fiction or the artfulness to write poetry, I can write creative non-fiction. This class has not so much caused my writing to evolve as caused me to realize that my life and experiences are worthy of being written down and shared. I am capable of writing more than boring essays. I can write for people other than my professors, and I can write things that people other than my professors will be interested in reading. I can — and I should. I should use my ability to write because it is a shame to waste talent. Plus, I know that there are so many published people that are less talented than me! If this class has changed my writing it is by giving me the confidence to write.
The last time I went home with my friend Rachel to Cincinnati, she took me to the old Stearns and Foster mattress factory just down the road from her house. The factory was built in 1846 and is remembered by several generations of her family. Located by the railroad tracks in Lockland, Ohio, its two three-story buildings take up a million square feet. All of the doors in the western building are tightly sealed, but the eastern building was easy to get into.
There was a massive fire in the eastern building in 2004, so the building, which was already being dismantled at the time of the blaze, has been coming down in earnest ever since. Slipping past a chainlink fence, we entered through one of the no-longer-boarded ground floor windows.
The walls surrounding us were the exoskeleton of the building that lay in mountains of debris under our feet. Scrambling over bricks, tile, concrete and metal, we reached a part of the building that still stood. We were afraid to enter at first, imagining that the old factory might be sheltering an agressive homeless person or hiding a drug deal. But we met no one as we crept through the giant concrete rooms, water dripping on our heads from above. There were old machines and pallets full of leftover cotton wadding in semi-neat rows between the columns.
As we entered a room at the back of the building, we spooked a pidgeon and it spooked us right back. It was in this room that we discovered a concrete ramp leading up to the second floor. Edgy because we kept imagining that we heard voices, we pulled ourselves up the ramp with the help of a rusty railing. At the top, there was a huge hole in the wall dropping straight down to the concrete below and giving a panoramic view of the hills of rubble we had to climb over on the way in. We decided not to explore this level because the floor had holes in it and we weren’t sure if it would hold us.
In an office back on the ground floor, we went through the desk and found a receipt book. Strangely, some were written several years after the factory was supposedly closed.
On the way out, we grabbed some souvenirs. My friend got a construction helmet, which she has kept in her room ever since. I picked up a brick that was originally stamped with the word MITCHELL, but it had been broken so that it just reads HELL.
We are lucky that we got to explore the Stearns factory that day. The next time Rachel went home, she witnessed a wrecking-ball toppling the remains of the eastern building.
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