October 8, 2011


Writing is so hard, really. I think I used to think it came easily because I didn't know what I was doing. Not that I really know now. But, somewhere along the line, I think I've gotten accustomed to the act of self-criticism--something that absolutely eluded me during my time at Santa Cruz. Faulkner advised that we kill our darlings, and I think I'm just learning it now, after five or so years of writing with intent. It's horrifying to admit you've been so arrogant, but yes, absolutely so. I think some of this is coming up because I'm attempting to rewrite completely a piece I first tackled three years ago. It was part of my senior thesis for fiction writing at Santa Cruz, and I read a portion of it at the graduates' reading. And I thought it was pretty great.

It wasn't. It was chock full of darlings, so choked with them that I'd sacrificed scene for pretty summary and repetition. Just a mess from start to finish. An exercise in wordplay without an ounce of structure or restraint. What a nightmare. Also, it had the worst title imaginable, something I remember commenting on at the reading itself: The Winter Ham. Don't even get me started.

It's an amazing thing, to get some years between you and the things you have loved. Whether they be people or the ideas of people or the mere shadows of people you once met. Be they places or dances or songs, impermanent as tide. Some things get stretched and faded and some just get distilled. They come through time reduced but not the lesser for it. I took sick glee in slashing through that old piece today, wreaking havoc of all things beautiful and indulgent. Delete delete delete. It's probably a fitting project, given the nature of the week. I realize now, days after the anniversary, that perhaps what's bothered me so much about this one is that if Laura had lived, she would today be as old as I was the day she died. All of twenty-two. Someone asked me how old I am this week and when I said twenty-five I saw her half wince and force a smile. But it's okay, I wanted to say. It's well earned. I come through this week with some goals, better realized given the task at hand. I am seeking discipline. In writing, in trying, in hoping. Because these things aren't so easy, really, though we make them sound that way sometimes.

God. The Winter Ham. I can hardly believe it.

October 2, 2011

1095 Days.

She died three years ago. I was twenty two years old, and she was nineteen. There are a lot of numbers to associate with this kind of event. It seems easier, sometimes, to simplify it to the numbers. October 3, 2008. The hour of the day, the minute. But if I've learned anything in the three years since my sister died, it is that there is no simplifying this. It does not reduce. The grief changes, becoming more like an old, deep bruise than the fresh blood that it replaced.

Other things become stranger. It is strange to grow up without her. It is strange that she will always be nineteen years old. And it is strange that as I grow up and change and move I become less like the person my sister knew. When Laura died, I was twenty two years old. I was one year out of UCSC, and still living in an apartment in downtown Santa Cruz with Hannah. I was as a newly trained projectionist at the Nickelodeon. I had been dating Colby for about half a year. A lot has changed since that afternoon in October. I spent another half year in Santa Cruz, working at the Nick, dating Colby. I don't remember a lot of it, to be honest. I did what I had to do to get through. I went to a therapist, I cooked a hell of a lot. And then in April my therapist said, If you could do anything right now what would you do? I said, I would go to my grandparents' house in Virginia and live there. And she said, Okay. In July of 2009 I sold the bulk of my belongings, put my furniture in storage, and crossed the country with what little could fit in my car alongside Hannah, Alex and a fern. I arrived at Homagin on August 1 and spent the next year in the house. I spent a lot of that year by myself, a time during which I dismantled and rebuilt myself to the best of my ability. In the winter, between building fires and riding my bicycle on slow-laden roads wearing a man's bulky overcoat from the downstairs closet, I applied to graduate school. I got into American University's MFA program, and left the island for that in August 2010. I moved into my DC apartment on California Street Northwest and started school in a week period. In the year since, I've written upwards of one hundred pages, made a whole new bevy of friends, and come to value the little Virginia county I left behind more every time I've returned for a weekend, a week, a month this summer.

If my sister could meet me now, I wonder what she would think. It is an unfair proposition. It depends so much on the suspension of so much disbelief. It requires a lot of what-ifs, and those aren't something I readily indulge in anymore. In truth, I left them behind on October 3, 2008. There are some things that a "what if?" can't remedy. Some things are too hard to pretend your way out of. My sister died, and as the years grow between that day and today, I find there's a lot I can't imagine my way into anymore. I do allow myself to think that if she could, Laura would be proud of me. I would like to think she would like to know me. I can't say for sure, but I'm getting more used to that.