Yesterday, I told my psychiatrist that I’ve been writing this one wretched and very personal story for three years. He was shocked. “Three years?” he asked, holding his pencil and sitting forward, “Really, three years? Excuse me for being shocked. I’m just so impressed.”
I was hoping to finish this story in time for my Sewanee’s manuscript. After a lot of time, a lot of wrestling, and a lot of thinking-living-this-story-out, I realized I can’t possibly send this story to Sewanee and have a bunch of strangers read it when it’s too raw, too emotional right now. Regardless of that, I’m still proud of what I’ve accomplished thus far. I have to be–I’m facing emotions that I’ve kept at bay for a long time, that I continually keep at bay, and I’m running toward them head-first, lunging right into them with everything I can muster.
I finally have 1,400 words that I can work with. It isn’t much. My psychiatrist asked me how many drafts I had written over the course of these three years, and I looked at him, trying to remember, and answered: Ten? Again, he was shocked.
I write painfully. This is my process. My professor Patricia Powell advised me: I have to write my own stories, first, before I can write others. And I wholeheartedly believe her. Before I can do anything else, I have to know myself first.
To end this brief blog, I wanted to share a brief excerpt of my short story.
It’s called, tentatively, “A Dying Down in the Heart”:
Living here, with him again, in this new city that feels and breathes like home–it was suppose to be a new start. A rebirth. Because something between you and him died the moment you found out about her.
I promise to put you back together again, he says.
You look away.
I promise to make us happy, I’d do anything.
You stand up.
I love you, fuck, it’s always been you. I promise. It’s you.
You flew thousands of miles to Norfolk and you can’t help but look pass him, into that mirror he bought you with the black, wooden frame, and no, you don’t cry, you just look at yourself, linger, like you’ve always had with him, and this time you just say:
I’ll give you one year. Just one. I’ll use you just for one year, until I’m back on my feet, because this photography crap, it’s not working. I’m broke. I’ve got nowhere to go. I can’t go back to my dad’s, you know that, I know that, I can’t live in that tiny house and share a room with my sister and Andrea, I can’t. Just one year. If I fall back in love with you again, great. I promise, just give me time, because I do, I do.
Just one year, he says, and holds you like you’re already leaving.
He kisses you. And it’s the one thing you remember the next day and the next, just the way he kisses you, like this body you’ve known for years can erase everything that has happened, everything that has hurt, and you wake up the next day and the next, realize that, yes, you still remember everything, and these kisses he gives you, the way he sleeps on top of you every night, they just stop the moment, they just make everything slow down–make the thoughts fade away–and for just the moment, yes, you do forget, yes, the past is erased, just for that one moment. Just that one.
Over at my essay at Glimmer Train, I really meant it when I said: write what haunts you. Good writing comes from within, comes from what you can imagine and create into something real, tangible, and felt. It takes me years to write my hauntings. I really hope this encourages others, too, to continue to write theirs. Be tenacious. Write slow. Take your time. Edit edit edit edit edit and be ruthless with your writing. I promise that it will be worth it in the end.