Tag Archive: writing


Some time ago, The Fabulous Lorraine posted a thought about being on fire.  For that, I owe her all the mangoes she can eat, ever.  Let me give you just a taste of what the poem she quotes is like:

Lo, blessed are our ears for they have heard;
Yea, blessed are our eyes for they have seen:
Let thunder break on man and beast and bird
And the lightning. It is something to have been.

 

It is, truly, something to have been.  Without it, there would be no knowing what beauty is.  So we try things, and hurt ourselves in the trying, sometimes.  We fuck up.  We do what seems right at the time.  We do what seems fun.  Whatever.  And then, we hurt.

So how does it reflect on an author, when that author is willing to hurt, to injure, to maim, to torture, to kill a character? Or to make up whole new things worse than death, just to do to them?

I will do terrible, awful things to the people I write or write about.  I am a bad person.  I feel no remorse for forcing them to live through things that no sane human being would survive.

It is something to have been.

Who am I, to deny them freedom?  Freedom of choice comes with freedom of consequence.  You can’t have one without the other.  It doesn’t work.

Put it another way: these are the things they must experience, to become the people they will end up being.  Stealing their pain, their anguish, their hurt is only denying them a part of life that is true, and instructive, and necessary to form a child into… something very else.

So I will not cringe from doing genuinely awful things, to characters and readers alike.  I realized that, the day I knew I had written someone that all of us know, that all of us like, someone who had the potential to be everything and to make the world, if not entirely right, at least a vastly better place.  He had the right, the responsibility, the privilege to live and to take pleasure both in living and in making the world a better place to be.

Naturally, then, just as he realized what he might become, I murdered him.

I say it that way because it is my writing.  It is my hand holding both the quill and the sword, and I refuse to shy away from being responsible for the genuinely terrible things I’ve done.

But if I hadn’t murdered him, nothing would be the same.  He needed to die, both for himself and for everyone around him.  So at least it wasn’t a truly pointless death.

I don’t mourn him, because he still lives in my head, where time is whatever I want it to be.  Even if that weren’t the case, I’d still have murdered him.  It was a painful task, one that needed doing.

Truly, it is something to have been.  To deny my characters the right to fuck up, to get hurt, to be strange, to learn by mistakes – to me, that denies them the right to be people, and not puppets.

One more quote, then I will stop:

The puppet thinks
it’s not so much
what they make me do
as their hands
inside me
that hurts.

Charles De Lint

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Seven bears

There was a girl, and she had six bears.  She was a very little, and very odd girl.  Her mother and father never quite knew what to do with her, because she called them “mother” and “father” in the same way she’d address royalty from a foreign country whose titles she didn’t understand very well.  She talked to other children the same way; trying to be friendly, and trying to fit in, but never quite understanding what it was she was supposed to be doing.

Needless to say, she didn’t have many friends.  She had six, to be precise, and they were her bears.  She’d gotten one a year, every year, on her birthday.  She talked to them, and asked them questions about things she didn’t understand, and they talked back (but only to her, when no one else was around) and told her what they thought about what she asked.  So she always had six answers, and she could figure out what she thought was right, and what was silly.

On her seventh birthday, two terrible things happened.  Neither one was supposed to be terrible, but they both were, because they couldn’t have been anything else.  She wanted very badly to blame her mother and father for them, but couldn’t quite manage it.  They hadn’t done either one meaning it to be terrible, only through a great misunderstanding that couldn’t quite be explained.

The first terrible thing started like this: her mother cut the cake, and she ate a piece, neatly.  Her father and mother both sang the birthday song to her (after the cake, but she supposed there was some leeway in how these things should go), and then she opened presents.  There were books, and a calculator, and a wooden pony that rocked back and forth.  Mother and Father could never quite decide what age they thought she was, so presents had a tendency to orbit around her chronological age in a three to five year span.  This suited the girl just fine, because she didn’t put much stock in ages.  They led to people treating her as though she were silly or stupid, which didn’t make any sense.

But every year, she could rely on a bear.  She was looking very forward to this year’s bear – she had Monday Bear, and Bear Tuesday, and Thursbear, and The Friday of Bears, and Significantly Saturday, and Son of Bear.  She was only missing one, and she knew (as the child places in every mind knows, with a certainty that is more sure than gravity itself) that she was missing one.  She only needed one, and now she would have all the bears she ever needed.

So, of course, the first terrible thing was that there was no bear.  She couldn’t even rummage through the wrapping paper to see if she had missed it somewhere.  All the wrapping paper was folded neatly and put in a trash bag as the presents were opened.  There was no bear.

“You’re a bit old for bears, don’t you think, darling?” Mother said, too brightly. “And, well, we know you talk to them when you’re supposed to be in bed.  So it’s for the best that you don’t have any more, you see.  It’s time to move past bears, dear.”

And the girl nodded, and very quietly set about not crying.  This is not at all the same as when she didn’t want to cry.  Now it was work not crying, and trying not to think about crying.  Crying wouldn’t make there be a bear, and even if it did, it would be the wrong bear.  She knew it.

The second terrible thing was an accident, and it wasn’t supposed to happen like it did, or when it did.  It was supposed to happen, just in an entirely different (and, theoretically, much less terrible) way.  Father and mother got into a fight.  They fought pretty often, and it had gotten worse.  They used to be loud fights, with yelling and doors slamming and all sorts of noise.  Now they were quiet fights, and the quiet fights were worse.  The silence could fill up the whole house and make everything quiet, in a dreadful way that was the sound of people waiting for a terrible thing to happen.

There was a quiet fight, after dinner.  The silence poured into all the rooms and pushed out all the air, so everyone felt like they would suffocate, even the bears.  The silence filled up everything, and didn’t leave any space.  Then, when there was no space left for anything, the sound of the front door closing clicked to itself out on the front lawn, where it had space to click in.  The girl heard it, through her window, and saw her father get in his car and leave.

Then the silence was embarrassed by what it had done, and pulled back a very little, as much as it could when it was all stuck in the house and was too big to get out.  It left just enough space for the sound of her mother crying, quietly, in the front room.  It was a very little sound, huddled in the tiny space the embarrassed silence had made for it.

 

Now, let the years roll over the terrible things, and make them fuzzy and less painful.  Let them be memories, with much less power left to them.  Let the silence leak out of the house, and be replaced with voices that are too bright and brittle, trying to talk to each other in the same language that isn’t the same at all, really.

Seven years, all of them full of minutes and seconds and hours and things, with time in them for the girl to grow up, but no less odd.  Years where she learns not to let her mother know she still talks to her bears, and listens to what they tell her.  Years where she still has only the same six friends, but learns to pretend there are more.  Years where every year, the orbit of age that her father and mother think she is gets bigger and bigger.

 

So, now that the years have worn away at the terrible things, there is another birthday.  She knows her father is not invited to this one, after how he was drunk and angry when he showed up to the last one.  She knows her mother is punishing her father, but does not really understand why, or care.  So he has sent presents, by mail.  Each one of them has a card, with a little sentiment in it, trying to show her love at a distance, when she never understood it in person.

There is a bear.  It is the right bear – the one that should have been there years ago, but got lost on its way to her.  It’s had a rough seven years.  It is gray with washing, and missing one eye, and the fur is all worn down until it is smooth and soft like velvet.  But it is here now, and has found its way to her.  It looks like it’s winking at her all the time, and perhaps it is.  The card with it says “I know you love bears, pumpkin.  I hope this one will do; it’s got a lot of history and love in it already.  I hope you’ll love it too.  Love, Dad.”  He’s always called himself dad to her.  “Your dad,” he’d say, or “her dad,” and mean himself.

The bear doesn’t talk during the party, of course.  It doesn’t talk at all until she takes it up to her room, and sets it down by the other bears.  They are all shinier than it is, better cared for and less worn.  They don’t smell, vaguely, of dog.  The other bears don’t say anything about the new bear.  They’re putting off their own sort of quiet.  It’s a waiting, watching, nervous and hand-wringing kind of quiet, as though they’ve afraid they’ve been slacking off and the teacher just walked in and asked to see their work.

“Hello, creature,” said the bear, in a gruff and growly bear voice.  “We’ve been waiting a long time to meet, haven’t we?”

“Yes,” the girl says, quiet and wondering.

“You are called Wednesday by the people who made you, so I will do the same.  It’s a strange sort of name for a creature like you, but it fits.  I am a Wednesday too, as you know – so you may call me Mr. Wednesday, to tell the difference.  Very pleased to make your acquaintance.”  He is smiling, and she can hear it.  It’s a charmer’s smile, a snake’s smile, and one she at once immediately trusts and would not believe for an instant.

“Hello, Mr. Wednesday.  How do you do?”  This seems like a good start, for a new bear who is not new at all.

“I do very well, Wednesday child.  Now, let’s see what we shall do about this fine mess you’re in, hmmm?”  And he seemed to wink at her, still, and she leaned very close to hear his voice, which had gotten very soft and gruff indeed.

Mr. Wednesday bear whispered all sorts of things to her that first night, some of them very silly and some of them seeming very smart.  And the other bears didn’t say a thing, all night long.  A very long night it was, and the sun overslept and left the dawn for what felt like very late indeed.

Mr. Wednesday rode to school in her backpack that day, so she could listen to him whisper.  He did just like he promised, and told her things all day long, even when other people were around, so long as she didn’t say anything back to him.  She learned a very big lot that day, and wasn’t sure if she liked it or not.

After you come outta the woods, then there’s the scrub.  You got to be right good and careful in the scrub.  Them bushes will punch right on into you like a hot spike in a dog’s eye.  So just you be right good and careful, otherwise you’ll do yourself a harm just tryin to get IN the damn badlands, much less through them.

If you can make it through the scrub, you’ll be out in the desert.  Now, you got to remember that the desert ain’t quite like it used to be, though I s’pose you could say that about anythin, really.  It’s all gone dark out there, but if you’ll take my advice and verra strong recommendation, you won’t light up to try and see.  Lightin up in the desert’s a beacon, and there is just precisely nothin at ALL that you want seein your shiny ass askin to be eat up.

Now, you want to get out past the mountains, you said?  Well, now, that may not be quite the dumbest idea I’ve heard in my entire life, but it surely is close.  That means you got to get out to the canyon, so’s you can cross the Spine.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but you folks never listen the first time if a thing has sense, so I’ll say it again.  The Spine goes all the way around.  The canyon is the ONLY way through.  Miss the canyon, you’ll be huntin and searchin for a way to get past for the rest of your damn life, short though it may be.

Look up here a minute.  That’s the moon, there.  Now, you count you a one two three fingers over, and watch for that lovely little shiner that’s red in the wakin and blue in the dreamin.  You see it?  Got a good fix on it?  Keep your eye on that little shiner, and keep it just off to the left of in front of you.  Put it on your ten o’clock, and just walk straight on from here.  You’ve had a spot of good luck, runnin into me, and a spot of bad luck, since you’re about as far from where you’re going as you can get without actually turnin back into the woods.

There’s critters in the desert, and things that are real and will eat you and ain’t real but think they are.  ‘Ware them, kill them if you don’t have a choice, and don’t go huntin them, whatever ideas you dream up out there.  You hear me good, now.  Most of that ain’t real, and that of it that is you don’t want to tangle with.

Get yourself across the desert and to the mouth a the canyon, and the easy part’s done.  There’s a gate out that a way, and a man on it.  He looks like about ten shades of chewed up hell, and ain’t got no more manners than a badger in a burlap sack.  Tell him I sent you, and he’ll open up the gate for you.  Otherwise, you may be campin out there awhile before he heads back out onto the sand, goin huntin.  If he’s not there, there’s ways around that gate.  Find one.  Just don’t try it while he’s there, is all.  He’s got a bit of a temper on him.

I ain’t gonna do you the disservice of tryin to tell you how to walk the canyon.  It’s different every time, for every soul, and anythin I tell you will be worse than useless.  You’ll be too busy tryin to remember what I said to open your eyes and see.

On the other side of the canyon’s a sign, all wood and you probly can’t half read it by now.

Welcome to Flashback Country.

That’s where you’re goin.  If you’ll pardon me sayin, I’ve never met anybody who went there on purpose that had anythin good in mind.  Lots of people come in that way, seein the desert as someplace better, if they can make it through the canyon.

But it ain’t my place to question or judge, so here’s what you might wanna know.  It’s an ebb tide on that beach right now.  The dark water’s pulled right on back from the scree, and left all kinda everythin just layin there to be picked up.

You’ll have heard all kinds of stories about what you can find in that country when the water leaves its cargo behind.  Don’t pick nothin up.  As you love your life and the way of it, don’t pick nothin up.  They do not lie when they say some a those things are full of power and knowledge, but it ain’t worth it.  Only one in a great while has anythin worth havin buried in it, and the rest will cut you up bad enough that anythin you get will just make you stranger, not stronger.

There’s good livin, here in the woods.  Plenty to eat, plenty of shelter.  We even get sunlight out here again, from time to time.  You want my advice, you and your friend there make yourself a cozy place out here, and forget about trinkets and trash and all that nonsense.

But then, you folks never do listen to sense the first time.  If you make it back, I’ll be expectin payment.  You’ll give me the story of how you got there and back again, so as I can feed my tree, here.  You don’t make it back, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Don’t pick nothin up.  Don’t you never, not for no reason at ALL, pick nothin up.

Words mean things.

DESERVE.

“You deserve this,” she whispered into the cup of my ear, nibbling on the outside ridge of it.  “You deserve everything.  I love you.”  We curled up into each other, a nautilus twined in on itself in the gravity of infatuation.  We slept together, and woke together, still tangled up and relaxed, still so in love that it permeated around us.  We were beautiful, together.

“You deserve this,” she whispered into the side of my neck, clinging to me as if to life.  “You deserve everything.  I loved you.”  I pushed her away from me, frightened, repulsed.  She fell back, leaned on the wall, clung to me still with her deep, wet eyes.  She staggered back to her feet, slowly.  I looked around at the unholy mess our little apartment had become as she tottered out.  I barely heard her open the front door, but I heard the click-whoosh of her lighter.

 

NEED.

“I… I need a favor.  Please.”  It shocked him to hear it, almost as much as it must have hurt her to say it.  She was not the type of person to ask for things, ever.  He had never, in all his years as her friend, heard her say she needed something.  It was new, and frightening.  He knew, in that instant, that whatever it was, it was something she needed as she needed breath and light, and that he would do anything to give it to her.

“Look, I just need a favor, all right?  Nothing big.  Just a favor.”  The words were fast, too fast, trying to overrun her objections.  He was cupping her face in the palm of his hand, like he knew she loved, and she knew he was trying to make her see it his way, like it wouldn’t cost her anything.  She knew, too, that it would work.  Just realizing it made her tired, sad, and a little sick.  She was so tired of “compromising” with the things that he needed.

“I need you.”  I looked her in the eye, and did not flinch.  It was a powerful statement, left bald that way.  She was afraid, and I wouldn’t let that stand.  “I love you, and I need you.  I will not be the same if you go.”  I took a deep breath, and let it sigh softly out of my lungs, deflating all my defense, all my ego.  “I need you.  You are still my sun, my moon, my starlit sky.  It hasn’t gone away.  It’s not going to.”

 

Words mean things.

Words are the birds that take flight, and show you where your enemy is hiding.

Choose your words as carefully as you would choose ammunition, a love’s or lover’s gift, a mode of travel, a medium in which to burn and create.  Words mean things – have a care that the things you say are the things you mean, or ‘ware the dragons that live outside the edges.

I had a dream, which I was talking to a wonderful, brilliant woman about.

Then I drove home.

Now I know a lot more about why I am “remembering” more of that dream than less – right brain seriously eating my face on this one.  I have been driving very carefully lately, but when I hit the right song for shortcut drug on the story that it really, really REALLY needs to be, I had a very hard time not pushing the maximum possible speed out of the jmobile and roaring at it for more.  (Yes, it’s a bit crippled, but it’ll still go up and over 90 without panting hard… then I realized what my foot was doing while I was talking to myself, and went “Oh hell” and did my best not to do that any more while I sorted through where I wanted to start nibbling on this wildebeest.  Split City – elephant.  Ringside – wildebeest.  Much smaller, easier to get into once you are through the skin, but damn hard to catch and irritable when you try to dig your teeth in, liable to throw you off, turn around, and try to kill you right the fuck back.)

So, I have a new tag, a new set of stories (again) and a really serious lust to get into this particular set of people and fuckery.  It’s going to be, as they say, a bumpy ride, but it is giving me a serious fucking carnivorous grin just thinking about writing it.  It is full of possibilities, and it is not taking up the same kind of clock cycles as anything else in the hopper, so it’s very… else.  Everything is very else lately, which is not a bad thing.

And then there was this.  There’s at least one of you out there in Magical ReaderLand who wanted to read about brass rings, and that’s how you got here.  You reminded me of brass rings, and thinking about them, especially in relation to real life instead of stories.

So you, Mysterious Reader, have led in a direct path to me finding out that there is a classic carousel less than two hours’ drive from me that still has brass rings, and is open every weekend.  Thank you.  You have done me a favor, and helped me find a thing in real actual life that I wanted quite a lot, but hadn’t pushed myself to investigate.

On that topic: SlutWalk Tampa is this Saturday.  We will be starting in downtown at 11 A.M., and I will be there.  Look for the bald dyke under a sign that says

YES, YOU.

I do not talk about activism a lot here, but this is an event I will be proud to be part of.  It’s about people being people together, and coming together to defend the right of people to be themselves and not be assaulted for it.  It’s fearless, love-based and expression-based activism, and I expect to meet people I will enjoy very much.

See you there.

Because today was a day full of work, and then tonight was a night full of work, and now it is almost today all over again, and I will fuck up today’s work quite thoroughly if I don’t at least pretend I intend to sleep in between.

But there are things that need writing, and will not leave me alone until I acknowledge them.  It’s been a very right-brain-eating-my-face week, and for some very good and very interesting reasons, and some very bad and very interesting ones.  I am sorting through all sorts of flotsam and jetsam, and now here is a list, because that way I can pretend to the things that need writing that I will get to them, at least long enough to sleep.  And maybe, when I wake up again, I will remember what I meant by all this – or, even more interestingly, I will half remember, and make something not-quite-new-but-curiously-rewrought out of the bits.  Upcycled memory.

Words mean things.  It needs writing because it is true.  Because deserve is a blessing and an epithet.  Because need is a plea, a bargain, a comfort, a curse, a coward’s way out, a pretty lie, a naked and trembling truth. Because words mean things, and people mean things by words, and what we mean by things means everything – and when what we mean is not what it means to someone else, things can go very awry, or just very else.

The trouble with torture.  The trouble with torture, O Best Beloved, it’s that it’s predictably and practically pointless to do it to anyone else but one’s very own private, potent, purulently penitent Self.  No one else has the tools to hone the edge of the tool so fine that it cuts precisely where the intent meets the deed, so that the Self is reminded of what it couldn’t be bothered about before any of this silliness began.

Hookers, whores, call girls and storytellers.  We lie.  We all lie.  And the ones of us who are paid the most to lie to other people are paid to do it because our lies sound like something that those people want very, very badly to be true.  Find the truth that your john wants, and feed it out, micron by micron.  Get paid in the coin of your choice for every morsel.  Wrap as much of what you believe or want to be true in it as you can bear – every word that comes out of your cocksucker that you can believe, your john will believe because you believe it, and it will be easier to sell the ones you know are lunacy and pap.  Cut yourself on true words to feed him watered down lies that taste like lifeblood just enough to make him want more.  And while he’s swallowing, pilfer his wallet.  Or tell him why he had the idea to sign the contract.  Where is the line between fantasy and sociopathy?

Brains are tuning forks. Songs are the note to which mine resonates right now.  The shortcut drug is in full effect, and it is digging things up out of trunks long left locked to rust in the dark.  Pieces of Split City are slotting together, and I think I expected that to be a good thing.  It is definitely becoming something very else, though, and I don’t know what I think of that.  I am becoming, slowly, hesitant to think of these things that I am putting words to as part of some linear work.  There are too many parallels, overlaps, whorls.  Plotlines run like fingerprints.  It is confusing, fascinating.  I have told and retold the story of my own life to myself so many times, in so many ways, trying to make sense of it – perhaps I have worn parallel sorts of paths in my brain, so that it creates not single things, but what if bouquets of possibility and potentiality.

We shall see.

Get up.

There are some stories, O Best Beloved, from which even the moon turns her face.  So tonight, as we sit here huddled around a fire that gives no warmth and no comfort, she hides herself from us in the clouds, because she knows that I will tell you a story that she does not want to hear.  She will not stop me, though, O my Best Beloved.  Even the moon knows that all stories must be told in the end, because every story has a name, and all names are true in some turning.

But remember: all storytellers are liars at heart.  There are three lies in this story, and this is one of them.

This is a story that is not mine, but one that I was told by the one who lived it, who whispered it in my ear when no one else would hear it, when the moon was dark and all was quiet in her hiddenness.  I was told so that it would be told to you, when she was hidden again, so that you could sift the truth from the lies and learn from the sifting.

This is the story I heard:

“The concrete was cold and hard on my face, but warm against my hip, where I was bleeding on it.  I liked the places where it was warm, because I couldn’t remember the last time I had been warm all over.  I was so hungry, and so tired, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had slept more than a couple of hours.  I just wanted to sleep.  I wanted to be warm, and I wanted to sleep.  That was all.  I wanted it so so so badly.

“She was laughing at me, purring her laugh, like a great cat that’s just heard a good joke.  ‘Get up,’ she says to me, laughing.  ‘You’re fine.  Get up.’

“I can’t, I tell her.  I’m so tired, and I’m so cold.  Please, can’t I just lay here for a minute and have a little sleep, and maybe a little something to eat?  I’ve tried to be so good for so long.  I’ve almost got it perfect.  Please, please, can’t I just go to sleep?  I promise I’ll do better when I wake up.

“She’s not laughing anymore.  She’s slapping that stupid stick against her boot, tapping it to make noise, looking at me, making her mad face.  ‘Get up,’ she says again.  ‘You’re not hurt.  You’re just lazy.  Get up.  If you want to rest, you have to work first.  So get up.  Now.’

“I can’t help it.  I start to cry.  Not out loud, because then she’ll be really mad, but the wet just wells up and leaks out of my eyes and onto the floor.  I try to push myself up on my strong arm, and it just shakes and drops me back down again.  I try pushing with my legs, and they just won’t work at all.  Nothing’s answering right anymore.  It’s so scary.  I’m trying so hard to be good, to do right, but it’s not working.  Nothing will work, and now she’s so mad.

“‘Well.  I see how it is then.’  She’s walking around me, tapping the stick on her boot some more, making that whap-whap-whap sound in the quiet.  ‘You told me you would do as I asked.  You told me you were worth the work.  I should have known you were lying.  I should have known you were just a girl all along.  We both know girls are too weak to be of any use.  When you can be bothered to get up, then get out.  I have no use for girls.’

“She put so much hate in that last word, so much contempt.  And she was wrong! I got so mad.  I’m not a girl.  I’m not weak.  I can do it.  I can do anything.  I. Am. NOT. A. Stupid. Weak. GIRL.

“It hurt, when the chain around my ankle tore into the skin, pulled on the bone.  I don’t remember getting up.  I don’t remember running at her, yelling.  But there I was, on my feet.  I am not a GIRL.  I am USEFUL.  I can WORK.  And I can GET UP, see? I am UP!

“Then she laughed again.  She was happy.  I was useful.  My blood was dripping down my leg from my hip, where she’d hit me before I’d fallen down, and it was going faster now, and I was out of breath.  But I got up.  That was what was important.  I had proved it.  I was not a girl.

“I got up.

“I got up.

“And so she loved me another day, and I got to stay another day, because I got up.

“That was a long time ago now.  I can’t change what happened.  There are a lot of days where I think it would have been better if I’d never met her.  A lot of days where I think it would have been better if I’d stayed down, or never been sent away.  But those days aren’t today.  And as long as those days aren’t today, I’m getting up for me, instead of her.  So that’s all right then, I guess.”

This is a story I wept to hear, and I weep to tell it to you, and the moon hides her face from us to hide her tears.  Put another log on the fire, O my Best Beloved.  All of us could use a little light, a little warmth, and a little comfort against the stories the moon hides her face from.

So join me in weeping, and help me lend a hand to those who would get up for themselves.  Even liars have hands, and every hand is useful.

Phoebe.

(For the interested, Phoebe is one of the moons of Saturn.)

 

You gave me a flashlight for my birthday.  You said it was so I could go exploring any time I liked.  I know you were lying.  I know you bought it on the way home, because you forgot it was my birthday.  I’m invisible to you.  I don’t know if I care anymore, or if I have given up fighting it.

 

The first night we were together, you ran fascinated fingers and lips over my scars, my textures, the territories of my history.  And the second, and the third.  After a month, you skimmed them, as a book you had read before, and knew all the interesting parts in.  After a year, you don’t notice them anymore.  I could have skin smooth as cream, white as milk, and you wouldn’t care.  I love my skin, and I would not change a thing.  You loved it once, but you aren’t here anymore.

 

I miss you being here.  I miss you most when you’re sitting next to me, so busy you have forgotten I exist.  That happens more and more these days.  I am afraid, because I made up so much of myself and remade the stories about myself so they’d center around you.  I am afraid that when you forget me completely, I will stop being a story at all.

 

So, because I am a survivor first, I will use the flashlight you gave me.  I will use it as you said it was meant, and find new stories in the dark.  When I come home with new scars, maybe you will notice.  I don’t know what I will do if you don’t.

Once upon a time (because all the best stories start with once upon a time, O Best Beloved), there was a boy.  Because this is a love story, in parts, there must be a boy – because I am a girl, and at least one of the stories I will tell you across this fire and under a lying moon is about the kind of love that stories usually tell.  A boy and a girl, who are lost and crossed in love for one another, that will never come to be.

 

So, once upon a time, there was a boy.  I met him because I was a girl who wished not to be a girl – I wanted as hard as I could to be a boy, to live naturally in a boy’s world, and forget ever having been a girl at all.  I met him because I climbed trees and drove cars and rode motorcycles and picked fights, and at least the last three of those things will earn a boy money, if he is fast and reliable and good in a pinch.

There are two kinds of fights you can be in: a pretty fight and an ugly fight.  You have all seen pretty fights, O Best Beloved.  They are fights where boys hold each other back and only make contact to score points with the crowd.  They are fights with rules, and with courtesies.  Ugly fights are the different sort.  Some of you have seen them, and any of you who have will never mistake the difference.  Ugly fights are fought to win, and have no courtesies.  They only barely have rules, and almost always, those rules are about when you have won, and nothing else.

In the same way that people will pay small money for a hockey game that is pretty, and big money for rinkside seats at a game where they can be confident that they will see someone else’s face sliding, gap-toothed and bloody, down the rattling plexiglass inches from their eyes, there is a pay gap between pretty fights and ugly fights.  Ugly fights pay better, because they are not legal in most civilized society, and because they are higher risk for the participants, and because people who are not civilized who must live in civilized societies will pay very good money indeed to see thoroughly uncivilized engagement.

 

So, I met a boy.  He taught me the difference between a pretty fight and an ugly one, and how to win when there is no one saying “Hold me back!” in a brawl.  I was brought to a ring with him to learn to win, because there is money in the unexpected, and a girl mean enough to win in an ugly boy’s world is often unexpected.  So I met him the first time, and he looked at me.  We stood apart from each other in the ring, and he began speaking.  “Watch their hands,” he said.  (Every time I met him, O Best Beloved, he would say that to me.  And the sound of his voice is something I only got back later, lives away, in a pretty little therapist’s office.)  “Watch their hands, and their feet.  You’ll hear people tell you to always watch their eyes, and their center of mass.  That’s a lie, and a fucking dangerous one.  Anyone can lie with their eyes and their chest with a little practice.  Almost no one can lie with their hands, and their feet, with any consistency.  Watch their hands.”

Now, anyone who has been in a fight will know this for idiocy.  In a fight, an opponent who watches your hands and feet is an opponent whom you can eat for breakfast, because he is watching the easiest and most minute things you can control, so you can control his eyes.  When you control his eyes, you win.  So, while I listened to the words on his lips, he broke my skull.  He ate me alive.  I lost horribly, and fell in love.  The next time we met, I ignored the words of his mouth, and watched the language of his body.  Watching his body, hearing the words his spine gave me, I made him work to win.  Once I made him work to win, I started fighting on my own.

I met him one more time, in a ring that had money on the line.  There were more than two of us, then.  All of us children who believed we were gods, ignoring the shit and sawdust in our so-mortal hair.  By then I believed I was a god, invincible and immortal, immune to the panic cries of my fallible body, driven by a will that was faster, smarter, and meaner than any of these pretenders to my deity.  I was wrong, and he taught me that with a kiss, and a promise.

He met me in the ring – I was near a solid wall, watching forward, and never heard him behind me.  He cupped my head gently, lightly, fingers sliding lovingly into my hair.  Fast, hard, firm, he bounced my head off the wall, clouding my eyes and ringing my ears.  I lost my balance, stunned, and he dragged me up by my hair and kissed me.  He kissed me with passion and fire, like we would both die in the next minute and nothing else mattered.  He kissed me like a god about to burn, and I drowned in that kiss and his fingers in my hair.

“Watch their hands, and get out.  Get out.  You are a girl, and this is not the world for you.  I won’t kill you, but someone else will.  I promise.  Get out, while you still can.”  He whispered, fast and fierce, into the cup of my ear, and pulled my head back to stare into my eyes for a precious split second longer.  Then he was gone, dropping me to the ground, limp as a rag doll and stunned.

The whole meeting lasted less than ten seconds.  The fight lasted less than three minutes more.  He found everyone in that ring who might do me harm, and did to them before they could do to me.  While he was busy doing that, I pulled my feet back underneath me, found my head again.  When he came for me, at last, I saw him coming, and I leapt at him.  I leapt at him with every piece of fire and agony and will in my soul, and I won.  By the skin of my teeth, I won.  He would not kill me, and I flew at him in carelessness and hopelessness, knowing it.  Because he would not kill me, I overwhelmed him, a tidal wave of craziness and despair in the form of a bleeding, silent, raging girl.

That was my last fight, and I won it.  I won it because he loved me, and I loved him back.

 

Now, I will tell you one more story.  It is also a love story, though of a very different kind.

Once upon a time, O Best Beloved, there was a girl.  She was a beautiful girl – brilliant and kind and funny and fascinating.  She was all the girl I had sworn never to be, and held it with passion and unassailable will that I had never even dreamed possible until I met her.  I loved her for it, for every inch of herself, and she loved me back.

Once, in a deep night, under fluorescent lamps and under a truth-telling moon, she asked me to tell her.  “Tell me what you see,” she said.  “Tell me what you see when you watch me, and what you know because of it.”  So I told her.   I told her what that nameless and much-loved boy from so long ago had said to me, the knowledge I had regained in the lifetimes since, and used so often and so well.  Watch their hands, and watch their feet.  They will lie to you with their eyes, and their bodies, but they cannot watch their hands and their feet.  Watch how they move, how they speak, whom they speak to and whom they do not.  I taught her the things I had gotten back from that time with the boy, and the things I had learned because of those first, basic lessons.

It was the first time I had told anyone what I saw in them, though some had asked.  My trust was not misplaced; she still loved me, even after I told her what I saw.  She still trusted me, even though I told her what I do with the knowledge I have, and how I make the people around me bend to what I want, because I know what they are thinking when they think they are not thinking at all.

 

And now I will tell you one more story, because this is a lying moon and all storytellers are liars in their hearts, and cannot resist the call of one more tale.  I will tell you, O Best Beloved, as I told her.  Watch their hands, and watch their feet.  Watch your own hands and feet – they will tell you things about you that you never thought to ask.

Watch their hands.  As I fall asleep, watching my hands with the eyes of my skin in the dark, I see the story my hands are telling.  They curl up on themselves and each other, like weasels in the nest.  They scurry and bury themselves under blankets and pillows and body, folding over and protecting the delicate, sensitive centers.  They tell me a story about myself that is truer than pretty lies, and more lie than a bright and cutting truth.  Watch your hands, as you fall asleep, and they will tell you a story about what you are thinking when you think you are not thinking at all.

 

These are the stories I tell you, O Best Beloved, across this fire and under a lying moon.

Mythology of self

We tell ourselves stories all the time, every day.  You’ve heard me talk about this before, and it’s a theme I come back to a lot, primarily because I spend a fair portion of my time asking myself what story someone is telling themselves about a particular set of facts, events, circumstances, whatever.  There are lots of stories to tell about any particular event, and the story that you tell yourself will materially and significantly change the way you look at the event, how you feel about it, how you feel about yourself and other people in relation to it.  The facts form a very, very low percentage of the actual opinion and emotional resonance that a human forms around any important event: most of what goes on in our heads is the story we are telling ourselves about what happened, what is happening, what will happen, what might happen.

That becomes even more pertinent, even more common, even more influential when we think about people instead of facts.  People are mutable and interpretable in a way that facts are not.  Though we spend a lot of brain power excusing or ignoring internal motivations, on some level we (as humans) are basically incapable of ignoring the fact that other humans’ internal motivations DO exist, in a theoretical sense.  So, based on the fact that it can only ever be a theoretical sense, we create theories of who they are, what they are thinking, how they are feeling, what they might or might not think or feel or do in regards to us and what we feel and think and do or do not do or think or feel.

How, then, do we reinterpret and recreate ourselves?  We are, from an internal perspective, a complex mix of both fact and perception, of concrete certainties and guesses.  When you ask someone why they did a very important, very emotionally loaded thing, they will often have a logical, rational, prepared explanation.  They have a story.  They will tell you their story about why they acted the way they did, what they were thinking, what they were feeling, and why all of that makes sense in the context of what was going on.

The problem with that (or at least, this is my theory today – ask me again tomorrow, it’ll probably be different) is that it’s bullshit.  It’s a story they’ve devised to explain to themselves why what they did was right, or why it made sense, or just why it was okay to do at the time.  It’s a construct, a fabrication, a creation designed to uphold their certainty that they do have reasons for doing things, and that they understand why they do things.  People, in general, devise their sense of self and identity from identifying common characteristics in the stories they tell themselves and other people about themselves, and then basing their future stories and behaviors on those characteristics.  It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of identity reinforcement.

Here’s the chink in that armor: ask someone why they engaged in an action that has no real resonance, that wasn’t important, that didn’t have any real meaning to them at the time.  Preferably, ask them about it both right after they do it, and then again some time later (best if you ask after they have forgotten the first conversation about the action).  At first, usually they will not know why they did that thing.  It was a small action, an unimportant thing, that didn’t need a story.  But when questioned, they will create a story, no matter how small, no matter how poorly constructed, to uphold their self-identity.  They will seek a story that holds a reason that somehow jells with the way they see themselves, through the lens of years or decades of stories repeating the same themes.

After they have forgotten the first conversation, ask again.  The story will probably have changed, although in many cases not by much.  It will hold together better, and small details will be altered to make it flow more freely and coherently.  It will be more according to the standards they expect of themselves, positive and negative, and it will be a better brick in the wall of self-identity.  The story gains stability the further away from the action the person is – because memory is a strange and mutable thing, and we color it in with details that make it easier for us to make sense of it in context of our world.

So, the thing I am going round and round trying to get at is this: we create our own set of stories, our own mythology of self.  My mythology of self is complex and at times incoherent, and interacts with others’ mythology of me in interesting and sometimes very surprising ways.  Everyone I know has a mythology of self – a series of stories that they have told to themselves and others that is part truth, part fiction, told and retold, honed and refined so that it supports and reinforces the person that they have convinced themselves they are.

The mythology of self is a critical part of human experience, I think.  It is utterly inseparable from the way people self-identify in a more scientific and psychological sense, and it is crucial to creating a bridge between separate people, so that they (like fractious deities in totally unrelated pantheons, forced to overlap and interact) can mingle their mythologies to help form a society that we can all thrive and find wonder in.

There is something in this idea, I think, that I will find really useful for exploring the concept of deity as self, and self as deity.  I will have to chase it down one day soon.  For now, I am having great fun poking holes in my own mythology, squinting skeptically at what ego and mis-memory created to convince me that I am me, and there is no other way to be.  We are humans and gods, children and crones who have a fascination with the other and the self, and we are inherently mutable and adaptable.  The mythology of self may well be one of the most powerful tools we have in reinventing our selves and our worlds to be people and places that we are invested in, joyful about, and in love with.

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