Friday, 8 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Forty-Five: Tranquil

A dictionary resembles the world more than a novel does, because the world is not a coherent sequence of actions but a constellation of things perceived. It is looked at, unrelated things congregate, and geographic proximity gives them meaning. If events follow one another, they are believed to be a story. But in a dictionary, time doesn't exist. ABC is neither more or less chronological than BCA. To portray your life in order would be absurd: I remember you at random. My brain resurrects you through stochastic details, like picking marbles out of a bag.

—Edouard LevĂ©

A writing prompt from a book I'm reading asks, How did you get here?
I drove; I flew; I walked out of the sea. Maybe...

I think of a friend writing about her time in the Congo. Gunfire and Land Cruisers. Road blocks and outrage. White foreigners; the failure of the UN; the importance of remaining neutral so everyone would make it home alive.

How did you get here? I think of Mike and I scouring the Downtown East Side, listening to anyone who would talk to us.

How did you get here? I don't know what I expected the writing life to be. Early mornings and strong coffee, an ocean view and a comforting hearth? Late nights and expensive scotch? Tom Waits? Ernest Hemingway? Something romantic, probably. Not glamorous necessarily, just more cohesive, tightly knit like high-thread-count sheets, without the confusion and doubt—should I just tear them up, turn it all into rags, buy new linens? Is this what I ought to do, what I'm meant to do? What does it matter anyway when there's bills to pay and dinner to cook, and the answer buzzing inside you like an angry swarm of hornets.

How did you get here? I jumped off a banana-seat bicycle when I was five and threw my fists in the air—my father holding the bike steady until he knew I could balance, and then his quiet triumph cascading behind me all the way to the corner; I ran up a hill; I slid down...let's say, a few times; I took a train, a bus, a merry-go-round; I decided I didn't like ferris wheels, or hot dogs, or low-budget ale; I waited in line; I learned to ask questions; I paddled a canoe; I bought a dog (he got me further); I fell in love; one foot in front of the other; Upstairs, Downstairs and Are You Being ServedPBS with my grandparents on Saturday night, short glasses of port on a TV tray, the volume turned as loud as it would go and my grandfather, blind as a bat, humming along to the intros; I listened to his murky breath lingering too long on Amphora tobacco—in and out, tranquil behind heavy drapes and long winters; I payed attention.

How did you get here? Mr. Donavon reading our stories out loud to the whole grade six class and then saying to me, Don't ever stop writing.

How did you get here? I told a beautiful woman at a party that I loved her. A stranger. I never saw her again. I was 19. 27. 32. Her lips were cold and she smelled of leather; her breath was hot and she tasted like cinnamon; she turned her head and walked away.

And on and on. You know how it goes, this life—meaningful, nonsensical, the most important, the least likely. 

How did you get here?

I wrote.

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