I never really spoke that much in grade school. I was never a storyteller, unless I was lying about something generally insignificant and then again when I had to confess my minor transgression to an old obese white man, wearing a black shirt with a tiny white square in the center of his neck, while we were both tightly suffocating in the oppressive heat of a small dark wooden box. I was too young then to make the connection between this small wooden box and a casket but in hindsight it’s pretty glaring, the nailing together of sin with eternal damnation.
I remember there were velvet drapes in there, a good bit of thick blood-red material hanging all around and the smell of incense which I wanted to be soothing but was more like the invocation of the sensation of the masking of a trembling kind of trepidation. The seedy scent of humanity: sweat, gingivitis, hair, teeth, fingernails.
Which is all simply to say that I was quiet when set out against the outside world. My mother would have said I was shy, in a way which more than suggested I should apologize for existing inside my own silence, but really I was just discerning as a scrawny timid kid who was taught that the universe (and maybe Jesus, but I never could quite get a handle on that) was trying to harm me at every turn. But in my journals I would tell stories through words, poetry, whatever. I guess it’s just inside you when you are born. A natural obsession with the way language works and how you can play with it. It all starts out as play pretty much.
All across the budding trees, the rain is coming down steady and heavy, creating a meditative atmosphere in my writing room. I have so many books that when I want to find any particular one I am just as likely to find it on a proper shelf as I am to find it cob-webbed and teetering in a corner stack of novels which are propping up a potted plant or a tiny lamp, or nothing at all – just teetering and helping the dust to settle.
I was looking for a certain collection of poetry for a friend the other day, one I have yet to read myself. I have had the thing for years but I am absolutely terrified to read it. I know it will be so cripplingly beautiful it will kill me. Can you imagine that? Afraid to read a thing for fear of how it will wreck my entire being, change it, cut it open and crush it until I can’t be put back together the same way ever again.
Writing is a wicked trick and impossible to unhook from your own veins once it’s been dug in. It all starts out as just messing around. You tell things on a slant and the slant becomes a distortion which feels so delicious and so right even though it’s wrong until it becomes a story which becomes an alternate world where it can become the truth. Even if only for a while, everything can be different. Even you.
Photo by Emma Simpson