Friday, November 26, 2010

She Was Reading

I used to believe that identity was something we choose and form and shape by our own will.  It bothered me to no end that society and family and environment shaped our stories so much.  So, I simply believed otherwise, opting for a philosophy of self-reliance.  Still, I couldn't shake the notion that who I am is, to a large degree, based upon those around me.

With that in mind, I wrote the following piece:

She Was Reading

She was Reading, a bookish child whose fate was sealed by the solitary pronouncement of two pseudo-bohemians who never should have procreated. Bored and restless with the vapid poetry of the smoky jazz houses, they grew tired of looking tired and restless with the restlessness. She was their avante-gard project.

She did everything within her power to grow out of her name, trying to live out her cartoon fantasies of an image-bound future of visual media and technocratic cyber codes and Twitter in all its simple glory and the melodramatic Lifetime movies her dad would watch when no one was looking. But alas, she was Reading. All the time. Everywhere. She couldn't escape the magical icons crying out each monosyllabic utterance, an abstract chorus creating meaning and worlds and memories in an eternal flame she could never extinguish. She was Reading.

Growing up, her dad had read her Atlas Shrugged, because the folks in Whoville seemed bound too closely to the meter and rhyme of an impostor doctor drawing saggy-chested women who seemed too realistic a representation of a coffee shop crowd past its prime. Her mom read her Pride and Prejudice, not to offer an insight, but to cleanse the palate afterward and prepare her for the day that she could grow into The Color Purple. She wore the heavy, industrial verbiage like a child's costume jewelry and by fifth grade she had realized her parents couldn't see how gaudy it had become in an age where nouns were already becoming verbs and a text was anything but sacred.

Sometimes she would step out onto the grass, barefoot with freshly painted toe nails, envious of the militaristic marching ants who had freedom in their lack of freedom. She took serious the call to consider the lilies, not for romantic impulses or for the sense of spirituality, but to shut out the stream of letters. And even then, when she closed her eyes, the words appeared in red-letter Garamound. She considered it sacrilige and so she would imagine a short, portly man yelling at a crowd in a language she couldn't understand. But inevitably she saw the red letters.

If words could create reality she had no need for a creative destruction but simply an escape. She recalled St. Paul. "The letter kills but the breath creates life." And she'd pray to the Unknown for a flash of light on a Damascus Road to blind her from her typographic typecast.

Fantasy. Embrace. Flower. Incense. Rosary. Polaroid. Clay. Stained-glass windows. Kodachrome.

She turned to vinyl before it was vintage and listened impatiently through an album just to hear the repetitive scratch, cycling quietly, wordless in form and flavor and texture as if to tell, even Frank Sinatra, "I can outlast your words." It was her cathedral of scratch and she dreaded the notion that club DJs had turned a sound so pure into a formal structure - pimped out this beautiful silent non-silence to the coked-up college kids dry humping to banal beats like a puppy on a warm blanket.

She pulled out a Moleskin her brother had bought her and she began the violent swirl that would eventually disguise itself as a very feminine ivy. Yet, mindlessly, she began to form a letter, not a noticable letter, just a lower-case "l" or perhaps a "q" in waiting. Methodically, melodically matching each stroke with the cadence of the city bus where she tried to focus on the urine-soaked passenger who mumbled gigantic curses against capitalism and socialism and nationalism and any ism he could muster up in the moment.

Paragraphs and pages. Ink bleeding black, words flowing into one another in a cursive she hadn't felt since she was in the primary grades. Drunk on the words, she woke up in a daze, head pounding, the Moleskin tatooed with lines she was afraid to read. "It was merely mental masturbation," she wrote.



"Okay maybe a bad one night stand. This isn't love."

She hid the notebook in her satchel and began to crochet, but even the repetitive hip hop on her tiny earbuds seemed to tell the same nihilistic narrative in the same iamb of a Shakespeare tragedy and without thinking, she began thinking and reciting and enjoying the rhapsody.

"You can't escape who you are," she wrote, then crossed out the "you" in thick, drippy ink and wrote "one" as if to say, "I can't take ownership of the first person. Not yet."

"One can't escape who she is," she rewrote it, until eventually it became first person. "I can't escape who I am."

Perhaps she could wean herself. Find a paperback action thriller or check out the latest soccer mom craze, be it wizards or sexy vampires or Oprah's monthly choice. Or maybe she'd find a detox between red rock canyon walls, a desert place where words could not break-in and she'd find solace in her yoga and hiking.

She fell in love, like an awkward virgin couple on a honeymoon, uncertain about whether it was any good and scared about venturing further, but still feeling that faint sense of normalcy. She was Reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment