It was snowing and I'd found the garden gloves, the ones I'd bought late this summer when I was going to clear out all the blackberries and burdock so they didn't take possession of my yard. It was snowing and I was wearing my garden gloves and riding my bike, and my feet were cold even through the two pairs of wool socks and the way my cheeks felt in the wind and snow? I didn't know whether to love it or cry.
I used to have compartments. I'd put things in them, like the way my goosebumps trail up the insides of my arms or;
It is the problem of second person: the addressee. That is the question. And the way I write second person? I fail to mark transitions between "you," the reader, and "you," me putting you inside my skin. And then there's you.
Making confessions became my game, then, my practice, lopping off a length of truth and handing it to him like something, a peace offering, maybe a token like one you'd hand to a knight going into combat. -- not a war, I mean -- more of a jousting match --.
Be brave. Be more brave than you think you can be.
I am not taking my advice. I am starting essays I cannot finish. I am writing essays I will only keep to myself. Some I read on my computer or in my journal and I think to myself maybe pathetically how, wouldn't it be nice to become a famous and beloved writer, so they can be discovered after my death? I will print them out, I think, because the digital is so ephemeral. I am being ridiculously dramatic, I think. And I write more, even more quietly.
Some of it finds its way out into the world despite myself. My essay, "No Other Gods," will be published next month in the Creative Nonfiction book, Southern Sin: True stories of the sultry south and women behaving badly. It's in print, I have the copy of the book's uncorrected proof here in my sweaty hand -- I tell the story there.
If you read it, you'll know why that one was, I thought, the very hardest story to tell, one I couldn't tell anyone, not even my husband, not all the way, for years. When I opened the package with those words in paperback-print I almost threw up. Here is where I can't type out why it makes me nauseated. Here is where I also say that I am telling the story precisely because it had me so ashamed for so many years.
There are stories I only whisper to myself and it's because they hurt me or my boys too much or might, but you get to know that I'm stripping myself open these days, I'm spinning yarns about being raw and rare and bloody, like this:
And when I say "raw" I mean I'm open like a front door, like a broken cabinet, like a wide hilltop field of new-cut hay, like a body lying on an operating table, torso sliced open hip to neck bone, skin peeled back like the pieces of a dress being pinned together or ripped apart.
Like that. Like that. At least I'm putting the pins in these memories so I can refer to them later. Perhaps I'll find something to write about that's safe. And when I say "safe" I mean appalling but in a different way, do you know "safe" is a different word for me now that I'm 40 and because of a variety of things not-the-least-of-which-is divorce having to forge a new sort of identity.
"Writer," then, that's my identity, writer and mother and striver-not-to-yield. That's it.
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