At Sanctuary on Saturday, we began, as usual, with proprioceptive writing… a free flow of thoughts, ideas and images, with the anchor of asking, when a word shimmers with energy, “what do I mean by — ?” and then answering that question. I have been thinking a lot about my story’s recent win, so I began with some thoughts about that.
Here’s what I wrote:
Somehow, in some way, I did something right in the eyes of my peers. What do I mean by peers? My equals, my companions; those who write, who know writing, who know a good story well-told. And I managed to do that. It only took thirty-eight years. C and S became Dave and Marianne. I didn’t write it for C, but still, I would like it if it pleased him, if it soothes or answers some ache he has carried… What do I mean by soothe? That calming of a wound or a lifting of a rock that sits on the heart. If even for a few moments. That is what I hope, now that it’s done. But perhaps he won’t care to be reminded; perhaps instead he will feel invaded, exploited, used. It isn’t my story, after all. It is my imagining. And yet, he came and touched me with this story all those years ago. He pressed it into my skin even as he sought to assuage his agony. What do I mean by assuage? There it is again – just as soothe, there is assuage – is that the function of story, then?
What was it that was touched in me when he left behind a remnant of his despair? I picked it up like a strand of hair on the pillow and threaded it through my fingers. I didn’t know that it was gold. Desolate, helpless gold.
I turned that hair in my hands for decades, listened to its endless questions about the nature of us; we humans with our bloated senses of self. I am mathematician, poet, scholar, hero, pipe-fitter, Indian chief, healer, wife… And in one instant; one tear in the fabric of the brain, and all is lost. The laughter dried and gone, the touch of her hand on his face… Who are we, then? What? Right side, left side – somewhere in the middle. Personality like a vehicle you can trade for a new one if you crash this one whose steering wheel you so fervently grip.
Where do we go, then? If it isn’t a death, then what is it? As in Dementia, is it a death when the personality closes the door on itself? What do I mean by death? Death is an ending that signals some sort of completion, even it doesn’t seem complete. For the ones left on the ground, there are endless questions. From the outside, it can seem like anything we imagine. Once they are gone, our imaginings are useless.