In less than a week, I turn 42 years old. Forty two. I don’t mind it, really. I have much for which I can be grateful for and plenty to look forward to this coming year.
There are days, though, when I feel pulled back, when my mind sifts through memories like old recipes, and I become stuck in images of me at twenty-one or my life at twenty-two.
I am swirling through a warm summer in Oklahoma; walking barefoot in the red dirt by the river; taking in a cool night on top of a roof; sitting on the wood floor of that house we rented, playing records we found at the thrift store. There are communal meals – an Eggplant Parmesan dish that took four people and six hours to bake – and quiet bike rides alone, in the early morning hours, to open the bakery where I worked.
My time there ran its course, yet I return, again and again, searching for something. Unable to let go.
Those are the memories that filter their way into stories. They fall clunky and raw onto the page, are taken apart and molded back together again, three or four (or five) times over. The stories wax and wane in how much is revealed, and then, finally – because they are still too much or not enough – they get put into a drawer. Pushed to the way back.
And, those are the stories that refuse to lay dormant.
I have such a piece that keeps bucking its way to the rewrite table. One minute I love the story; the next, I cringe at the thought of anyone reading it. Still, I can’t let it go, can’t stop rewriting. I’ve taken out truths and replaced them with fiction. I’ve changed names and changed them back again. I’ve left out the parts of me that burn.
This story needs a place, whether it’s a permanent station in a notebook no one will find for years to come, or…who knows. I put it through the chopping block yesterday, and I’m giving it one last showing tomorrow, under fresh and experienced eyes at a critique group. After that….
I’ll be honest: I’m scared.
How do you tame the stories that haunt you?
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