This new yearning for fiction is not unfamiliar, but rather, long forgotten. I have not stretched that muscle, if it was one, in years. I have not savored the taste of delicious sentences strung together, the words pulling it across the page in too long. I reconnected, first with a book that I think you should read before dying, for me, it was quintessential-katie-barry-reading, quick, beautiful, slow, spacey, gothic, heartbreaking, at times predictable and sweet, “The Shadow of the Wind.” His second book is currently available in hardcover only, and I am biding my time before I buy it.
Perhaps since I now own a library card, I could go there and look around and find it.
But, my latest project is oddly fitting at this point in my life. “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” by Milan Kundera.
From it, thus far, I bring this idea, rather, these ideas:
Fidelity gave a unity to lives that would otherwise splinter into thousands of split-second impressions.
Betrayal means breaking ranks. Betrayal means breaking ranks and going off into the unknown.
The first betrayal is irreparable. It calls forth a chain reaction of further betrayals, each of which takes us farther and farther away from the original betrayal.
And thus you have the beginnings of my contemplation.
If you know me, you know that I am driven, possessed, by the idea of love. My life is nothing without love or the idea of it. I am constantly searching for the perfect love, for the love that crushes my soul and one day I am determined to write a story that embodies my ideas of love, a tragic tale that brings everyone to their knees in despair and agony but then opens their hearts to the momentous feeling that love can be. It doesn’t have to be sensational.
Lately, I’ve been loving Katie. We have reconnected and I get butterflies when I think about seeing her. (She does too. We’ve discussed it. It’s a best friends sort of thing…I always base the way that I feel about boyfriends on the way I feel about her. I never get bored with her, even if we’re just bumming around the house in sweatpants. Target is an adventure. Tea can have endless possibilities. She gets me on a strange level, our lives are oddly parallel at times. We once decided, long ago, in high school, that we were “each other’s other” and to be honest, I still believe that. Maybe we’re older and possibly more mature, but we’re still there. We can pick up like there’s never been any time spent away. It’s safety, adventure, peace all rolled up into one.)
But lately, I’ve been loving myself, my possibilities, the idea that my life has just begun. And that has stemmed from the loss or dramatic transformation (I’ve not yet decided which) of one of my loves.
But anyway, to explain the sexual nature of the first picture, because I’m sure you’re scandalized, she’s trying to recreate a moment in which she felt loved. It represents her grandfather, and her father and the ways in which she felt betrayed and the ways in which that moment spent in front of the mirror was her moment of love with some man who was having an affair with her and now she has affairs to try to recreate it. It’s beautiful.
I’m not done yet. I’ve been too busy to read properly. So I’ll let you know. I realize that this whole post dedicated to the first 100 pages of a book I’m sure will change my life (I had realized that by the third page) seems crazy or collegiate, and it is. Both of those things.
Remember the things you got really excited about and then cringe about now? Maybe it’s like that.
Some things, however, never die.
I’m also posting my draft of a story I turned in for Fiction class. It was supposed to be about loss, but I never found the time to finish it and when the time came to turn it in, I was forced to end it abruptly. So the shift is there; I recognize the failings of it but hope that you understand that I have not written anything such as that in a long time. I will be editing it, because I liked where I wanted my story to go and didn’t much like where it went.
It hadn’t even been a bear at all.
It was a stuffed pink pig, soft to the touch, with dark eyes and stitched lines for hooves. But his cries for “Bear, bear!” wouldn’t be quieted until he had it. Store after store his face retained that puffy baby frown, his little brows thrust together in an angry line. His mother finally cracked, worn out from a days’ shopping and reluctantly retraced her sandal-clad steps to the toy store. There it sat, that stuffed pink pig, nestled in a display with a hundred other plush toys. The little boy’s delighted squeal rang out as the cash register clanged and closed on her crumpled twenty-dollar bill.
His arms reached out from his stroller, his pudgy fingers grasping for the stuffed pink pig. His triumphant smile soothed her frayed nerves and softened her nearly-angry look He rode out of the store like a little king, clutching the new toy. She wondered if that counted as bad parenting, giving in like that to his demands. It occupied her thoughts the whole drive home.
Are you a bad parent if you don’t let your child cry? Are you a bad parent if you do? It hurts her to see him hurt, she knows that, but it hurts worse to watch him turn out spoiled and selfish, even though she knows she’d have had the best intentions.
Her husband is no help, she thought. He’s at work. The little boy can get a beer from the fridge for his dad upon command, but does that make it love? She rationalized these thoughts, turning left on Broadway, thinking that it’s alright. They’ll have plenty of father-son bonding time when sports come around. Her husband loves sports. He was the third basemen in college, when life was easy and their plans hadn’t included the little boy.
Marriage had changed all that, ended her hopes of traveling the world, seeing Paris, London, Milan before she was 30. Instead she found herself 28 and begging to see the inside of a restaurant with white tablecloths and salad forks. Now she found herself sponging crumbs off a play table daily, washing bibs and little smocks and pants for a small creature she’d never really come to own. Folding clothes was monotonous, but it must be done. Everything must get done.
A shrill horn blast behind her startled her. The light had barely turned green! She jumped and then accelerated, her foot throwing the gas pedal to the floor, which startled the little boy in his car seat. Her frightened brown eyes looked in the rearview mirror angrily to stare at the other driver. His constant stream of nonsense words continued uninterrupted. He was waving the little pig around, talking to it, perhaps, or maybe about it, directing it in some unseen child-play.
The little boy and the stuffed pink pig became best friends, as only children and toys can. Upon arrival home, he immediately dragged the pig, which was a little more than half his size, up the stairs to his little nursery, setting it down while he reined over his possessions.
His room was marvelous, that much was sure. It had a hand-painted mural on the wall, hand-painted by his mother as a pregnant woman, her best attempt at welcoming the creature into the world. It was crudely drawn, she’d traced the pictures she’d found with a pencil and improvised from there. Bright colored animals kept him company, their shapes distorted and strange. The flamingo, tucked away in a corner, looked wobbly on his one foot, about to fall into the wilted leaves surrounding him. The mother elephant and her baby were square; they’d been cute in the picture, but now looked obese on the wall. Baby magazines are so deceiving. Of course you can paint a mural. Of course it will look just like this. Of course everyone will see it and love it. Of course not.
His little hand painted toy box had never seen the excitement of the wall, and instead was red and yellow and green, all over. It hadn’t been completed until after he’d been born, which may account for its rather sloppy construction. But it was sturdy enough, containing the mountains of toys. Sometimes, the little boy would throw open the box and throw all of his toys out.
His mother would come in to find toys littering the room, scattered army men and wooden building blocks, plastic trucks, the school bus, the train set, tracks and all in every corner of the room. She’s pretend to look around, waiting to see his little fingers or a tuft of his blond hair peek out from under the lid. He’d giggle and giggle as she opened the closet door, looked back and forth, then checked under his blankets. Finally, he’d burst out, gurgling in his baby speech and she’d pick him up and swing him around and they’d laugh together.
She cooked dinner, just as she did every night. She tied her soft brown hair into a knot at the back of her head and then ran her slender hands over her head to make sure she’d captured every strand. A pot of boiling noodles sat before her, mildly unattended. She chopped lettuce for a salad. Her husband, the tall-hulking third basemen, didn’t even really eat salad, but she kept making it. She wasn’t entirely sure why, but it had become a routine.
The sound of his key in the door startled her. Long ago the excited love-butterflies had died away, but she still enjoyed his presence, enjoyed him feeling close to her, even though he’d never stay to talk to her but would rush over to turn on the television for highlights of the game. It comforted her to know that he was home with her.
“How was your day?” she greeted him, turning to face him with a sauce-covered spoon in her hand.
“Usual,” he despondently replied, throwing his keys into their key bowl on the counter. “The deal isn’t a go yet, and I can’t figure out what else they’re going to need to push them in our direction.” He kissed her check softly, grazing her back with his hand on his way to the refrigerator to grab his cheap light beer.
“I’m sorry, I hope it comes through soon,” she replied, stirring sauce that simmered on the stove.
“It will, and with that bonus, you and I are going tropical!” his voice picked up, a lively sentence. The can came open with a sharp snap and the corners of his mouth pulled up in a smile. He took a drink and made that satisfied sighing sound she had once loved so much and now purposefully ignored.
She was careful not to let him see how excited she was. For months, they’d needed some sort of vacation. They hadn’t had alone time since the little boy was born and he was nearly two. “Really? We could go this year?”
At that moment, the little boy ambled into the room, clutching the stuffed pink pig by the neck. He smiled at his father and then hobbled over to give greeting, chirping, “Bear! Bear!” The dad picked him up, tossed him into the air a few times and then set him back down and turned.
“What is that thing?” Sharp.
“What thing?” she replied slowly, still stirring, knowing exactly what he was going to say.
“That pink thing in his arms.” He took a sip of beer angrily now, no satisfied sigh here but rather a hard gulp.
“It’s a pig.” Simple sentence.
“A pink pig?”
“Yes, we went to the mall this afternoon to get presents for your brother’s girls’ birthdays next week and he saw the pig and fell in love.” She stated it matter-of-factly, subtly shifting her feet so that she was standing directly in front of him.
“I think the last thing he needs is another toy, especially something like this.”
“Like what? We’ll get rid of one of his other toys. He’s obviously become attached.”
“Like pink. Girly-shit. I don’t want my son growing up with girly shit. He’ll have to remember that for the rest of his life. He won’t be a real man, he’ll be a man who knows he carried around a pink ball of fluff for the first years of his life. He’ll be a pussy.”
“Don’t raise your voice at me,” she was trying to be calm, the layer of icy anger was apparent in her voice. She had no idea why she was defining the stuffed pink pig; she’d not wanted to buy it in the first place. But seeing the way the little boy had carried him around all day, hugging him close to his chest and rubbing his little cheeks on its body had changed her mind. “It’s just a toy. The color of it doesn’t matter. He’ll probably be bored with it soon enough. We’ll sell it or trade it in for a brown bear or something manly enough for you.”
The argument ended there. He had nothing left to say. He knew she’d be angrier with him if he pressed it, so he kept his mouth shut. He was a smart man, after all. He was the one working to support the family. What did she do all day? Perhaps it was time to think about her getting a job.
Dinner was uneventful, the normal exchange of minimal conversation, a desperate attempt to reconnect with their past. She fed the little boy, trying to keep his shirt as clean as possible. When she wasn’t looking, he grabbed a small dish of sauce and began smearing it around on his tray, coating his arms in a fine layer of tomato glaze. His little laugh caught her attention, reminded her of what she needed to get done and brought her back. She cleaned him while he held his arms out and begged for “Bear!”
Those nights seemed as though they’d stretch forever. Sometimes, she’d find herself covered in spaghetti sauce or some sort of vegetable puree, sometimes she’d find herself exhausted, overworked, overtired and every now and then, she’d find herself overjoyed.
She’d never really connected with the little boy. He was hers, she knew that, but he wasn’t really hers at all. Even his stuffed pink pig got more attention from him. Even his father, the man who drank beer on the couch or told him he couldn’t throw a baseball, got more love. It wasn’t until the beginning of fall the year she’d reluctantly purchased the stuffed pink pig that he became her little boy and not just the little boy that lived in her house, called her “Mama” and drank whole milk.
They were walking to the park, something that they did most days. It was a cloudy, overcast day. The still-green grass was made greener by the gray lighting and the orange sweater the little boy was wearing stood against the concrete sidewalks. There they were, the two of them, two strangers holding hands on the way to the playground. The little boy, of course, was carrying Bear, who by that time had become a part of the family. His little hand was wrapped around two of his mother’s fingers, protectively.
At some point between the walk there and the playground and half of the walk back, he must have dropped Bear, the stuffed pink pig, or set him somewhere, because they were stopped, waiting for the white light of the crosswalk when the wailing began.
“Bear! Bear!” the familiar cries rose up from the little boy. His pale cheeks began to turn a rosy color, his eyes scrunched up and began to leak tears of true frustration. His mother did not know what to do. Upon a quick search of everything they were carrying, which turned out to be quite a bit: the diaper bag, filled with milk cups, diapers, wipes, a pacifier (just in case), bandages, a crushed granola bar, her own purse, filled with milk cups, the makeup she’d never gotten around to putting on that morning, a hair brush, a book for the time she’d never have to read it, diapers, wipes, three pacifiers (just in case), her wallet, and a pile of receipts. The blanket was there. But the stuffed pink pig was not.
The cries continued. The walk sign had come and gone. There was no hope now. Her eyes grew wild with desperation. She knew how much that pig meant to the little boy, knew how much he’d miss it if it were truly gone and how hard it would be to replace. The searching stopped. She grabbed him, picking him up and settling him on her hip and then she strode across the street, retracing the steps of that morning.
The went along the cement sidewalks, all gray, searching for that glimmer of pink. They found nothing.
They went into the coffee house, where she’d allowed herself one cup today. They found nothing.
They went and they went and they went. There was nothing along their route. The playground loomed ahead of them, vast in the possibilities of places to hide a small animal who couldn’t answer your cries. She didn’t want to think about the person who would have taken the animal. It was no longer new or fresh looking. Instead it had a well creased neck from being carried all the time. The stitched hooves were dark with dirt from being dragged along down streets, grocery store aisles, even church.
They searched up the slide, the first place you should always look for missing toys. They searched the orange and blue plastic structure until the little boy was nearly breathless from his crying and the mother found herself nearly there as well. They looked under the see-saw, in the highest of the little towers, ran across the little wooden bridge, under the little ladder. No stuffed pink pig.
She was looking around, her eyes were searching wildly. Under the lone tree in the middle of the grassy part of the small park, she saw a flash of pink. She grabbed the little boy’s hand and pulled him toward it. There it was, sitting under the tree, propped neatly against the bark. The instant he saw it he let go of her hands.
“I love you Bear!” his little lungs yelled as he ran toward the bear. She knew what he really meant. The three of them left the park, walking hand in hand in hoof.
I am not happy with it, particularly, but it is what it is and for the time being, it is mine.
On another note, I have been exercising and have found it enjoyable. It’s really not as hard as you think it’s going to be. Swimming and then some sort of machine thing followed by a happy sauna adventure.
I applied to graduate.