Telling the Story

I want to talk about love. Oh, I do, I do… I’ve tried to, over and over. But my interest, my attraction, they don’t add up to it. I can’t reach that before we see, recognize, acknowledge the obstacle in the way that is as cold as stone, and vast in every direction as the stress breaks in a fractured window: I need to talk about fear.

Fear. What power it has to change the landscape, dim the sun, lower the very sky. Fear reaches up through bones and sinew, and wraps around the heart. Its stranglehold obscures your view of everything else, and leaves you all alone.

Do we know each other? People who feel that way? Would we recognize the careful avoidance of eye contact as familiar?

I watched a film, based mostly on a recommendation from QM at red Ravine called, ‘The Brave One’. It features Jodie Foster, and I tried to put into words at the time why I liked it. I am a pacifist, and this film has been characterized as a vigil-ante film: After surviving the sort of trauma that would, could, and should kill most people, Jodie Foster’s character, Erica, is faced with the task of living again. And she can’t.  She can’t walk down the street, she can’t look around, or take a deep breath, until the day she buys a gun.

First conflict in me, and it’s the same thing I felt watching ‘V for Vendetta’… why? Why is it okay? Why do *these* means justify *this* end? Why do these films speak right to me?

It isn’t revenge. That isn’t what I get off on, it doesn’t make the ugliness of certain acts more powerful, but I was *satisfied* by this film. Because of empowerment. The idea that she could take back some of what was lost in herself- she talked right to me. She talked to a few of us, in darkened theaters, or lighted living rooms. The ones who watch people, arms entwining easily, and don’t understand how to get there. The laugh, the bumping of shoulders, the close easy way… how?

I live in a different world.

And it’s near impossible to say so without the code words like that film. ‘The Brave One’. Everything I’m not, but hope to be.

Awhile ago, I sat down here and wrote about personal trauma. The title was ‘The Difficult Telling’, and there was a part one, a part two and a part three.  It isn’t my whole story, it’s a critical piece. The puzzle piece that obscures the whole puzzle. Why do I write? This is what I do. I sit down every day and attempt to tell the truth. 

And every day I fail. I can’t get it. Whatever it is. You could lock me in a room with a notebook and a pen, with death and destruction my only immediate future; no further consequence, just ash, and I still couldn’t get it down. I’m paralyzed. I’m scared to write the extent of my failure. Something moves in to change the voice, re-organize, defer damnation.

Erica pulled the trigger. I lie to the very pen.

But nothing… is actually… worthless. Even if you waste your own life, or live it on hold, waiting for the strange, satisfying crash of bullet bursting chest that never comes, you still learn something.

I’ve learned something. I have a certain authority based on that which I can’t do, and I’ll tell you.

If you can find the courage, tell the truth.

Find it, seek it out. If you can’t tell your story, have the guts to tell another one. Fiction is probably the greatest repository of what’s true. Look for the real in a story, don’t layer it with the obscure, don’t try to present it as something its not, or work out what’s not resolvable. Find what’s in there, and bring it out, one word at a time. 

Because we hide in the lies we tell, but that’s okay. As long as you’re in there. If you hide inside, there’s a core, there’s someone to answer to. Show it, tell it, put yourself on the line. It’s important-

As important as Erica’s voice was to me as she leaned toward the microphone and let her voice speak, all the safe options having dissolved at the critical moment;  no other words would come out of her just then, but the truth. Her voice was a life line.

Someone out there relied on it.

I did.



8 thoughts on “Telling the Story

  1. Just want to let you know I was here. I’m not sure what to say just yet so I’m going to gather some thoughts and try to put them together for you.

  2. Well said. You just expressed, perfectly, the reason why I write fiction. Forty years ago, this year, I experienced nineteen months of real-life horror that has never found its way to the page… and these days the reasons why or why not are less important than the cowardice I feel in my inability to relate it– to anyone. To date, I’ve written around forty stories about homeless people, and I’ve never known a homeless person. Maybe it’s me who’s never really come home, I don’t know. Anyway, I understand your angst.

  3. “watching people, arms entwined. How to get there…” Get through the fear. Fear is the dawn of love. It just is. Don’t let it discourage you. You’ll get to the truth that your pen will lie and call fiction one day. You will be a lauded author. Your words blow me away, but the you and the thoughts behind them empower them to do that. Maybe they are your empowerment.

  4. It almost seems to basic to point out to writers — the plea to tell the truth. But it must be a universal slipping back inside that happens, a risk aversion or Monkey Mind. The critic, the editor.

    That movie, btw, got such mixed reviews. I’m glad to hear it moved you, and that you avoided any kinds of “liked it, didn’t like it” judgments. Usually that’s not even the point.

  5. I’ve hidden truth; I’ve put in in abstracts, but the only time I remember really digging down and writing out the brutal truth is when I didn’t expect to be around much longer. It’s scrawled in a notebook that I can’t bring myself to read. (I don’t think I want you to approve this comment, btw).

  6. This is wonderful, wonderful writing, this is what writing is all about, huge round of applause, I won’t talk about what you wrote, just how you did it and you did it so beautifully, this is transcendent.

  7. Writing the truth requires the ability to know what’s true – this is hard enough for most of us. It is also interesting to discover the things we won’t (or can’t) write about. I enjoyed this piece.

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