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Not me, her

In 1987, I found myself trying to write about a high school girlfriend that had been molested by her father when she was a child. I was 19 years old, struggling to find my way through a screenwriting assignment about delivering character. The idea was to describe messy young love between two Sid and Nancy want-to-be's. But that failed, as I could not stomach oversimplifying her complicated past, events that shaped her life as a 16 year old with a mohawk, a smart mouth, a lingering stare. I understood that I had to start at the very beginning.

No one wanted to hear the story. When it was my turn to read in class, it even came to be that some of the other students asked to stand in the hallway before they heard another description of what happened in that lonely little house in the middle of nowhere. I was trying, and failing, and trying again to get things right, to explain how this happened, how it could happen to this girl, how this man found his way to acts of selfishness and d…

after post truth

I pulled the white table from the balcony. It was covered with greasy soot, the stuff that drifts in the windows every day here. After a few soapy passes, it gleamed wet in the afternoon light. My favorite pen, an almost-empty notebook, a cup of good coffee, they rested there. I sat down to write something new on the first day of the year.

The plan was to write a piece of non-fiction, to take an event from my life, a terrifying one, the kind that breeds nightmares and get it down on paper. But these thoughts kept creeping up my arms as I worked. There is no difference between a truth and a lie these days. There are truths and then there are alternate truths. Narratives are controlled. And these narratives - they all pretend to be the truth.

My pen rests on the page. It has grown dark and I decide to light a plate full of these cheap candles from Ikea. Corny, romantic, and they smell of sweet cinnamon but I light them all the same. I cannot stop thinking that our world has fallen apart and we are all in denial. It ruptured some time ago, and we could not embrace that. Our old ideas of war and peace, they mean nothing now. In our age, we can be at war without soldiers on the ground. We can tell ourselves that our little corner of the world is at peace as long as we watch the screens, pat ourselves on the back and say "whew, we dodged those bullets" and breathe sighs of relief, when in fact we have been bleeding for a long time, hemorrhaging for years. Who will stand up, and admit something? I do not mean defeat, just coming clean.



There was a moment almost thirty years ago in documentary class, when our beloved professor went around the room asking how our treatments were going for the film we would make that semester. I told him about these empty trains, these forgotten, rusting hulks that once glued the country together, belching smoke and inspiring people to run out, to wave as they passed, a modern miracle. He paused, and told me about a beautiful case of lenses he owned, for his film camera. He imagined them broken, in the mud someday, useless after hearing my story. But it was not a story, it was something I had seen with my own eyes, something I wanted to record before it crumbled to nothing.

Later in the hallway, he leaned over and told me, "No one wears white."



It is dark now, and the candles are low. I do not like what I have written very much. The sharp memory of jangled nerves and fear, of hushed phone calls and the undertow of helplessness, they just are not there on the page. It just sounds sad and angry. But maybe that is the truth, and the rest was an opera in my head.

I don't know.

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