note & disclaimer: while i’m away on my very silent, devoid of communication, meditation retreat, the magical powers of the future scheduling function will allow me to roll out piecemeal my first attempt since college, i think, at writing a piece of (unfinished, unedited, unrefined) fiction. i was inspired by last year’s nanowrimo (that i learned about from the lovely t), during which these words were penned. until now, i’ve been the sole creator and audience of this loopy tale (as sole as one who has lived in the world, had conversations and experiences with people, and carries those moments around, some of which are sure to seep into other moments, conversations, experiences, and writing). but i plan to attempt nanowrimo once again this november so clearing this out of the mental hopper might be a good idea. the disclaimer is that none of this is based in my lived reality with the exception of the very first line that i once said in response to a question someone asked me under very different and far less complicated circumstances. so in a way this is both an attempt to fulfill kesey’s invitation to write what i don’t know (see top of this blog) and ebert’s advice to think about what i’ve seen and how it affected me and not fake it. the acts of writing this and then rereading it a few days ago for the first time in nearly a year also echo the truisms about writing that some readers have generously noted in their comments on this blog, including writing as retreat, as source of both pain and elation.
“What would you do if I said yes?”
I hadn’t rehearsed the line; it just came out.
I hadn’t planned on lying to her, so i guess this was just penance. Just penance indeed. It didn’t seem fair that she would get her way again, so what could i do but lie.
Was it a lie if half of it was true? And more importantly, why had I felt l couldn’t tell her the truth. Or, perhaps more momentously, that I could even bring myself offer some of the truth?
We hadn’t always had the best relationship, my mother and I. I usually couldn’t go two days without thinking about something awful she had done — some social crime or faux pas she had committed — that I was still cleaning up today. The lime green dress she had worn to my best friend’s father’s funeral when I was twelve. Her insistence on accompanying me to my after-school program that was only a short, ten block walk from my school, and then complaining that she had to leave work early to do it. The birthday parties she threw for me, despite my protests, with wildly inappropriate games planned: a) what color would your flame be if you were on fire? (the winner was usually the person who could make my mom laugh the most); b) “smell this”, where she had my friends smell what almost always was rotting or moldly food in her fridge to determine both its fate (stay or trash?) and its origin (are you sure this used to be an orange?) – there were no winners for this game; c) pin the tale on the goldfish — there are no words, only memories of innocent fish swimming out of fear of stabbing-by-thumbtack.
So I lied. They weren’t always earth shattering lies. Just conveniently placed half-truths that allowed the really big whoppers to seem as normal as auburn leaves on a cool, November day. The first time I lied, I wasn’t sure what I was really doing. I just knew that it felt good to swear that I had no more M&Ms left to share with her — my mother is diabetic and occasionally needed a quick sugar fix because, of course, she routinely “forgot” to take her pills. At the age of eight I didn’t have a full grasp of the consequences of sugar highs and insulin lows and vice versa. But I’m pretty sure I knew I was doing something just a little cruel. And as I watched my mother’s arms flail progressively more rapidly as she tried to keep her concentration on the road in front of her, I felt a rush of warmth wash over me. I would soon come to be addicted to this sensation — one of power and control over circumstances, another person’s life.
But this isn’t one of those “my mother and I were enemies and now we’re friends” stories. Nor is it a harrowing tale of the pain and suffering I’ve endured as my mother’s daughter. No, this is just a retelling, in parts, of a woman on a quest to find her mother. Because surely there’s no way I crawled out of that woman’s vagina.
Stay tuned for part 2…