“bring out the romantic, comic, and tragic elements in them”

‘I think that you have a masterful sensitivity. To people, senses, situations and emotions. I think you are the one person who, if I looked at a painting or listened to a song or watched a film and felt some kind of significance in it, would be able to tell me exactly what my own head and heart were saying. This actually was something not lost on Amanda too, whom once in a moment of typically intimate evasion hugged me close and whispered into my ear that I should probably try dating you instead of her, since “you both appreciate things the same way.” (hopefully that is true for that very sentence too and you aren’t creeped out by it. For the record I replied to her ‘i know what I want’ and she smiled sadly, then said ‘then stop making it seem like I never want to see you either’. Some romances are just real-life novelizations.).

And so are most real-life events if you can bring out the romantic, comic, and tragic elements in them, which you, lissa, can do.’

— A friend back in 2009.

Today was one of those dreary days on the East Coast when I scurried about my apartment looking for lost mementos, relics, items, pictures, and even words from my past, hoping to find something magical, meaningful from it, something limitless and inward and mythical. I think it had to do with the book I’m reading, “The Street of Crocodiles,” by Bruno Schulz. I wanted to grab and hold on to something tangible from my past, something that could ground me, solidify who I was and am.

I held onto pictures of my mother, pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, pictures of me as a baby, with my mother holding me as I wore a doggie suit, in front of that reddish orange bridge that linked two worlds. I don’t know if it were of any coincidence, but the dates of those pictures were August 1988, four months after I was born and around the time my husband came into being. Ironic? Yes or no. We were born in the same city, the same hospital, maybe even the same room and bed, but the moment he breathed life, I was miles and miles apart from him. The dislocation, the distance we shared as newborns is a beautiful, useless thought, but it grounded me. To think: I will be miles and miles apart from him, from now until the sun sets for six more years.

I kept rummaging through my aging, brown treasure chest, something I keep as my time machine, my repository of memories, and then I found it—this old email letter from a friend who was studying abroad in China. I must have only printed these sentences, these words that make up the mythical summation of who I am in eloquent, abrupt brevity. It’s mythmaking at its most charming, as I’m sure my friend didn’t know who I was, and I certainly didn’t know either back then. I’m still figuring it out.

But, his words did imprint upon me a sense of temporal pleasantness and elicit disappointment. I don’t know if I’m a master of anything… I don’t think I could be, I’m just a servant of the craftsman and I’m in desperate disarray, trying and trying to achieve a sort of mastery over my arrayed, controlled works of poetics and fiction.

At the same moment, I did need these brief words, especially today. There’s so much intensity of feeling conjuring within me that I don’t know how to structure it, how to put it in order, how to place it against each other, on top of each other, between each other. I’m on the verge of starting anew… And I’m scared. And I can’t necessarily put it into words. I hope at Mills, I’ll learn how to do it, properly, with fitting confidence.

To be honest, I do feel that I have a strong suit in sensitivity, in understanding the emphatic and latent in others, in seeing the inward, the limitless, the mythical. I guess this is why I discovered, in a Platonic sense, my want to be a writer. And I appreciate that my friend pointed this beautiful, maybe misguided, quality in me. My husband has said similar words to me in many handwritten letters and emails, especially when he is away at sea, opened to see me without any corporeal boundaries, limitations.

And on a daily basis, I am impressed, philosophically, by the emotive actions and words of others, so much that I’m affected intellectually and emotionally by their disdain or joy or madness or temporality. How I can distill this method, this sense of understanding the world, in my fiction is still a craft I have to learn.

But, I’m ready. I’m open. I’m here to begin the scut work—-to be limitless, inward, and mythical, to “bring out the romantic, comic, and tragic elements in them.”

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One thought on ““bring out the romantic, comic, and tragic elements in them”

  1. I remember feeling the same way when I started at USF, except without being able to articulate it as beautifully as you have here. I’m so excited for you as you embark on your MFA journey. I’m a little envious too. Despite the hard work, the long hours, I can honestly say I miss it. I miss discussing craft with my fellow classmates and reading (with a bit of awe) their works-in-progress, I was lucky to be in a very supportive program so feedback on my own work, even when tough to hear, helped me be become a better writer. I can’t wait to hear more about your journey.

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