One thing that I like to do when thinking up a concept of a story is to explore my past for hidden gems that I can tweak and manifest into something else. Sometimes I do not even need to change all that much….our histories are laden with moments of mystery and meaning and what may have seemed straightforward or minimally important can become layered and significant in retrospect.
I am going to recall my childhood; the people and the places that made up my very existence. I will not use names but I am sure some of my fellow cohorts will recognize some of these. Memory is fallible. Memory is unreliable. How and what I remember may contradict greatly with another person’s memory. What doesn’t change is the feel of a memory and I have tried to capture that in my recollection.
- The building is formidable. A three story structure that rises straight from the asphalt playground, uninterrupted by frill or fancy. It is brick. It is tall. It is unadorned. As with a lot of places in my childhood, I remember the place dimly lit. The long hallway leading to the gym and cafeteria was full of shadows. Even darker than the hallway was the basement classrooms. All dim and feeling as if they should be damp. From the basement up to the second floor equaled three flights of stairs. It may have stemmed from a dream or perhaps I viewed it this way since I was so young, but that last flight of stairs was scary. Crazy scary. Like something you would find in a funhouse. They were steep and seemed to tilt backwards so you felt like you were climbing on an incline. Looking back I think there was a strong psychological factor in the principal being on the top floor.
- Looking for lice with rickety, shaky fingers. Waiting and dreading your turn, just knowing he was going to find something in your hair. Forget the fact that up until that moment you had not felt the slightest movement…..now every damn follicle in your head was vibrating. If he lingered too long, you were tainted. They tried to keep it discreet but it was of no use. Everyone knew the length of time counted for something.
- She was old. She was ancient and looked like Stone.
- She walked to my house through the snow wearing sandals. (What a fabulous image to base a story off of)
- She ate duck, a greasy black looking meat. I had never even thought of it as an edible animal. She had an entire outfit chosen from a JCPenney catalog. As someone who mixed and matched their outfits depending on what was on clearance, this impressed me greatly.
- The waterbed was always freezing. I would wake up with no blankets on top and no sheet on the bottom. Just bare skin against cold plastic. I bet that is what it would feel like lying on a mortician’s table.
- An endless supply of Doritos. A house that had a soul and whispered.
- They had the same type of canned goods that we had in our pantry. I felt a sense of kinship with her because of this.
- A bouncy boy with short sleeve oxford tops and brown/black trousers. Constantly taming back the side swept part to his hair.
- His face was highlighted by the glow of the TV and he wasn’t watching it so much as he was watching us. We piled into her bed like sardines but I am pretty sure I did not sleep that night.
- She is beautiful now. She didn’t fit the mold back then.
- He had white spots on his nails. He may have been my first kiss in a shed with a broken deep freeze.
- She ran funny and always wore the sides of her hair up. She broke her front teeth off on a speaker in an old convertible. I loved her because she was silly and sometimes dumb and she made you feel like you had something to offer the world.
- Long silken brown hair that he wore pulled back in a low ponytail. He always grabbed the bottom hem of his shirt and pulled it out.
That is just the top layer of memory. Who knows what I could uncover if I explored a bit more.
However, as I write this, I hold back. I find that I don’t post quite a few of my memories for fear of offending someone. Never mind the fact that what I remember isn’t all that bad. Never mind that life, real life, isn’t all pure and spotless. It is messy and filled with not so good memories too. Surely we all know that this is what creates a whole person. That the bad and negative contribute as much to the total being as the good and positive. I suppose that is why authors put a disclaimer in the front of their novels stating that their work is a piece of fiction and any resemblance or similarity to real life persons is merely coincidental.
Sure it is.
Sure it is.
It takes great courage to look at something with honest, open eyes. It takes just as much courage to read something and recognize one’s own self there, especially if what is being described is less than flattering. But I think that is the true beauty in a book. We read to find ourselves, to recognize and relate to humanity. To know that there is someone else out there who has experienced or felt or hurt or loved the way we do – even if that means there was ugliness involved. I can easily recognize myself in other people’s writing. I can celebrate the fact that there is someone else out there who has thought those same thoughts or acted in a similar manner. But I can do this quietly because the interaction, the moment, is between me and the story. Writing about it though, putting the truth down on paper (because there is always truth in fiction) involves a courage that I don’t yet have.
I am a work in progress.
I am a work in progress.