To Reach The Green Light At The End Of The Pier
FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES: "We are saving ourselves through the words," says Eleanor, the leading lady of a novel-in-progress. This exploration into the creative process -- which includes plenty of distractions/tangents /thoughts & rants by Eleanor, her Biographer, and selected guest artists -- will continue until Eleanor is certain her story is "right." (But we dare not jump ahead of ourselves.)
There will be the occasional typo (as Eleanor points out), and much of this is intended to be "original draft" -- what comes out of our mouths (heads) first, and then set down in that order. Not all of it will be included in the novel, but all of it is happening in real time.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Eleanor says: We are sorry for the (slight) delay in the completion of this project. We have 20 postings to go to reach 500, and we take this responsibility quite seriously. My Biographer and I have agreed that our next step is the make-or-break moment for us, so if you're stopping by now for more, please check back soon. This is a creative process, after all. Once we begin again, we won't stop until the project reaches its conclusion.
Eleanor says: I'm so so sorry about all of that formality of what I just said. It's one of those silly prepared statements. Blame it on my Biographer. He just wanted to be sure everything was okay and in place and all of that. If it was me saying that, I'd just go, we've gone fishing or something like that and stop by again and please don't be afraid to scroll down, because that's what this page is all about. Scrolling through the words. It's a kind of exercise for the eyes, don't you think? Anyhow, I just wanted to add that, so you wouldn't be worried that I wasn't me or something. Because I am still me and I always will be me, and that is that.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Eleanor to her Biographer: "Just think of all the things you could have done if you had stopped when you were batting 1.000."
Her Biographer looks at her. "That's not fair. When was I ever batting 1.000?"
Eleanor: "It was more than once. You only get so many chances."
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
There are all of these voices, and some, or at least one of them, is speaking truth, and some are just playing with me, speaking nonsense, and the others, or at least one of them, is my very own self-destruct button, and if I pick the wrong voice to listen to, I just might be pushing that button, and the end is the end. But I am a believer that truth must prevail, so I need to listen closely, and pick and choose, and always, always, continue forward. If I look back, the voices are right behind me, racing to see who gets to me first.
Friday, April 3, 2009
March 5, 1999, a Friday. (Ten years and one month ago, give or take a few days.)
He positioned a camcorder on a stack of books. He drank vodka. He took two Tylenol PM caplets. When he was ready, he leaned forward and he pushed the record button. He rested his head on two pillows. The vodka made his head spin. The Tylenol PM made his eyes heavy. For 2 hours and 40 minutes, he slept.
-- Let's begin with the obvious. Why?
-- I needed to see myself. As I slept. I needed proof.
-- Proof that you were sleeping?
-- No, not that.
-- Proof that you were able to dream?
-- Of course I was able to dream.
-- I'm not talking about sleep dreams.
-- Of course I was able to dream, of course.
-- But you still needed proof, that you could.
-- I suppose so, yes.
-- You thought you had lost everything.
-- My world. My life. (He tries to muffle an uncomfortable laugh.)
-- Your life was maybe too complicated. Your life seemed so surreal.
-- My whole world was surreal. No. Listen, I was just tired. I was so tired, you know?
-- You couldn't trust yourself.
-- I had to see it. I had to see what I looked like.
-- You wanted to see if you were tortured.
-- Tormented is more like the word. I needed proof of the torment, yes.
-- So that's why you did it.
-- You know, you can think you're going places, and instead, you're sinking. You're not even running in place. It's worse than that.
-- Eventually the sinking stops. You hit a bottom.
-- No, I was still in motion. I was still sinking. There was nothing to stop my sinking.
-- Did you really lose everything?
-- Well of course nobody ever loses everything. But things do change.
-- Like evolution change?
-- I mean, sometimes it isn't evolving. It isn't that easy to define, I mean. Sometimes I guess it's just changing. And sometimes it goes too fast, and you have to find a way to step back.
-- And watching yourself sleep?
-- It took the thoughts from my head and put them outside of me. It gave me a sort of perspective I'd been missing. It allowed me to see, even with my eyes closed. But that wasn't real either, because I had to force myself to sleep.
-- So you could isolate your torment.
-- Maybe torture was the word after all. Maybe I was torturing myself. Or allowing myself to be tortured? Who could tell. Not me, I'll say that. Not me.
-- What happened then?
-- I didn't feel well. I didn't feel ... right.
-- Was this before or after you watched the videotape?
-- So how do you feel now, 10 years later?
-- Funny you should ask that.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
(excerpt from the novel, Eleanor, by Geoff Schutt)
"The Entire World"
Sometime between 3:45 and 4:30 a.m. she opened her eyes. She wasn't sure if she'd been dreaming and she wasn't sure why she woke up. She could see shadow images on the wall in the other room. The streetlamps outside were like a kind of spotlight, or a film projector after the movie ends and there's only the glowing white. She watched as the cat washed himself, his shadow reflected in the light. His shadow image was two or three times his real size. She kept watching for five minutes, or maybe it was 10, or maybe 15.
Her cheeks were wet. They were wet when she opened her eyes. She did not notice until this moment -- the five or 10 or 15 minutes later. And her cheeks were cold. She wasn't sure if she'd been dreaming. She wasn't sure why she woke up. It was completely silent. Except for the shadow image of the cat, everything was still.
She blinked her eyes hard and held them together. She wondered if there was anything left inside of her, because she felt an emptiness, but it was like feeling empty and feeling desire at the same time. It was confusing, this.
She wondered if this had been a nightmare, but she wasn't scared, and she didn't think she felt sad either. The desire convinced her that she was not sad, even with the emptiness.
She might have gone back to sleep, kept her eyes closed like this, and drifted back into whatever it was. But a single tear was collecting itself in her left eye. There was nothing in her right eye. There was indeed something left inside of her, and it felt warm, and when she opened her eyes, that single tear began to slowly make its way over her cheekbone. It temporarily stopped there, but collected itself again, and made it over the slight ridge. The tear was leaving behind its residue -- more of the wet, the warm over the cold.
She thought, This isn't a tear anymore. She thought, this is a teardrop. Then she thought No -- that although some tears come gushing out so fast in a flurry of weeping that some of them do in fact drop, but this tear was more of a slide. A tearslide. She decided she liked the word "tear" best.
She glanced beside her. There was enough of the indirect light from outside to see the bed, and the sheets and covers next to her looked slept in. She reached over to touch them. It was as though she were touching a body that wasn't there, but had been there, and that would be again.
The tear was almost to her chin, and she reached up the tip of her index finger to take it from her face. She tasted the tear, her tear. She imagined it would be salty, but perhaps there wasn't enough left in this tear, and so it tasted like nothing at all.
She thought, quite out of nowhere, as if the thought had been placed inside her head, The entire world is in this one tear.
And she thought, The word is misleading. Tear or tear. Or maybe it's the same thing. You tear a piece of paper. You can even tear your own heart open. (Or somebody else can do that for you.) And then you can tear up as in cry over why you're suddenly awake for no apparent reason, and try to figure out if something hurts, something that's physical or emotional or even both of them.
The entire world is in this one tear, she thought again, and then repeated the thought a dozen times; actually, many more than a dozen times. She wasn't keeping track. She was in fact repeating the line over and over: The entire world is in this one tear.
She even tried to alter the line slightly. The entire world is in my tear. But that didn't feel right, saying it like that. It was too close, too personal. She went back to thinking: The entire world is in this one tear, and the entire world has gone bland.
The cat was still washing himself.
She wondered if she had been the one sleeping on the other side of the bed and then later shifted, moved over, still asleep, to this side. She also wondered if someone else had been sleeping next to her and would be coming back.
Her face was cold again, but when she tasted the tear, it was still warm. She had it on the tip of her tongue. She didn't remember swallowing. She was curious about lots of things, and one of these -- whether the tear was still on the tip of her tongue.
It probably had been absorbed, she thought. She didn't need to swallow, because by the time she'd reached for the tear, and by the time she placed it on her tongue, it was very small, what was left of it.
There once was a girl who fell asleep without a single worry, without a single notion in her head, other than being sleepy and needing to close her eyes.
There once was a girl who woke up in the middle of the night, thinking way too much, curious, wondering.
My world is defined by what I feel, she was thinking.
And now, there were too many notions in her head. There were worry and insecurity and doubt, and there was also an odd sensation that didn't seem to quite fit. There was bliss.
I will never forget right now, she promised herself. I will never forget watching the shadow image of the cat. I will never forget squeezing that one last tear from my eye. I will never forget looking next to me on the bed and even though I am alone, thinking there is someone here -- was someone here -- asleep next to me. Perhaps, she thought, this is why I woke up. The person next to me got out of bed. I don't know where the person went. There were no other shadow images. None other than the cat, washing.
She was telling herself a bedtime story, her own word lullaby. She had decided how it should go. It was entirely imagined, or reality, but did it really matter, after all, which of these it was.
I know who you are, she thought, and you were sleeping here, yes. You were next to me, and I know who you are.
I am 15 years old -- old enough but not old enough.
I know who you are, really I do.
You made me weep in my sleep until I was almost empty. Then you left. But I fooled you. I had one tear left. I fooled you, because the very last tear holds the entire world's existence. But maybe you already knew that, and this is why you left when you did, so I could close my eyes hard and force the tear out of me.
Is this why you left me?
You know, she thought, you are part of this world.
I am thinking of a place. I am thinking of another country. I am thinking of Paris. If you come back to bed, will you take me to Paris? Will you walk the streets with me? Will you show me everything you remember about Paris? Will you pretend to know the parts of Paris you've forgotten, and show them to me anyway, even if we have to wander a while to find them. You could tell me your stories while we walk. I would be mesmerized, you know. I would, I promise you.
You could take me to the Latin Quarter. You could take me up that spiraling metal staircase to the floors and rooms above Shakespeare & Company. You could show me the writers working on their manuscripts. You will probably tell me this is a fool's work, to be writing down stories. But also, that telling stories is a whole different matter.
You will take me to that nightclub, Le Caveau de la Huchette. We will go downstairs and watch the people dancing, those girls in their very short skirts, and the boys who seem so filled with confidence that a dance, one dance, is like my tear, is like the world, you know?
And then, will you walk with me along the Seine? Will we hear our footsteps? It will be 3:45 or 4:30 in the morning, and as we listen to our footsteps, and as you reach for my hand, I very well may cry that one tear again. Except that this time, you will gently take it from my face, and you will put it on your tongue, and you will be the one who smiles.
And I will tell you: The entire world is in this one tear, so be careful what you wish for, but I'm hoping that you will wish for me, that you will say these words, but quickly now before that man comes over to bum a cigarette. You will say: Only you. I'll be smiling with you, see? We have the whole world inside of us. To release the whole world, all we need to do is break down the walls, is to be vulnerable, is to believe, like I believe you really were next to me, sleeping -- like that -- that kind of belief. Trust. And we need to allow ourselves the word with the same spelling, with the different meanings: tear or tear. Whatever happens, you know? Yes, yes -- the world is waiting for us, can't you see it now? It's out there -- waiting, and I will grow up soon. You might need to show me how to grow up. You may need to show me everything.
ELEANOR says: "Please turn the page. Keep reading."
For more of Eleanor and her Biographer -- as well as the work of our many guest artists -- check out the older postings. "Everything is part of the process, and the process is the journey," Eleanor says.