Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Eleanor: A Virus Is Not A Living Thing


Eleanor to her Biographer: My words are nothing compared to your words. I don't know why I even bother speaking, really. I don't know why you take the time to listen, even worse. I feel like a virus. I am a virus. I have this all figured out. You know, how a virus is not a living thing, how a virus needs a host body or whatever in order to do any harm -- or even any good, I suppose, if a virus can do good. I'm a virus that's infected you, and you better watch out, because once I'm inside you, I can become two Eleanors or four Eleanors or as many of me as your body and mind will allow before you're no good to me anymore. I can kill you. I'm like a rock falling off a cliff. I'm not alive, but I move, and when I move, I am dangerous.

Eleanor says: I am so frightened of losing you. I am so scared that I will fill you up with too much of me that you will die. 

Eleanor says: Sometimes I am afraid that you will die in your sleep, of natural causes, not even because of me, and I'll be left, by myself, or with all of these versions of myself, and I won't want to leave you for anyone else, so I'll slowly die too. I mean, I would die, if I were alive to begin with.

*
She walks into the courtyard. She is alone. The only movement is the water in the fountain. The warmth is the sun above her. She sits on a bench.

I'm not waiting for anyone, she says. (The audience applauds.)

I am like a flower that blossoms and you think, how beautiful she is, but you forget what I'm called, or you don't even know what I'm called, what kind of flower I am. It's not like you can go to the florist and say, A dozen of her, please. 

You like me best when I'm shades of a color, or perhaps two complementary colors. You aren't one for the red roses, because they're so common, and besides, anyone can ask for a dozen red roses. You know what roses look like.

Well, I am nobody's red rose, sorry. (The audience gives a standing ovation. Encore, encore!)

*
Okay, okay. Let me say it like this. One upon a time, there was this girl. Let's just say she was me, for the sake of argument. She was a very patient girl. She would wait for hours on end. She would sit on a bench in some secluded courtyard and just wait. What is she waiting for? you might ask. And she might answer, I am waiting to be alive. I am waiting for life to catch up with me, because somehow, well -- somehow or somewhere -- at some instant, you know -- some time ago, life fell behind. I wasn't patient. I went too fast. I sped ahead. I didn't wait. I was impatient. Life could not keep up with me. Not the life I wanted, I mean. There were plenty of other lives along the way. It was like window shopping, you know? I could have had any of these lives. I could have gone inside, and said, I'll take that life in the window over there. Yes, the third window over. The window with the Aimee Mann music.

Well, I want Aimee Mann to write the soundtrack for my life. I want her to start with one sentence, one lyric. I want to be a virus in that first song and then I want to be inside the next song, and the next song, until I fill an entire record. And that will be my soundtrack.

*
If you want a simpler story, more easily understood, then listen to this. Once upon a time, there was me and there was you, and by mere chance or coincidence, we happened to be in the same quiet courtyard -- the one with that fountain. Except I did not see you on your bench, and you did not see me on my bench. So we just sat for the longest time, waiting. We both had grown patient. Too patient.

And then the clouds became dark, and the breeze picked up, and the storm moved toward us. We could see the clouds, and how fast they approached. 

I took shelter by the door. 

*
Perhaps you were always more patient than I was, because I was there first, at the door, and you were so patient that the rain had started to fall and you were sprinkled with the wet and when you stepped into my space, you realized you were not alone, and this startled you. You even jumped a little, I swear to God you did. 

I saw you coming of course. I saw you, yes. I watched you, more like it, and I wondered where you came from. (This would be one entire Aimee Mann song in my soundtrack -- how you walked into my space.)

You smiled at me, and I told you the honest-to-God truth.  Honest, I said, even before I told you. I told you, I am a virus. I am not a living thing, but I could exist inside of you. You don't want to be too close to me. You don't want me inside of you.

*
You said:
I have been waiting for you.
I did not see you, but I was waiting just the same.
I knew I would see you eventually.
I knew I would find you.
I knew we would be together.
We were meant to be together.
We are like two peas in a pod, you know.
We are like bees to honey.
But we are not, nor have we ever been, a cliche.

*
You said:
Once upon a time, I believed in everything. 

You said:
Once upon a time, I believed in you.

You said:
Now you want to infect me, but I believed in you.

*
I felt the tears or the rain or whatever. I felt my face and it was numb. I could not believe you were saying these things. I could not believe how cruel you could be. 

So I said:
I never believed in you. I'm sorry, but I didn't. 

(And I was lying, of course. It was a big fat lie. But you knew it was a lie, didn't you? Because of your smile, and because of the way you took my hand, and because there was no amount of rain that could melt us.)

Blue TV Show, starring Eleanor Spain


(from the novel)


The TV was an little old black-and-white, but it still worked fine. She wanted a color -- not a color TV, but a single color for the black-and-white. She went to the hardware store looking for those colored party lights. The hardware store had them on clearance. People were switching to the newer lightbulbs, the ones that save energy and last forever. Well, she thought, I don't need forever. She tried to remember how many lightbulbs it would take. Her preference was green, but there were only two green lights left, not enough -- not even close. There were plenty of blue lightbulbs. Blue would be okay. Blue would work. Yes, it would be fine. The more she thought about it, turning the black-and-white TV to blue was even better than green. She needed green light for the distance, for later. Green light was the ending. This was the middle. This could be blue.

*
She removed all of the regular lightbulbs, and replaced them. She put the regular lightbulbs in the trash. She folded up the plastic garbage bag and began to crush the old lights, stepping on them. The shards were breaking through. One of the shards went right through her shoe. She bled, but it didn't really hurt.

She cleaned up the mess. Her father wouldn't be home for hours. She didn't want forever, but she did want now.

She turned the station from something to nothing. To those tiny white dots, except now they were blue. She had a blue TV, and all she could think of was to watch the tiny dots -- these magnificent tiny blue dots, and so many of them!

*
She showered herself in the blue light. She bathed in it. She turned up the volume on her blue TV. Tiny blue dots can make a lot of noise. You don't think about the noise the dots make, really, but they do. She danced a while, in front of the TV, to the noisy dots, like they were a band playing her favorite song, right now, just for her. And when she was tired, from all of the excitement -- and this was exciting to her -- though ask her why and she wouldn't be able to tell you -- she sat down, legs crossed. She was breathing hard and deep.

She sat -- and she watched. She saw there was a world in those tiny blue dots. She saw everything -- her world at least. She saw her father. He was screwing up something -- again. She saw herself. It wasn't so much fun seeing herself.

*
I think I forgot to rinse some of the old colors from my hair, she thinks. There's too much lather. There's not enough blue on me. Look at my arms. The blue is reflecting off how white I am, how pale I am. I have alabaster blue skin, isn't that funny? (No, it's not.)

*
If I can see the world, I can see anything, can't I? It doesn't have to be my own life. It can be a stranger's life. I can make my own TV show. I'll call it Blue TV Show, to go with my blue TV.

I can see my mother. I'm not sure I want to see her. The good part is she's not a ghost anymore. She looks so lost -- see that? I like her looking lost. She isn't on the set of her own TV show, because she's on the set of mine. This is something to write a postcard about: Wish you were here, but I guess you are, aren't you?

*
You're not a ghost anymore, can't you see that? (screaming at the blue TV)

You never were a ghost to me anyway. (talking quietly to the blue TV)

*
She knew what she was missing. Refreshments. Snacks. Popcorn. Chips. Or maybe just a drink. She made herself a vodka drink. There wasn't any orange juice left, just grapefruit. Her lips puckered when she sipped her vodka drink. It was a strong drink, but she could handle her liquor, always could.

*
I am watching you, she says to the tiny dots on the blue TV. What game shall we play next? It's all been my world so far. I'm sick of my world. My world makes me want to vomit.

Okay. Okay.

She drank, and she drank some more. The blue light was making her dizzy. Her blue alabaster skin was goosebumped. She was cold.

She put her face very close to the screen, but was careful not to touch it. There was purity in this blue TV. You cannot buy purity. It happens or it's part of you, but you cannot go to the store and buy purity when it's gone.

I can see you, so won't you come out and play? What are you afraid of -- me? I'm harmless.

(I am lonely, she thinks.)

(She hopes her father screams when he gets home. She has no more screaming inside, and she needs his screaming to make her feel whole again. Or maybe, just to feel. Her foot -- she still doesn't feel any pain, and the dried blood, well, it's blue.)

*
Okay. So here's how it goes. Are you with me? I put you and you over to the left. That would be stage right -- right? And I put you in the middle. And you -- I don't have a place for you yet. What's your name? What kind of experience do you have? Do you have a resume? I'm sorry, but you can go backstage for now. Off camera. Get yourself a soda pop. You just go to the side, where I can't see you.

You, there in the middle -- you leave as well.

I just want the other two of you. Have a conversation. Just start talking already, will you?


*
There is a man. There is a woman. The man says, I can see the moon from here. Look -- it's so close we can touch it! The woman says, I don't like the moon. I prefer the stars. The man says, Well, we all want to be stars don't we? But the moon -- now look at that. It's really something tonight.

It's blue, the woman says. It's too bright, she says. I can't see my stars, she says.

You're a damned fool, the man says. You want to see something else when something grand and glorious is right in front of you. You want to see something that isn't there.

Well don't we all? the woman says.

*
Yes! Yes! Eleanor is saying.

Eleanor is saying, in a whisper -- I want to see what isn't there. I want to see it happen in color. I want to see it in blue.

*
The vodka drink has made her all emotional. I just want to see what I can't see, she is thinking. Is that too much to ask? Well, is it? And she moves back from the TV, her head spinning.

Won't you just tell me a story? she is thinking. You can lie if you want to. It doesn't have to be true. Just tell me a story.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Eleanor Says: I Am Not Family Entertainment


Eleanor says: I am not family entertainment. I watched my mother leave. I watched my father act like everything was normal. I waited for something big to happen and nothing did. When I was little, my father told me fairytales. When I was little, my mother taught me how to be a good actor, how to pretend I didn’t feel what I really did, no matter what the situation. I miss pretending. I miss the fairytales.

Eleanor says: Today, earlier today, I took a walk, as far as I could go. I went way past anything that looked familiar. I am really surprised I’m back here to tell you this, because I should still be lost. I walked so far I thought I would end up in China or something like that — somewhere across the world, and nobody would speak the same language I spoke but we’d smile and we’d nod our heads and we wouldn’t be rude or anything like that. We would grow to understand each other without talking. We would learn to communicate without our voices. I was hoping I would walk this far, past the fairytales and past the pretending, because at some point along my walk, I stopped missing them. Just like that. It was kind of amazing, or a revelation. The fairytales and the pretending — I stopped missing everything old. And that’s maybe when I had the real revelation, that I was serious about this. I mean, I wanted everything new, everything I could not understand, everything I would never be able to fully understand and yet — well, I could still be part of something without understanding it fully, you know? I think that’s possible, at least. Don’t you?

Eleanor says: I walked until my feet were sore. I walked until I had blisters. I walked until I was so thirsty I thought I was going to fall over, and then, when they found me, anyone at all, they’d just shake their head and say, Well, I guess she was so thirsty she just fell over. Too bad, they’d say, because there’s this park right around the corner, with drinking fountains and swing sets and lots of grass and people just hanging out enjoying themselves and some of them even playing the guitar and singing songs and any one of these people would have been happy to help her, if only she didn’t have to fall over from thirst so soon. Pity.

Eleanor says: I think there comes a time when you realize that you can’t walk from one end of the world to the other. You can fly there, but that would just be cheating. Those people who walk around the world, those adventurer types or the people trying to make money for their causes and everything, they’re not the same either. The average person, as in me, well, I can’t walk far enough past what’s familiar, even if it’s not my particular, specific familiar, close as it might seem. I still speak the same language you know, is what I am saying I guess. But I am not family entertainment. I am not the lost girl somebody found who didn’t fall over from thirst but kept going, blisters on her feet and everything.

Eleanor says: But the thing is, that did not happen. I wasn’t found by the people who look for strangers like me. They want to spread their good karma, these people. They say, pass it on, we just want to pass it on, but they try so damn hard to pass it on, I think the good karma gets diluted along the way. Really – you can’t spend your days waiting for some lost and tired and thirsty girl to walk into your neighborhood. You can’t. That would be just wrong — waiting to be good, when you don’t have to wait to be good, I mean. You just might hit the jackpot, you good karma hunters. You just might find that she actually wants to tell you all about her family. But you would be the first person to say, this girl is not family entertainment. You would be the first person to say, is there something I can do? Yes. You would be the first person to say, is there anything you need, right now, because even though it’s out of my way and I’m on this tight schedule, you know, I want to help you. I want to be here for you. Yes, you would say this in your own words of course. That’s good karma. Good karma happens when it is not convenient, and you can quote me on this. Go ahead — quote me.

Eleanor says: Well, I walked back. I sat on the front steps. I waited for my father to come home from work. I looked a mess, I’m sure of it. But because I was sitting on our own front steps, I suppose it all seemed so normal. My father didn’t see what a mess I was because he was used to seeing me one way, and that’s the way he always saw me. The funny thing was, I smiled back. I smiled, but I said to him, I am not family entertainment, and he stood there for a second or two — you know, thinking about what just I said, this sort of nonsense, really — along with whatever other thoughts he had going around in his head — and then he finally ended up not saying a word, but he held out his hand.  I started crying. I just could not stop crying. I just could not stop myself from holding up my hand, reaching for him, wanting to feel his fingers, wanting to be right where I was, which was home.

(We are grateful to "In Other Words: Merida" for first publishing this short fiction.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

I Am Fragile. I Can Give Only So Much Of Myself.


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

Eleanor's Biographer Says Goodbye: "I Cried And I Cried"


When I held her in my arms that one last time, or rather, when I placed my hands on her shoulders, and we looked at one another, and I said, Would you let me take a picture of you, because this is the last chance I may ever have to take a picture of you -- when I held her, when I let go to step back for the picture, and when I tried to hold my hand steady and frame her properly, I did not want my eyes to well up though hers were already, and I did not want anything but to capture this moment, because it was both of our hearts beating. And both of us were not saying a word but holding our breaths -- when I held her in my arms that one last time, or rather, my hands on her shoulders, and I took my picture, and she tried to smile because I finally breathed (exhaled and took a breath) and said, Please, give me a little smile, please, and she tried to smile (really, she did try), and I pushed the tiny button on the camera and I was steady and she was patient and when it was all done and over I forget now who opened the door first.

I wish(ed) there was one sentence that could sum up a life done with and a life about to begin, and both of us scared, and both of our hearts broken. I wish(ed) there was one sentence that might have begun to mean, You know, let's rewind this tape a little bit, let's remember a little bit -- just a little bit.

Were we moving forward too quickly?

I wish(ed) there was one sentence that could sum up the whole thing, you see, because my thoughts were weeping but my heart had already started to heal. Hearts are like that. They heal. They heal quickly. Hearts make you forget. Even broken hearts.

I wish(ed) I could look at the picture I took of her. But I buried it in the garden.

And I went to the store and I bought packets of seeds -- flowers, all varieties of flowers. I didn't read the instructions, so I had no idea whether any of them would bloom. I took them to the garden where the hearts were and opened each packet carefully and sprinkled them over the dirt. I sprinkled Canterbury Bells, and Morning Glory, and Sunflower (Mammoth and Chianti Hybrid), and Moonflower, and Convolvulus (Blue Enchantment).

When I sprinkled the Sunflower seeds, the Chianti Hybrid, I noticed that the packet said these were pollenless. I am no scientist, but to me, pollenless meant that our hearts could never be duplicated or born again. Again, I am no scientist, so maybe I have it all wrong. But I thought, if these sunflowers decided to grow, both our hearts would be protected in that last moment, in the picture, or even better, with the good moments we kept to ourselves when we could not speak of such things.

I thought about digging up the picture. But if I looked, it would ruin everything. Every myth we had created together. Every true experience we had made. I'm not even sure to what extent there would be ruin, so I dared not risk looking.

Instead, I cried and I cried, but I cried where nobody could see me, and in particular -- where there were no mirrors.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Eleanor Says Goodbye To Her Biographer, Part One


I remember holding my Biographer's hand when I knew I had to let go, that I had to be free, or let him be free, and I was so selfish, because I wanted to hold on forever.

I remember how warm his hand was, when I was holding it, and I was afraid that if I let go, his hand would grow cold and stiff and I would lose him forever.

I remember placing my head on his chest to listen for his heartbeat and not hearing anything, but his chest was still warm, so his heart had to be inside there, somewhere deep inside there, even if I could not find it.

I touched his face, his forehead, his hair. If this was earlier in my life, he would not have allowed me to do this, but this was his time to let go, and my time to let go as well.

I did not want to leave him. I don't think he wanted me to leave him, either; at least, not right away, not right then -- not yet.

I held his hand and felt his fingers and then I switched hands when I grew tired, my own hands on his hand. I switched my hands so he would not grow cold. I wanted his warmth. I wanted to breathe in his warmth. I needed to feel it.

I wanted to feel his warmth all over me, to cover me like a blanket. And then he looked at me, and he did not blink his eyes once, but he looked at me, and slowly I knew that this was the moment we dared not speak of. Not exactly, at least. Not speak of in precise terms, I mean.

I followed the warmth, from the tips of his fingers to his knuckles to his wrist, to his elbow and shoulder. The cold was following both of us, so I had to keep going. This was a race. We were track stars. We were running a a marathon, away from the cold. We ran as fast as we could.

I put my head back on his chest and I tried to hear his heart beating -- I tried again! -- so much did I try to hear, to listen, to block out any other noises, even though we were surrounded by silence. But no matter how hard I tried, it was too distant.

And then the cold got closer to us, so I placed my hand on my Biographer's forehead, and that part of him was still warm, and I smiled because the cold had not won yet. It had not defeated us!

He looked at me. He kept looking at me.

He was telling me to go, or stay, or I don't know what he was telling me. There were no words. I was the words. I was all of his words. He gave me life. He gave me his life, so that I could live.

I tried to wipe a tear from his one of his eyes, but the tear had turned to glass, like a tiny marble.

I kissed the warmth on his forehead.

I held me close to him, because I could not hold him close to me, and I thought, how strange is this, how very strange this all is.

The cold came across us in waves, like a breeze almost except maybe more like it was snowing or something, but it was a dry snow. Everything was turning white.

I told my Biographer that I wasn't ready, that I would not leave him alone, ever. I told him, so he would hear me. I whispered in my Biographer's ear so he was sure to hear me. I told him this, over and over. I won't leave you alone.

*
My Biographer had told me that this time would come, for both of us. And it really wasn't so much that I was free now, but that I was next. That it was -- well -- I guess you could call it my turn.

The snowy white was beautiful because it was pure, but I shivered, and I made my promises.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Life Means So Much You Have To Die


Eleanor: When I was born, I was just a short story, and nobody knew what would happen to me. In the short story, I have a best friend named Antonya. We build a fort and we share our secrets and we are bullies. We are cruel. At least, Antonya is cruel. We make a boy strip naked and we toss his clothes onto the highway so he has to dodge cars and risk being killed just to put his socks back on. This is after we tease him with our young bodies, because we are so frigging sexy, you know? There's more to it than that, but it gives you an idea. We aren't afraid to risk the boy's life for our amusement. Antonya is cruel, but I go along with her cruelty, so I'm guilty as well.

This story is in a locked box. It isn't in the novel. For the longest time, and maybe even now still, I wanted my Biographer to put it into the novel, because I feel guilty about being part of such cruelty. Forget about Antonya. We aren't friends anymore. We aren't friends because she forgot about me, so that's why I say forget about her. Not because she's cruel. Or was cruel.

It's weird being born in a short story that's locked up. It's like all of my baby pictures and videos of my childhood and everything else like that, like things I drew for my Biographer to put on the refrigerator, or things I wrote down, or even things I said -- pieces of dialogue -- well, everything is locked up in the box. My Biographer says it's for the best, but then he says the story is one of his favorites and I don't know if he's being sentimental or really means it. If it's one of his favorites, truly, then why is it locked up? I know he sent it to The New Yorker after he wrote it, and an editor named Deborah Garrison wrote him a really cool letter back and said she really liked the story and everything but that it was too much like other stories about teenaged girls. Like it was too familiar, even if it was a different story from anybody else's. She said she wanted to see more of my Biographer's work. I don't think she said she wanted to see any more of me. Maybe I was the problem, and not Antonya. I've just always blamed Antonya.

These days, everybody is being a bully to everybody else, but when my Biographer wrote the story, there wasn't any Facebook or Twitter or YouTube or things like that for people to talk about how they are being bullied and how they wish it were different but life holds no meaning any longer, or rather it holds too much meaning and that's why it hurts so much and that's why they feel the only way out is to die. Because life means this much. Imagine that! Life is so important that they feel they have to die for it, because by meaning so much, it hurts even more. There's nothing fair about that, and there's nothing that makes sense in that. Nothing in the whole wide world that I know about.
These days I wonder if the me who's in the locked box is really me. She has the same name as I do. She has the same characteristics. She has the same personality. But does that make her me? I mean, have I grown up, or am I still that girl. (Maybe my Biographer has grown up, or maybe not. I know everything about him, I really do. I don't want to sound too vain, but I have more everything to know than he does. You might think this is really crazy, because I am supposed to just be a character. Here's the thing: I stopped being just a character a long time ago. But the kicker is -- I don't know what I am now.)

I've been thinking about this a lot as you can tell. This -- that I don't ever want to be a bully, and if I ever had the choice to be a bully or somebody who gets bullied, I would choose the person who gets bullied. There's less guilt. I could get all beat up. Or some bully could manipulate my mind and make me think I am crazy bad, as in a no-good person. As in, not worthy to even be in existence. My problem, though, is that I don't want to be a victim either. So I'm stuck. Trapped, you know?

When I stopped being just a character and turned into something else, but something less than a real human being because I can't just walk over to that locked box and open it up and find the story and shove it into my Biographer's hands and say, Here, please explain this to me. Because I'm sure that I know everything about who I am, but I don't know this Eleanor. She is so familiar, but I don't know her. So explain that why don't you?

If I am not a bully and I am not a victim, then am I a bystander? Do I really just watch what's going on and not do a damn thing? If I step into the action and beat up the bully, does that make me the bully? Once you taste blood, you want to taste more. I would replace the bully. I would be the hero, so everybody would want to say nice things about me, but they'd want to keep their distance too. You can't get too close to a real hero. A real hero has some quality inside that the rest of everybody else is afraid to find, or even look too hard for, even if everybody else has the same quality inside themselves. Unless they are psychopaths or something and can't feel anything.

Do you think this is the difference? That I can feel things, and that's why I stopped being a character a long time ago? I can feel things even if they don't happen on the page. And of course I feel everything my Biographer feels. If I wasn't so invisible to most people and if I wasn't able to fly about the way I can, light as a feather, I'd be weighted down by all of this. Literally. You could throw me into the river, and I'd drown. Then you would be the bully and I would be a victim. (Why would you do something like that?)

My mind keeps going in circles. It's kind of crazy or a lot crazy, but whatever -- the circles are happening. The honest-to-God truth is I want to be loved and sometimes I want to make people love me so hard I want to hit them over the head with some really good sentences that are the very best of me and see what happens. But it has to be natural. I mean, it has to be organic -- that people love me or don't love me. You can only whack so many people over the head with your best sentences before you begin losing some of your words and then you begin losing your entire self, one paragraph at a time maybe -- or one sentence, or one word, or even one punctuation mark. It sure adds up.

I can't waste my best sentences on perfect strangers.

When my mind goes in circles, I become vulnerable too, and then I have to be very careful. I need to be strong. I need to be strong enough that my sentences survive me, no matter what I do with them. That I can use one sentence again, even if I've already zonked somebody. I'm not sure I am to that level yet.

So I ask my Biographer if my sentences are strong enough. Even though I know everything about him and how his mind works. (I don't know this one.) He says he doesn't know either. He says he can't be the judge of that. He says it for other people to judge me. To judge my sentences. And that creates another mind circle, see? My question then is -- does this make anyone who reads my sentences a potential bully? If the person stops reading, I stop existing. Or the person can just plain not like me. The person could say, this is a really, really fun story -- wow, what fun this is I can almost not take it all in, all of this fun, but you know what? I hate this girl. (And I, Eleanor, can feel the kind of hurt that comes from that, believe me, I can. Love or hate, I can feel it.)

I ask my Biographer to open the locked box and take out that first story when I was a bully, or at least, in cahoots with a bully named Antonya.

It's about the sentences now. It's about whether those sentences are as good as my best sentences. If they are as good, it really doesn't matter if they fit into my life story. You always have to leave something out. Or you leave something out to create some mystery. But I would know, that's the thing.

I would know that I was just as good when I was bad. (I don't think I like the idea of that.)

Here's a riddle for you. What do you call something that used to live on paper -- one pecked-out letter at a time she lived like that. What do you call her now that she is not quite breathing as much as she wants to breathe. To breathe like her Biographer can breathe. And cough, and laugh, and talk, and all of the other things that come with breathing. Like being able to find the key to a lock to a box that holds pages and pages from many years ago. What do you call something which is not really a somebody yet, but is still afraid that she is best at her worst, and because of that, she cries real human tears. (I can't explain the tears. It's part of the transformation, I realize this.)

I know this is a long riddle. I'm sorry. I'll try again.

Okay, here's a riddle for you. What do you call something or somebody who once did something really bad but has such an ego that she wants to know how good she was at being so bad? Does that make for a better riddle?

If you know the answer, please tell me. Because I do not, and I sure wish I did.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The In-Betweens, Ghost People


I grew tired of living in the part of life you see. I told myself that I'd rather exist somewhere among the in-betweens. 


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, So Nobody Will Notice You


Eleanor says:

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

How To Write A Fairy Tale: Instructions


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.

Step Two: Fairy tales do require an element of fear.
Which leads to,

Step Three: What frightens you? Or better yet, what frightens you more than anything else, more than anything you can imagine? And this begs the question, yes, if what frightens you is more than you can imagine, then even you do not know the answer to this question and must find out on your own, and you may or may not succeed by allowing yourself to go inside yourself, to places inside yourself you have never before visited, but have existed all along. You must take this journey, on your own, and face whatever it is you need to face –- one-on-one.

Ask the question again, What frightens you?

Step Four: Begin the fairy tale, and just go as fast as you can, without even thinking, really -- and see where it leads you, and maybe, somewhere deep along the way -- there, near the ending, you're almost to Step Five, now -- there, you will find the ultimate happiness, the kind that exists beyond the fear. Happily ever after.
NOTE:  Sometimes, there is no happily ever after, and that's okay too.  Sometimes there is enlightenment, however subtle.

Step Five: "Fairy tales must be shared, not kept to yourself. Because once you share your fairy tale with the person of your choosing, you can begin getting better again. The person you're sharing your fairy tale with doesn't even have to know that you've been hurting. But you need to make it especially scary and convincing. That's all."
(Eleanor, whispering into her Biographer's ear.)

*

"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

Everyone Is Scared Right Now & No One Knows Why


Eleanor says: Everyone is scared right now, but nobody knows exactly why.  It could be money, because people are always scared that they're going to go broke.  Or it could be crime, even though we have very little crime in Great Falls.  Or it could be this loss of identity, and that one, I can understand, but my take on it is so different, I think, from everybody else's.  Everybody else is caught up in their little teeny tiny worlds that they get trapped, and I know exactly what my teeny tiny world looks like.  My loss of identity is all about this bubble surrounding me -- I mean, how I am supposed to keep secrets, for example, about my mother, the famous actress.  Or secrets from my father, because he seems at least as scared as I am, and I am pretty sure it's not about money or crime, but kind of about me, if that makes any sense at all.  What father is scared of his daughter?  But as I said, this whole being scared is just the feeling of doom, and none of us can really understand why.  Not even me in my bubble.  I think a major part of my problem is my own fault, but that said, I don't know where to start, you know?  I don't know where to start in trying to solve things.  So that's my dilemma.  I think it's pretty huge, but you might go, well, I have plenty of money in the bank (this is you remember), and I don't think crime is ever going to be bad in Great Falls, and as far as the rest of it, well, sure, I have these days, you know, when I don't know what the hell is going on, but mostly -- I think I'm pretty well set.  So okay (this is me talking again):  have it your way.  Deny everything.  After you admit to yourself how bad your life is, deny everything else.  But again, this is only me talking, and you could very well say, so, who are you, Eleanor Spain?  Who are you to talk about my life?  You're just a seventeen-year-old girl, and you have your whole life ahead of you.  Isn't this the time in your life when you are NOT suppose to be scared?  Huh?

So I just respond (to you, but if this is not you, it might be somebody you know -- and I am not trying to be mean -- I hope you understand that):  you don't know anything, but you try, and when you try, you're kind of pitiful.  I wish you could see yourself.  I mean, I see my "self."  I see exactly where I am.  And where I am is here.  

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Life In One Long Sentence, Part Two


(for Part One, see December 2008)

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

"What do you really see?" Eleanor says.


Eleanor:


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

"The Show Must Go On, Whatever Else Happens"


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

Eleanor says: "There is no turning back"


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

Brainwashing: My Heart is Open, But My Head Remembers


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, "Oblivious is bliss."


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

Love Hate Pain Joy


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.
Any reason.


*
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.

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.



"The Little Room," Olive Thomas In Background

"The Little Room," Olive Thomas In Background