I’m trying to convince myself to rescue my characters, from stasis, from un-life. I think that will get me moving again. That’s the theory, anyway. I’m telling myself they are suffering, suffocating from not having their stories fleshed out and completed. Convincing myself they matter is going to be key. I don’t think it’s an ailment specific to them, in my head, not being cared enough about. I’m finding with age comes a propensity to distance oneself. Space between me and the stuff I care about, please, says my brain, put it over there for a while, I’m tired of thinking. Thinking leads to worrying and worrying doesn’t change anything.
I came across a homeless man today in the woods on a walk with my dog and my girlfriend, we were showing her the trail that we’ve been taking lately, seldom used and beautiful, views of the city and no one around to spoil them. I was letting them lead on the second leg, back into the woods, and not ten yards from this parking lot of the abandoned and unkempt former ice skating rink, so the story goes, is this man with long silver hair covered in blankets, not getting up but lifting his head off the ground enough to bank it towards us, to address us, to tell us not to be alarmed, he’s just homeless, illegally evicted a couple days ago and he won’t be here but a couple days more. His hair was shiny like it had been recently conditioned, his chin shaven close and clean. Neither of us had been worried about him, but what he might think the dog was trying to do to him with his enthusiastic, pouncing hello to his new friend on the ground. I don’t think the man was wearing much in the way of clothing, is why he didn’t move from his spot beneath the blankets.
I worry about him and I worry about the refugees in Europe and people in my own city whom my eyes try their best to gloss over, and I miss religion, I miss the selfish comfort of a prayer, asking favors from a higher power to do what I cannot summon the will to. If I were a different person with the gift of fluent conversation and the ability to resist paralysis via eye contact I would talk to so many people. I would hope to still write but I would be a different kind of writer, I would collect stories, I would talk to the homeless man in the park who in the vast covert acreage chooses to camp within pissing distance of the parking lot, the man who wants to be found, and pitied, but will find his own charity, thanks, he will tug on his own bootstraps but a little venting would be nice, would get him going, back on his naked feet again. I would do him that favor, and I would join the Red Cross and get myself to Serbia and lend an ear to the people without the benefit of such a valuable citizenship as myself, I would call up my old friends to comfort them upon the passing of one of our better members to colon cancer, my age, my hair color, my old school and now dead in the ground, and I didn’t know him all that well even when I walked the same hallways as he did but I wish I could overpower the niceties and pleasantries and clichés that would absorb all words and leave me gasping into the phone, looking for a way out, a way off, with nothing effectively said and in the end leaving the other party with the distinct impression I had only called as my own form of prayer, to make myself feel better, which would not be the case, not at all.
I want the world to know it has a friend in me.
I watched a TED talk today about drugs and addiction which culminated in the phrase “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection.” I’m not addicted to any hard drugs or very many soft ones but I feel like I easily could be, I have the personality for it I think, if not the constitution. I watch too much television, probably, drink too much, which, if the theory is correct, is a substitution for making meaningful contact with other people. In grad school there were other people to whom writing fiction was meaningful, and now there are not so many, if any at all, so writing fiction is not fulfilling the connection role it used to. But I’m getting closer to fine, I think. People are reading this, or telling me they are reading this, once in a while, and this is what I need. If I had enough people reading this, I would stop and stoop down by the naked man in the park, selfishly seeking a story, not in the altruistic fashion I mentioned above but the effect for him would be the same in any case. If I knew enough about him and could create his character here vividly on the page that would be a valuable stepping stone. To get back to fiction, to remind myself of the blurriness of the line between the stories we invent and the stories we invent but pretend there’s such a thing called truth backing them up.
There isn’t, though. It’s all subjective. Maybe what I called gray hair you’d call white, where I saw a naked man you’d say he was merely fighting off the chill of illness and he hasn’t got long in this world, if you were there, if you’d seen him. So this means that the true stories are less true than the fiction stories, because in my story his hair was a reflective gray and he was at most wearing his boxers and socks, and in fiction there’s no disputing that. You have to get into my head, or there is no story at all.
I have a manager who likes to tell me he’d love to know what’s going on in my head, and god’s truth I’d love him to know, too. I need to finish this novel, because I need to start the next one, because I don’t know any other fulfilling way to live, given what I’ve been given, in this body, this mind.