(June 2005) Tonight I almost made a silly friend spit her Coke out because we were planning a summer get-nekkid hot-tub party with some wild grrls from Louisiana and she asked what we should eat.
“Ladyfingers, of course," I said.
It’s interesting. I’m such an introvert in my professional life—too serious sometimes—but that just makes acting like a total goof with my pals all the more wonderful.
Despite my silliness, the man who killed himself (see previous entry) has been on my mind all day. Mostly I keep wondering why and feeling awful for his wife and daughter.
Maybe he was gay and deeply closeted and someone was threatening to out him. Or maybe he got promoted to the level of his incompetency and was about to be fired. Or maybe he got caught embezzling. Or maybe he was depressed, but hid this fact from almost everyone and most especially his family. Or maybe he was a closet alcoholic whose wife thought he was working all those hours that he actually spent in the bar, hitting bottom. Or maybe he was hopelessly in love with a twenty-year-old who left him for a younger and firmer medical student. Or maybe he was in love with a five year old (because you never know).
I hope, for his wife’s sake, that his life insurance policy doesn’t have a suicide clause.
Joy Harjo says in Reconciliation that we are “naked but for the stories we have of each other" and Muriel Rukeyser reminds us that “the universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”
I have toyed with the idea of upgrading my MFA to a PhD for some time now (AFTER I finish my novel) and have narrowed my area of expertise down to two main themes, both of which involve stories in one way or another: one is trauma writing/writing of witness (possibly focused on twentieth-/twenty-first century lesbowriters) and the other is a comparative look at the rise of the US's Religious New Right movement and the second-wave feminist movement.
(For the second topic, I would need to find a way to tie this into literature, because I just don’t want to do all the statistical analysis that a sociological study would entail.)
I’m fascinated by writing of witness and know so many artists who, for a variety of reasons, have a insatiable need to parse, compare, analyze, study, ponder, probe, recreate, and share the full range of their experiences by putting them in a larger context, a different box. Could be a metaphor or a narrative or a painting or a song ... or a blog, for that matter. It depends on the artist and the experiences.
This larger framework is where we transform isolated pain, observations, insight, meanderings, and so on into a larger creation—extrapolate a bigger world, a broader context, art. And, a common reality for many of us is that we and our audiences have encountered pain and violence and horrors.
As Adrienne Rich says, “A thinking woman sleeps with monsters.”
After reading one of my short stories at a bookstore a few years ago, a woman told me that I should preface my story with a warning that it contains emotionally disturbing words.
I thought about that.
Isn’t that what I WANT my stories to contain? Disturbing, as in breaking to reach the interiors of people who fuck and love and feel and long and are so much more than their mortgage payments and Dockers and studied conventions and the façade they wear in public.
I WANT to provoke an emotional reaction!
Hav also been pondering the possibility that perhaps couples can only remain together until they run out of new stories.
My friend Kay got me thinking about my own catalog of stories recently when she said “tell me your water moccasin story again Medea.”
So anyway, off the top of my head, here is a sampling of stories that I seem to repeat—which I guess means that, on some level, here are the stories that make up who I am.
• The cop who shoved his cocked pistol into my left temple after he caught me parking with a woman
• My poverty month of one bag of grits and a single summer sausage
• Angel dust made MEDEA step out of a moving car
• That Canyonlands bathroom where the Mormon woman backed her daughters out against the wall after I entered
• Mark Doty telling 16-year-old me that I just can’t write (which became a self-fulfilling prophesy for at least the next year)
• Reigning champion of the great Rhythmfest nekkid water basketball match-up against the cheating rugby players
• My drowning (not to be confused with the excellent Jim Grimsley novel with the same title)
• Surviving an armed robbery after my stoned friend Louisvile just had to have that Sarah Lee triple-layer coconut cream cake at 1:30 AM on a week night
• Sinking my kayak (sob)
• The wreck that left those faces in the windshield
Jeanette Winterson ends her brilliant book The Passion this way:
I'm telling you stories. Trust me.
LISTENING TO: Thea Gilmore’s great cover of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love”
READING: On Our Backs magazine’s "Are You A Slut?" quiz. The answer is a little misleading, since it doesn’t ask me to describe a timeframe, but I can report that I am apparently “wet and willing”: “Down, girl! Actually, you’re already there—down on, underneath, or on top of just about anything that moves. Buckle up and pass the lube: you’re riding a wave of fun and fucking that isn’t likely to break anytime soon.”