(We are grateful to "In Other Words: Merida" for first publishing this short fiction.)
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
(We are grateful to "In Other Words: Merida" for first publishing this short fiction.)
Monday, April 16, 2012
I am fragile. But I cannot admit this to you. If I paint you a picture, will you go to the dollar store to buy a frame for it and place it above your bed? Will you think of me when you look at the picture? I’m not sure what I will paint for you but it will be something fragile, like me, but since I can’t admit how fragile I am, even to you, it will be in the picture (all of me), in the picture in the frame from the dollar store, above your bed. You will own the most fragile part of me, and maybe you will see this and then again maybe not, but I will paint a picture for you and wrap it up, and place a bow on top, and I will smile when you open it, and I will watch you closely. I could frame it myself of course, which would make it easier for you to put above your bed, as in right away, but if you commit to me, to my picture, even to how fragile I am, my fragility I guess you could say, you’ll see this, or recognize this, right away. Right off I mean. I won't need to explain anything to you, and you’ll find the frame at the dollar store and you'll pound the nail and then that’s where I’ll be. Above your bed. You might forget about me later. I know this. I realize this. The picture I painted for you, I mean. Because mostly, when you hang a picture, it’s to make your walls look pretty and then you forget about it (everything blends in like everybody blends in, given enough time) unless somebody says something, like, Wow, that one is amazing, and Wow, the colors really go with the room. Who painted that? I mean, is it original or a print? It didn’t come with the frame did it? No, they wouldn’t be so crass to say that. But you, when you look at the picture later after somebody else has brought your attention to it – what do you see? What will you see? Maybe I will still live with you -- still be living with you, I mean (present tense, not the future). In your house. Then again maybe I won’t. Pictures last longer than people, and they certainly last longer than the people who paint them. Will you remember how fragile I am? Or how fragile I was, perhaps. If you even saw me at all, when I painted you the picture to begin with. I can give only so much of myself.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
You know. It's like watching a movie from an old projector, and the naked eye misses that slight moment "in between" frames, when everything is a white out. We can’t see it, but just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. Well, I wanted to exist in that moment in between the frames, in the white out -- that place that's like a snowstorm, and I'm right there, inside it, but you can't see me. Doesn't mean I don't exist, because I do exist. Listen -- just slow down the film, and I’ll appear like a ghost; a ghost person if you want to call me that.
It’s a trap of course, wanting to exist among the in-betweens. But I've given it a go and here I am.
Now eventually I’ll grow tired of this and want a bigger part of the picture, the part you dosee. Eventually my ego is going to push me into asking for a starring role. Main feature, my name in lights on the marquee, and I live or die by my performance. But what if I can quell this ambition and keep on existing among the in-betweens until I get it right -- the performance, I mean.
Okay, let's play this one out, until it's for real. If you slow down the film, gradually at first to allow people’s eyes to adjust, the people being "you," the audience, and then slow it down even more, until they, or rather, "you" -- lose the main frames completely, and everything is in reverse –- light becomes dark and dark becomes light ... something like that. It’s not a perfect idea, but I'm no scientist either. Some people won't get it. They’ll look behind them, over their shoulders, to see if the projector is broken, or if this is going to be one of those times when the film melts and everything just stops.
Well, it won't stop, of course, and I’ll step out now, okay, and I'll have to say something simply marvelous to get the audience’s, or rather -- your attention.
“I’m a ghost, yes,” I say. “But through use of this imperfect technology, you are allowed to see me, and I know you can see me, and that scares me, let me tell you, it scares me to death. Being a ghost person, you probably think this is funny, me being scared to death that you can see me. There’s nothing funny about it. I want you to see me. I’ve been hidden among the in-betweens for much too long, so if I seem a bit eager to please, or if I say the occasional wrong thing, please understand that I don’t have the luxury of the editing room. I get one take to keep you interested. I blow that and you leave. I may be a ghost person, but I wasn’t always this way, and I want so desperately to please you with a show that’s better than what you were watching.”
And then a pause and nothing but white light, and not even me up there. But I have you watching and waiting and listening, at least for right now. I’m a mystery. What am I going to say next? Each of us are wondering the same thing.
Funny how this all works, because I am beginning to wonder how many others there are like me. People who live as ghosts -- the in-betweens. You've seen them, trust me. They are those people you pass on the street and think you see, sort of, but maybe not and you're in too much of a hurry anyway to bother a second look. Like a mosquito buzzing at your ear -- that kind of brief distraction, nothing more. Or -- get this -- they are so "in-between" you don't catch any sight at all.
And how many of us exist like this? Wandering about, just wandering about. Never bothering anybody, but never making any notice either. Just being, well, in-between. I mean, how many of me are there? Are you a ghost person too? Tell me what you're searching for. Wouldn't you like to be the star for once? To be noticed, and applauded -- just for being somebody, or something ... different. I guess that's what I'm saying.
It's not the fame, not fortune, certainly not the same old thing. It's the something different that gets people talking, and once the talking starts, better watch out. You aren't a ghost anymore. Better watch out for the flashbulbs. The photographers will put you right back where you started from, and that would be a crying shame.
Here's what you must remember. If you get into the open, protect what's yours, stick to being different, because nobody can take whatever that is away from you.
Monday, July 12, 2010
You want to be noticed in a very big way just so you can scream to the world so they won’t notice you anymore: “Stop looking at me! Let me be!” And then, you can fold up your chair, tuck it under your arm, and walk back inside, where nobody can see you and your life can become anonymous again. As if nothing at all had happened. You aren’t special. You aren’t old enough to be special. Not special enough for everybody to be hounding you like this, asking you questions. You didn’t even do anything. Maybe this is what being famous feels like, but you aren’t famous. Not for being good, and you’re not notorious for any bad qualities that have manifested themselves beyond your person. In other words, you don’t rob banks, as if somebody your age really robs banks, or, maybe this is more realistic for a pre-bank-robbing notorious kind of person. You don’t throw rocks from atop an overpass at passing cars for thrills. You aren’t anyone but a ten-year-old kid. And the more you don’t say anything, the more they ask. And they keep on asking, even after you’re standing there, tears overflowing your tiny eyes, your head shaking, your little hands knotted up in tight fists. That’s when you figure it all out on your own. That the best way to get people to leave you alone is to have them talk about you, but not to you. So you’ve figured it out, that you have to make yourself noticed – not just noticed, actually, but have people stop what they’re doing entirely, to have all of their senses focused on you, and then after that, so they call one another up on the phone. People in five other houses can see you in your backyard. They’ll watch. It’s only natural to look out the kitchen window. Dinner time. You know they’re watching. So you walk outside with a lawn chair, and you go to the very back of your yard, and you sit down, long enough that anybody watching is going to be wondering why you’re sitting there, what is he doing? And that’s the very moment you stand up and turn around and around and around in a circle, and scream, scream to them, and to the rest of the world you can’t see, with all of the lung power you can muster: “Stop looking at me!” And now, go inside to hide. The shadows are friendly. But even inside, even in the shadows, you still quiver, you’re still shaking, you’re still screaming, though in a whisper, “Let me be. Please, let me be.”
"Writing is making sense of life. You work your whole life and perhaps you've made sense of one small area."
-- Nadine Gordimer
Saturday, July 10, 2010
FOR REFERENCE: see Jay Spain's fairy tale for Eleanor: "It Is All Of Us"
Step One: Despite the description of such stories, fairy tales do not need include any appearance by a fairy, or fairies.
NOTE: Sometimes, there is no happily ever after, and that's okay too. Sometimes there is enlightenment, however subtle.
"Now," Eleanor says, "you must release yourself from fear. Say it out loud. Write it down to remind yourself later. We've been through this -- you remember. We've been through this a million times. Release yourself from fear. Then the beginning -- begins."
Her Biographer thinks, It sounds way too easy. (Eleanor, inside his thoughts, shakes her head. You haven't learned how yet, she is thinking, and thinking this in a place where her Biographer can't find her.)
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
Eleanor says: One day or maybe it was night that I appeared just like that or kind of like that as in a vision of sorts or maybe not a vision but more like an angel like maybe a guardian angel except I was never intending on being an angel but wanting instead to be as human as possible and so I took refuge inside the imagination of this rather intuitive boy -- so I thought him to be, intuitive, just from looking at him, from watching him type his words, and in the middle of winter, too, with no heat but blankets covering his upper body and another blanket on his lap, and a mug of black coffee steaming up the side of the computer -- and perhaps he wasn't a boy at all any longer but he seemed to possess all of the qualities of a boy, you know, from the look of wonder on his face when he typed a sentence that never occurred to him or that awful disgust and impatience when the right words failed him, and I waited for this, for the words to fail him, waited for him to drink from his coffee, and that's when I climbed into his head through on eyeball or maybe his ear or maybe I just can walk through walls and therefore I can walk through skulls and into the brain cells whereeverything is happening, all of the parties I mean, crazy parties with these brain cells dressed up in costumes like Mardi Gras and having parades and throwing words and thoughts instead of beads or candy -- and I suppose I knew I was really at home then when this boy or man who seemed like a boy typed my name in the opening line to a new story: he typed"Eleanor," and it was the first time he had ever used my name in any one of his stories or novels, so I knew it was me and only me and there could be no other me and that if I left then there might be another me come along to imposter me, so I dared not leave or make any kind of noise at all or make notice or anything like that because he just had to keep me, you know, even with the Mardi Gras parades happening and those words and thoughts just flying about and barely missing me, and I know or rather I knew then that I wanted to be (t)here so much, for as long as it would take, for the rest of my life if I needed to be, whatever life is, you know, to somebody like me who wants to be human but doesn't know how and has no interest whatsoever in being an angel, though I guess at times I have acted like a guardian angel in ways that the boy wouldn't be able to explain otherwise, when I told him to watch out, don't step off that curb into traffic, or, walk away from the desk before the rock shatters the window, or whatever you do make sure you keep feeling as alive as alive as alive as I feel that you're feeling -- you feel alive, see, I can feel this too, see, and I know I am closer than ever to humanity, and I also know, that you and I are meant for this thing, this -- you know -- whatever this thing is, this story of my life even as made up as parts of it seem at first glance to outsiders -- this story of my life that is really real if anyone asks because that's honest as anything pure in this world, that my story is real and my words are real and those thoughts being thrown during the Mardi Gras parades by the brain cells are instruments really (think about it), to help us along, and that sometimes it's better to be hit in the head with a thought, or a word (think about it), than to miss it entirely -- because if you miss it or it misses you (think about it), something is gone or never was there in the first place, and that is a tragedy that's worse than ever being typed as a name on a page in the first place -- "Eleanor" he wrote, and so I became, and I am still here, so look at me, because I am not going anywhere, not any time soon -- I mean -- do you know what I'm saying, when I say this?
Monday, June 14, 2010
The floor is littered with her thoughts.
Look at me. I’m your psychological painting for the day. What do you really see? Look hard at me. I’m all here. What you see is not what you get. You think you can know me just by standing out there for a little while? Stick around. Everything you need to know about me is right here, in these postings. Look deeper and you'll find me. I want you to find me. Today I want you to find me. Tomorrow I might not want you to find me. I change my mind all the time. But today, when you see me, I want you to try to know me. (I do.)
She presses her palm over her heart.
Set yourself free to believe in the impossible.
Fall in love today.
How do you spell Geography? I’ll tell you how. "George Elmer’s Old Goose Ran A Pig Home Yesterday."
Friday, May 28, 2010
2-something in the morning. No coffee yet. We're not sure where sleep is -- where it's hiding. We tried to sleep, but something woke us up.
Eleanor said she was dreaming. In her dream, there were movie stars, but there weren't any movies left for the movie stars to star in, so the movie stars just wandered about, looking mostly lost, out of sorts, wondering (probably) what to do next. Eleanor went to one of the movie stars -- an A-lister, and told him she would write a play, and the play would have lots of parts, enough for everybody.
"But how will we be paid?" the A-lister said. "My house, my lifestyle -- it's all so expensive."
Eleanor smiled. "Applause, of course," she replied. "You'll be paid with applause, if it's a good play, that is, and if you're convincing."
"But where will we find the audience?" the A-lister said, very concerned and in a panic.
"We'll take turns," Eleanor said. "Everybody can't be on the stage at once, so we can be the actors and the audience. There will be plenty of applause to go around."
"What about my agent, my manager, my publicist -- all of my people?"
Eleanor looked to her right, and then to her left. "I don't see any of your people," she said. "I see you, and I see the other actors."
"Well, this is absolutely horrible," the A-lister proclaimed. "I won't have it! We need our movies back. I demand that someone take action."
"You're a funny man," Eleanor said. "I used to like you when you were bigger -- on the screen, I mean. I'm not sure that you're anything but funny now. Actually you're funny in kind of a sad way. I'm sorry. I don't want to be mean."
The A-lister gave Eleanor an odd stare. A questioning stare.
Eleanor said, "The show must go on. Whatever else happens."
But the A-lister began to walk in circles, talking to himself, and then to some of the other actors, and there was quite a commotion. Meanwhile, Eleanor sat down with a notebook and started to write.
Monday, May 10, 2010
We are always standing on a precipice. We are always ready to fall. We are always ready to step away from the precipice. The key to all of this is being ready, whatever decision you decide to make. But once you make this decision, because it will determine your life, there is no turning back. And this is something you must understand. And then, after you understand this, you must believe in it, with all of your heart, with all of who you are. And then, you make your decision. Then – you are ready.
(photograph -- Rebecca Knaur)
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Eleanor, close to the end of the novel: They want to reprogram me. It’s sort of like brainwashing, except you get to keep everything, the old stuff and the new stuff, good and bad. They just want you to direct your thinking a new direction. I am wondering about the brainwashing, though, because maybe I’d like my brain washed, and cleaned, and the memories removed. I want to see everything as though I’ve never seen it before. Like the clouds, or a grassy lawn, or a sidewalk that’s been pushed out of shape from tree roots. The roots have broken it, changed it, but it’s still a sidewalk, see, because people are still walking over it (watch your step, don’t trip!). Maybe I’m more like that kind of sidewalk than anything else. I don’t know what the tree roots are, though. I guess the roots are all of my nasty stuff trying to climb out from deep inside of me, to get to the surface of me. So, you see, reprogramming me isn’t going to work. You need to wash my brain and scrub it clean. The nasty roots won’t have anything on me then, because I’ll just look at them and go, Huh? What are you, anyway? I'm not saying, who. I'm saying what. In case you didn't notice. Anyhow, about the tree roots -- I’ll step right over then, and be on my way.
Listen to me! (she screams at her Biographer): My heart is open, but my head remembers. Does yours? (The last two words are spoken in a whisper.)
Monday, April 26, 2010
Eleanor says, "How oblivious we can be, in our little teeny tiny worlds, our waking life, when we leave the one we love and go to the office or to school or wherever, without even once wondering what’s happening back home, and if we could anticipate an emergency, wouldn’t we have stayed home in the first place, but then again, what really constitutes an emergency – illness, death, a mental breakdown? Perhaps death should be last in this list, but a mental breakdown, or whatever you want to call it, is worse than death, or it can be, can’t it? I mean, how oblivious we can be, in our small worlds, after all. Really. I mean, oblivious is nowhere close to ignorant. Nobody ever says, being oblivious is bliss. It would make a good rhyme, though. No school kid would forget it. Oblivious is bliss, and you never have to feel pain, or hurt. You never have to feel anything, really. That’s the beauty of little teeny tiny worlds. Feelings are left in orbit somewhere. Ground level, it’s all good. It’s a grand place to be, to exist here, ground level. Yes, yes - yes! Oblivious is bliss, while ignorance is just plain being stupid."
Monday, April 12, 2010
Eleanor: You must follow instructions. First, find a plate of glass. Now, place your hand on one side of the glass. I will place my hand on the other side of the glass. Spread your fingers, just slightly. Cover my hand with yours. Is the glass too cold for you? (Just be patient, please.)
Eleanor's Notes, From The Underground: My Biographer says to me that I need to be some kind of inspiration. I tell him that I am no one special. But I also tell him that I want to speak for all of the people who are also no one special. If you are no one special, I would like to speak for you. I would like to -- I mean, I need to know your thoughts, what you are thinking, what you feel, what you want. I need to know if you feel alone right now. I need to know if you are afraid. Is your hand still on the glass? We are separated by glass, but our hands, the heat from our flesh, is warming the glass. Can you feel this? Are you afraid?
If you are afraid, I cannot cure you. I cannot make you special, you know that. I don't know what it takes to make somebody important. I don't know what it takes to make somebody famous, or charismatic. But I can speak for you. I am not special. I am not important, not in the big scheme of things, see? I am here, in the underground, below the surface. You have discovered me, and maybe you think you know me, and in either case, you are welcome to stay with me. However, I must inform you of one thing. I do not know any more than you do. Except what I've already said. Even my Biographer cannot help me here -- he's waiting for me to make the next move, so we can move forward, so we can move on, so we can finish -- you know?
Once upon a time there was me.
Once upon a time there was you.
Things are changing all of the time.
I don't mind that things are changing.
What I don't understand is why nobody tells me why.
One reason why they are changing.
Once upon a time, we sat, down by the river. We sat, and we waited. There was a girl, not much older than me. She was with a boy, not much older than me. They walked down the steps and sat a few feet from us. They talked loud enough so we could hear them. They were in their own little world. We didn't matter. What I mean to say, is that being able to hear their words didn't matter.
Girl: Oh baby, you want to talk to me? (she is speaking in a maternal way, her arms around the boy, who is just sitting like he's frozen in place, and the girl, well, her tears are falling onto the boy's shoulder.)
Girl: He's a failure, three strikes. You think that when he gets out of prison, I'm going back to him, that I'll break up with you? You think I want to go back to that kind of life?
Girl: I love you. I want to be with you. My girls -- I've sent for my girls. They'll be with us. We can be a family. I won't go back with him. I want to be with you. How can I make you understand this?
Girl: I love you. Are you even listening to me?
Girl: Are you breaking up with me? (she puts her face into the boy's shoulder. he doesn't make a sound. he's listening, of course he is, but he doesn't make a sound, like he wants her to suffer through this or something, like this is important to him, to make her suffer through this.)
Once upon a time, we sat, down by the river. We listened to a girl and a boy try to figure out if they loved one another enough to keep on loving one another. There were all kinds of complications, to be sure. But today wasn't about those. Today was about the love part. Once upon a time, we sat, down by the river. We tried to pretend we were invisible. We didn't need to pretend. We were invisible.
The girl and the boy -- they got up, they walked up the steps, and away. They were gone. We will never know what happened to them.
Are you afraid? Are you afraid of the future, of what might happen next week or next month or next year? Are you afraid to say something sweet and kind to somebody you really care for? As in, I love you. Are you so afraid to say that?
I am not special. I am nobody of consequence. But this gives me freedom, doesn't it, because I can go anywhere and be anyone and NObody is going to give me a second look. Yes, I am invisible. Maybe you are, too, and maybe not. But if you are invisible with me, we can say what's on our mind, even if we aren't special or famous, or important in the big scheme of things. We can say what's on our mind, and listen to one another, and not ignore one another.
This is what I will tell my Biographer. I will tell my Biographer that by being nobody special, I am somebody. I stand out. The crowd will part for me. I will be seen and heard. People will stop talking when I walk close to them. People will want to touch my face, my arms, my hands.
Keep your hand on the plate of glass. Can you feel the warmth? It's almost time to go. We have to leave soon. Our bag is packed.
Go ahead now and take away the glass. Throw it against the ground, or the wall, or anything hard enough to make it shatter. Now, place your hand over mine -- this time for real. Clasp your fingers, over my fingers. Feel me. Be with me. Tell me what you think.
Tell me -- tell me. I won't leave you. I promise.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Eleanor's Biographer goes to the mailbox. There is a large envelope. He takes the envelope inside, puts it on the dining room table, has a cup of coffee, reads the newspaper, turns on the television but watches only for 15 minutes, perhaps even less, before he grows tired of the people on the screen complaining about this or that. The people on TV are inconsequential.
Enough, he thinks, and he picks up the envelope and goes to The Little Room. There is a photograph inside the envelope -- a partial view of a headstone -- with the words "Eleanor Died."
Now, this photograph causes Eleanor's Biographer no small amount of distress. In fact, distress is too small of a description. It is more of a devastation. And when he searches for Eleanor, he cannot find her. He calls out for her. He tries to imagine her, but can't. He goes to The Spirit House and asks her to show herself, but is met by silence. There has clearly been a mistake. Clearly, someone has played a practical joke by sending this photograph, and what a horrible joke it is. Eleanor has not died. He -- her Biographer -- has written no such words. To the contrary, he has made Eleanor very much alive.
He sits again and feels a sense of utter agony. This, he thinks, this -- this is not happening. This, he thinks, is absurd. He clutches his head with his hands, his fingers, and covers his eyes, and his thoughts are repeating themselves and exaggerating themselves and multiplying too, like a boom-boom-boom of firecrackers, or even a clickety-clack of a typewriter -- his words but not his words -- his words being written for him by some cruel prankster.
Eleanor says: This is your fault.
Her Biographer says: I didn't do anything.
E: Look around you, at all of the blank pages, and for what? I've told you more than you could ever fit on these pages.
B: You are alive. This is just a photograph.
E: You -- screwed -- up. You stopped writing and somebody noticed and now all you have is -- well, what exactly do you have?
B: This is another Eleanor.
E: When one of us goes, we all go. All of the Eleanors are dead. Your fault.
B: Here -- look -- see this piece of paper, see this pen in my hand, see how I'm ready to begin writing?
E: No! (she cried out) No!
B: I need more chances.
E: You've had plenty of opportunity. You're hysterical. You make me laugh at you. I am a ghost for real now, see, and you make me laugh. This is how I'll haunt you, and for the rest of your life, too. I'll be every laugh you hear. If you walk down the street and someone laughs, that'll be me. If someone tells you a joke and you laugh, it won't be you laughing but me laughing.
B: I need more chances.
E: No! (she cried out) No!
B: I've neglected you, yes, but I promise -- I promise this won't happen again. We will finish. I have the words in my head you've told me and I just need to get them down in the proper order and we can start a new session.
E: No! (she cried out) No!
B: You humble me. If this was your intention, you've succeeded.
E: I don't want to die.
B: This photograph is not you.
E: I don't want to die.
B: You will live beyond me. You will live long after I am gone.
E: But will I be good? Tell me -- will I be good, or good enough?
B: I'll write you so people will care. People will read you, and read you again, and again and again and again. You will be so filled with life. You will remind people of something inside of themselves. You will inspire people. You will make people cry, yes, and you will make people smile.
E: How can you decide what people will do. I'm saying this. I'm not asking this. How can you decide. You don't know.
B: You're right, I don't know.
E: This is all a terrible risk we're taking. You want to put me in places we can't even imagine. I'll feel naked. I'll be alone.
B: You might feel alone, yes. That's part of the bargain.
E: I don't want to be alone.
B: I will try to write you so you're not alone, but I can't promise you won't be.
Eleanor's Biographer lets go of the photograph. It lands at his feet, face up. He stares at the words, and inside his head, Eleanor is still crying out, "No!" -- and the word echoes and bounces and, well, it hurts. So he drowns Eleanor's voice until it is so distant, he can barely make out her whisper. From that whisper, he can bring her voice back, ever so slowly. It is necessary to regain control. He can change what she is saying.
He writes: The present will always overwrite the past.
What one does first is forget, ignore, disavow, destroy.
What one does next is make a new beginning. You cross out "Eleanor Died." You don't believe in photographs anyway, not really. You believe in the words. The words are the real photographs. You create the world you want to exist. It's your version of course. What people read -- it becomes their version. What people see inside their heads, coming from these words -- well, this is way more vivid than any photograph could ever be, if you write as though each one of them -- each letter within each word in fact -- is your last breath.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Eleanor says, Everybody thinks they know me. Nobody knows me. They want to think they do, because most people can be figured out so easily and it comforts them to think that I might be figured out so easily, but I'm not like that. You can't own a stranger because you think you know her. You think, that gives you some right -- some right to -- well, you just can't own a stranger.
(Eleanor's Biographer sits quietly. There's nothing to do but listen. For now, at least.)
Sunday, August 23, 2009
"Sometimes even inside our own heads, we make typos," Eleanor says.*
She woke up early that day, and before her father knew she'd left the house, she was already a mile away, walking. Today was a day of embodiment. There was a world full of misplaced lives inside her head, and all around her as well -- a kind of misplaced life humidity so thick you can choke on it, breathe it in deeply and too fast, too all-at-once, choking on thoughts and dreams and to-do lists and loves and hates and did I forget to turn off the gas on the stove. During this walk at least, her body contained every single last missed connection from every last one of the latest styles and fads: the missed connections on purpose and the brokenhearted missed connections. It happened this way sometimes. As in, the answer comes first, like the TV show "Jeopardy," and then you spend way too much time figuring out what the original question was. Well, sometimes you miss what you never realized was there in the first place, you know?
She wanted some stranger to show up, out of nowhere, and take her hand, and walk with her. They wouldn't have to speak, not at all. In doing so, she could feel the touch of this other human being, this kind of closeness. The best thing of all was how the silence would protect her illusion, who she was, and perhaps, how missed she was (by somebody, she had to be missed -- it didn't make sense any other way), or how misplaced she was -- and not the embodiment of everyone else at all, not the whole wide big world, but one tiny misplaced life, one person, that's all -- one person. Eleanor Spain.
These other people seemed to know the destinations, and in such a hurry, too. They bumped into her. They made her feel part of a pinball machine. But the point was, she decided, the point remained, she decided -- this kind of reality at least, she decided -- was that as long as she kept moving -- well, point being, and scratch most of the rest of that thought -- she was alive, and there wouldn't be another girl to be the pinball, to replace her. If none of this made any sense to anyone else, that was okay too.
Well, okay, easy enough to say that was okay too. Yes, easy enough. But it would be nice to have maybe one person make some noise through the silence, and perhaps scream, and perhaps do something that was out of the ordinary and not what anyone else would do, but just like -- feeling. Really feeling. It could be one misplaced life, in addition to her own, and it could be like all of those missed connections people talk about in airy, what-if tones. Or the missed connection that defined all the rest -- the missing link of missed connections, if you wanted to see it in this way. As in, misplaced and missed aren't really so far apart from each other.
Which is the whole thing about connections (or connecting), missed or not, misplaced or not. Missed connections don't just happen by accident. There are no accidents, or maybe everything is an accident. It's like reading a long story, and then forgetting it, except for a typo, a mistake. This, she thought, was truth. That boiled down to almost nothing, your life can be one big typo if there's no spell check, and that's what people will remember.
"I wish I could write a beautiful book to break those hearts that are soon to cease to exist: a book of faith and small neat worlds and of people who live by the philosophies of popular songs." -- Zelda Fitzgerald
Thursday, July 9, 2009
(Note: This was originally posted Sept. 11, 2008. It seems to fit better in this section of the scroll, however. -- Geoff)
("We are working through Eleanor's life stories," Eleanor's Biographer says)
Eleanor says, I am thinking of three words between the letters H and Z.
H and Z, she repeats. If you think about it, it almost sounds like a department store, but that's not what I'm thinking. Still -- okay then -- let's try it out, like this. H would be one of the old geezers who founded the department store, and Z would be the other old geezer. Let me work with this now, Eleanor says. We can call H -- Homer. We can call Z -- Zooey. Maybe Zooey isn't an old geezer at all, but she's somebody from a J.D. Salinger book. Homer can be the lone geezer, then, and Zooey can be the voice of reason, somebody young and beautiful but not married or otherwise involved or otherwise related to Homer. A business partnership, and a savvy one too, because Zooey had all of the money and Homer had the ancient connections, but he lost his money in the war, of course. One of the wars. Those forgotten wars, you know? H and Z would have opened its doors in the late 1970s sometime. By now, many years later, Homer has lost his mind, but Zooey can still run things from her assisted living facility. She's not the female version of an old geezer -- no no no, I repeat -- but she did have a horrible car-pedestrian accident. Zooey was the pedestrian. She was just trying to cross the street, like Margaret Mitchell, you know, of Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Except that Margaret Mitchell was killed and Zooey was only hurt and maimed. ("Only?") Zooey stayed up nights to read about pedestrians who did everything right, like look both ways, and then look both ways again, and then go with the green walk light. That was what she did. Then she read about cars that ran into crowds of people, intentionally or not. And then she read about the jaywalkers. Zooey got a lot of reading done. It was kind of funny, she thought -- Zooey thought, because here she was in a wheelchair with her legs useless, but she was so powerful because Homer had lost his mind, the old geezer, and the board members had to listen to her. Whatever decisions about the department store she felt like making. It could be so much fun at times, just to see them sweat. Oh but the fact was -- well, Zooey wished she had fallen from a horse, or had fallen down the stairs, as in, really, more like being pushed by a horrible violent ex-lover and getting the last laugh when she testified in court and sent him away to the big house. It wasn't remotely like that, of course. Accidents happen every day. The car that hit Zooey on a Tuesday could have run into a different pedestrian on a Wednesday and in the grand scheme of things, nothing much would be changed. There would be one more hurt and maimed person. Now, with all of her money, Zooey could have lived at home, with nurses caring for her, round the clock. She was too sensible though, that girl. She sold the house and invested the money, which only made her richer, and went to the assisted living facility because she knew she could meet people there -- people with stories. Zooey would always have the best story, because she could change it according to the person she met. As long as they have their minds, Zooey said often enough to her nurses. As long as they have their minds.
No. It happened differently. After some time, Zooey found herself attracted to the people who had lost their minds. They didn't know where they were. They lived inside memory vacuums. They lived in harmony with everything around them. They smiled when spoken to -- when spoken to, well, you know, as in who knows what world they were currently living in. If you can smile like that, in your different world, or worlds, who's to say you aren't happy-go-lucky.
Happy-go-lucky. Eleanor allows the word "lucky" to settle inside her head. I am thinking of three words between H and Z. No, lucky is not one of the words. Wrong! You lose! Next player!
Zooey was better than the word lucky, obviously ... this, the Zooey Eleanor made up, the Zooey who was named after Zooey in Salinger, the tragic (from the outside looking in) Zooey who chose to live around crazy, sick people because some of them weren't sad and forgotten. Some of them were still smiling after all these years, and would always be smiling. That's a very good thing, yes?
Eleanor thought of herself as Zooey, and then she thought of herself in one of those memory vacuum worlds. And this is what it was like. It was always sunny, but not too hot. There was a seashore. There were people having a grand old time at the seashore. Maybe it was the South of France, and maybe it was the 1920s, like with Fitzgerald and their friends the Murphys and the other wealthy and talented types who threw parties that lasted from one day to the next. There weren't any drunks -- just parties and the sunshine and the lapping of waves. If you walked down the beach a little way, you could find a quiet spot. You'd still be invited to the parties, yes, but in your quiet spot, for a few hours at least, you could stretch out (alone) and feel the sun across your body and listen to the waves, and hear the sea birds, and even some faint laughter -- laughter carried by the breeze to tickle your nose.
In your quiet spot, you could close your eyes but see the world. Absolutely stunning! This was freedom. This was being alive, whatever your circumstances -- however you got here.
Eleanor says, I am thinking of three words between the letters H and Z.
Eleanor says, Words can set you free.
Eleanor says, I need to be set free.
Eleanor says, I am thinking of three words between H and Z. Please don't guess "lucky." That's not one of them. I already told you. That's so done with. That's so gone. That's so ... not right. (But I wish it, sometimes. Luck. You know? If I can't have the three words, I mean.)