November 30, 2011
Ce n’est pas un post
I can’t tell you the number of times I write and erase the first sentence of a post.
This is what I need to put myself through, I guess. It would be too easy just to sit the fuck down and write something without second, third, fourth, umpteenth guessings of myself. Related: I’m afraid to read the 120 pages I wrote this month. I haven’t been reading them as I go along, just writing them and tucking them away. Tomorrow I finish this phase of the project, and while I am certainly free to keep going at this rate in this fashion for as long as I want, I’ve found in the past two years’ attempts that right about now is a good time to stop, put the thing away, “forget about it” for two weeks or so, then print and read it in one fell swoop, two swoops tops. (Quotes around “forget about it” because hah, as if you can forget. Fortunately, I think, it’s not as crucial to actually “forget” as it is to stop consciously thinking about it so that the underthoughts can rise to the surface.)
This year’s project was different from the years’ before — those two were fiction, and this is not. In past projects, I was telling stories, which is something I emphasize in Memoir classes, that there has to be a chain of causes and events, and there has to be a point, a moment of catharsis for the reader, if not the character. This time I was not trying to tell stories; I was trying to record details and dialogue and phenomena, to describe feelings and moments, not arcs and acts. So the thing is a mess, the timeline skipping around within paragraphs; I started talking about one thing, got distracted, and went off on another. It’s been fun to write this way, except for the awful parts, where I start writing about how, like millions and billions of children around the world, my mother never loved me, boo hoo, and how sad I was as a kid. (I’m downplaying it here, but some of it is legitimately depressing. Nobody cut off my hand and forced me to mine for precious metals, and for that I am grateful; still, it didn’t have to be as shitty as it was for a while there.) I’ve made my UUUHHHHHHH noise a lot during the process, a noise that once caused a colleague serious alarm as we finished a meal and prepared to go back to work — “Are you okay?” he asked, ready to Heimlich me if I couldn’t speak. “Oh, uh, yeah,” I said apologetically. “That’s just the noise I make whenever I write about my mother.”
I just had a memory of being at a place called Domsey’s, a four-floor used clothing warehouse on the waterfront in Williamsburg that closed when it turned out that their prices were so low because they were exploiting immigrant labor. A good 30 or 40 percent of my wardrobe from 1989 through 1995 was purchased at Domsey’s; it was where I comfort shopped alone when I was in times of romantic trial, losing myself in musty piles of Navy overstock sailor pants and racks of polyester blouses that smelled like worn pantyhose and camphor. When I left with two enormous stuffed bags to drag back home via subway, containing thirteen items of clothing and a pair of shoes for thirty bucks, I felt not just complete, but overfull, bursting with impatience to wear these clothes and be this person and make this impression.
This has happened a lot since I started meditating last winter; out of nowhere I’ll have a full, five-sense memory of being in my body at some time in the past. I usually go with it, in case it turns out to be the portal to time travel.
Again, not a story, just a setting, a scenario. Nothing changed, and there was no catharsis. This is how I was when I wasn’t looking, in between the moments I thought were important, before there was a before and after. No moral and nothing to learn. I was alive, and one evening as the sun was going down I walked through Williamsburg with thirteen new ways to prove it. The end.