Thursday, May 26, 2011

bad story, good story

I spent most of this week making a terrible movie pitch to an evil director in my head: Unsuspecting girl goes into the basement. Something lurks there. It’s been waiting all this time. If she’d known, she would have done things differently. Poor unsuspecting girl.

Except the girl does suspect, because she is me, and a part of her floats outside herself at all times, narrating horrific outcomes. The fact that she’s a convincing storyteller is biting her in the ass because she’s believing the worst possible stories she can imagine. And she feels guilty about it because the world is full of people actually living those outcomes or worse. What is the difference between something being real and something being in your head? Probably a lot. Definitely a lot. But when you’re in the bubble of your car screaming along to a musical about in-your-head-awfulness, that difference shrinks just a little bit.

And that, my friends, is post-semi-traumatic anxiety in a nutshell. I’m going to try not to dwell. This is a new thing for me, as I am a dweller. I believed in dwelling. But it wasn’t working.

So today at lunch Jamie and I walked to Westwood Park and ate sandwiches and strawberries and did a couple of writing prompts. Below is my (slightly fictionalized) prose poem-y response to “Write about your parents before they met”:


She was the girl everyone expected to live at home forever. She and her mother, side by side in art history class at Saddleback College. She studied Chinese water dragons, wrote about them until her dreams swam with round-nostriled serpents. She took her niece and nephew to the zoo, sketched monkeys while her sister toured with a group of belly dancers. When the white pain of a toothache flooded her jaw like the Yangtze, she stuffed the cavity with tissue. The dentist would have to wait until next month.

He joined a Catholic singles group, although his mother hadn’t taken them to church since his father died. His father was a rogue Catholic anyway, with his tiny church in the hills, his marriage blessed, his life cursed by war and a penicillin shortage. The young man was on his own, his brother in the police force, his mother in the early stages of the lung disease that would make him steer clear of pugs and Persian cats. Their rattling breath. He took communion alongside these good girls, these earnest girls. These girls who could raise two boys alone if they had to. Imagine his surprise when they swore, forgot to pay bills, didn’t know what they wanted.

He always knew. He wanted a girl as solid as the cement he would lay outside their second home. They would place their hand prints and their baby’s too in the new driveway that led to the new garage. The girl would press her palms into the wet clay, think this was better than Grauman’s Chinese. The way liquid could become hard ground.

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