Neither here nor there
There’s a writing exercise that goes: whatever happened in your day, turn it into a fiction scene. Fiction scratches, paradoxically, at truth easier than non. First-person, true-to-life ramblings = self-absorbed scribbles. Third person description and dialogue tags = art. Emotion hangs easier on characters with plausible deniability. Like when a woman gets hysterical about glyphosate, you describe how the morning light warmed her thick brown hair and auburn doe eyes with large pupils. Your hair is honey blonde, mama, and you’ve always said your eyes are too pale.
Ergo: not you, obvi.
My parents moved five miles away from a vineyard this past spring. My brother is here, recovering from surgery, and when his wife came to visit for his birthday I made the mistake of driving everyone to a wine tasting to celebrate a good recovery day post-op. Mom didn’t realize the vineyards were so close. She knows they spray Round Up. Now she knows it’s in our soil.
In the well water.
In the air.
It would be expensive to move — between M and yourself, you’ve spent weeks emptying storage units and making beds and collecting off-gassed furniture from a neighborhood list-serv and unboxing boxes and helping Dad install UV lights in the air ducts and purifiers in the hallways and dehumidifiers in the basement and HEPA filters in the Miele canister vacuum. You’ve tested for EMFs and steam cleaned the rugs with baking soda and vinegar. You chase mice with peppermint oil, never RAID.
You scroll Instagram and feel a second-full of solace when you come across a beautiful acquaintance who’s hyperbaric-oxygen obsessed, too.
Maybe it’s not so weird.
Someday I’ll write a character to represent me in a novel. I’ll explain her irrational attachment to an overly sanitized 500-square foot studio apartment in her mid-30s as a direct rebellion to her parents. She’ll get a high from lighting scented candles and microwaving dinner. When a mouse appears it’s hers to glue trap. When mold rears its head it’s hers to bleach. At night, she’ll lie in bed naked with the windows open, absorbing EMFs from the Russian Embassy next door. Watch as they electrify her bloodstream.
Explain this freedom to her inner child.
How sensual indulgences like this are even legal in adulthood escapes them both.
Is there a word for the realization that my memoir-ish writing is full of lies but my fiction is honest?
I like this, and sometimes start with a what-if circumstance and run a far off story from it. Most important, I recently used this technique in helping me pack. "Lean and clean move!" I've declared it to myself repeatedly, though know when I'm not hitting the mark. I am still in a clearing phase nearly a year down the line since first thought. Oh yes, recovering through a health condition amplified what I already neglected.
But this is the real kicker. I must admit that I might have become a sand dollar hoarder! Over a decade near a beach more cold than what I would enjoy, so many sand dollars perfectly sat there for me to pick up over time. So, I started packing them. Yes, some are qualified art supplies, and anything with a barnacle attached is a keeper. I said just one box, which was provided by a wine distributor and of good size, and still had an amount I will not admit remaining to let go. I thought about if I was moving in with a housemate, how would I explain my sand dollars. That did not seem resolve to my desire. So, I changed the scene. Now, I am moving into a new place along with a significant other and we are sorting our boxes of stuff. I did this because I wrapped and packed a whole second box of sand dollars. How am I going to explain to someone I love that I'm moving two wine cases full of sand dollars into our new home. "What's in the box? - Sand dollars. … And, what is this box? - Sand dollars." There's more dialogue, though creating a fictional significant other to call me on my sand dollar hoarding helped. (I still have two boxes, though the greater of the lot has moved on.)