I have to tell you something because it’s killing me. Which they tell you in school (and for the rest of your life when you are tuned to that frequency of receiving advice from the great writers of our planet) is the only reason for writing anything:
I’m on the kitchen floor, a wilted cliche in an apron. A Bourbon on my right and a roasting chicken on my left. I can’t stand up because I just can’t bear it. Not the act of it, but being that high off the ground. Do you know what I mean?
Here’s a story if you don’t:
I moved a pillow off my mother’s bed and found her arm hanging there. She was underneath it and I knew that without having to look and instead I yelled at it and then hordes of people were suddenly there, trying to do things to her and to me and I swatted them away and told them to do the sensible thing for chrissakes and call 911. Sensible: call 911 for a dead woman.
Once that piece of business was out of the way, it was safe to let go, so I went to the floor. My very well-meaning boyfriend put his elbows under my armpits and tried to lift me, a dumbwaiter to a deadweight. He grasped me and held me and I pummeled his arms and begged him to let me go. Let me go to the floor.
Many details have vaporized these last 8 years, a panic-inducing phenomenon that I spend a large chunk of my time fighting. Remind me to tell you about how I spent 2 very adrenaline-fueled days ordering the coroner’s report for this section of the memoir, only to receive it and realize what I held in my hands was something I had no right to inflict upon myself as a human being and daughter. What I wouldn’t do to have one of those conditions like Marilu Henner has, who can remember every day of her life; can recall it on command. (It’s true, it was on Oprah.)
But one of these details that occurs to me now as I sit here is that my actual words were: Let me fall. Let me fall, I begged him.
There’s a big difference. I’m on this floor right now because I cannot write. I cannot write and I cannot not write, so I’m going to sit here until my chicken is done and cry about it. And when I’m done crying, I’m going to face some very difficult truths about why I’m not writing.
I wish the answer were as simple as: it’s very difficult material. Life has been difficult, for as long as I can remember. It’s time to enjoy myself, after all. I have brilliant, generous friends, unconditional love from a good husband, a job writing things (nevermind what), and coworkers who crack me up.
After all, why would I want to revisit that stuff instead of having a good time, for a change?
But that’s not it, sadly. I could manage it if it were. In fact, what it is is this: I have to tell this story in the best way anyone has ever seen, or there will be no redemption for dying. In lieu of heaven, I believe in art. In lieu of an afterlife, there is the legacy I will leave behind in a body of work. So if I don’t get it right, I will die and disappear forever. And so will she.
So I’m not writing. Because, fuck. The stakes.
That’s something else they drill into you in school: the stakes must be high. In every story, what are the stakes? Not high enough. Make them higher.
These stakes are high enough, fuckers. I wish I could get your voices out of my head. Maybe then I could get up off this floor.
7 thoughts on “Out on the tiles”
you won’t tell it the best way this time. you might not tell it the best way by yourself, or until something happens which makes the best way throw a sharp shadow, or until you’re deeply old.
tell it any way you can now.
thank you for that. i’m going to tattoo it on the backs of both hands. “tell it any way you can now.”
also is that sharp shadows bit yours? that’s hot.
oh, i’m glad you think so. i was a little afraid to check back, thinking you’d perhaps have preferred me to mind my own business (which i would have understood). yup, i think the shadow-phrase is mine; the image it evokes in my head is something i don’t remember encountering outside my head, anyway.
uhhhh. kapow to the chest, girl. exactly to the millionth power…..
so glad you’re back.
Don’t let yourself not write out of fear. I’m reading Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and I just got past the part where he talks about “Carrie.” He had written three pages when he crumpled them up and threw them away. Tabby, his wife, dug them out of the trash the next day.
This is what sticks in my head: “…stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”
Keep going, E. I have faith. Also thumbs up on Lauren’s comment. Ditto.
Yeah, that book was fantastic (On Writing, not Carrie – which was, you know, good in its own right). The good news is, having a job as a copywriter, I have to show up every day and write and write and write until I get the best six words possible. I routinely shovel shit from a sitting position, so I just transfer that to my personal writing and kapow!
The next step is knowing when my job is accomplished. At least at work, someone goes “yes, we like it”…within hours of submitting it.