I may come by writing more naturally than many. It’s a legacy from years of bullying. Of being shoved up against the lockers. Or sneered at, hands clasped over mouths, hiding grins than revealed not mirth but the violence of intolerance, the insouciance of fear of not fitting in. Of superiority.
Or just fucking because.
I come by Voice unnaturally. Some birth theirs through epiphanies or practice or persistence. Oft times through ignorance or indifference, unfettered by theory. Many, though, summon it from a template, an imprint, a consequence. Of education, or lack thereof.
Some, like me, had Voice ripped from the womb of difference, a strand at a time, encased in loneliness and despair. When the timpani of corruption and exclusion silences the self, you ache to be invisible. You are anything but…
You are branded, marked.
I learned, eventually, to wear it with pride.
It began, as these things are wont to do, at a beginning, of huddling in a corner, observing. Wearing that cloak of invisibility, yet refusing to become tone deaf to the rhythms and mannerisms of speech, of the posturing and maneuvering through social space that defined power and elegance, that revealed the thick and thin veneers of those who were too like me to recognize their own vulnerabilities.
It took endless infinities before chaos sorted into sound bites, miniature scenes enacted on miniature stages resolved into one act plays, slices of life, thematically without purpose. That would come later, after the scenes became paragraphs and the paragraphs transported on the language of discourse punctuated with the intercourse of subtext and sounds I once heard, hidden away in a corner being invisible, those sounds resolved and revolved in complex patterns bespoke with simplicity and elegance.
Such is the power of language. Its power is a gift, one we all tap in our wish to be noticed, to matter, for even those who shelter in invisibility, it is a state of being demanding of recognition, is it not?
For what’s the point of invisibility if no one sees it, perceives its origins, acknowledges it?
Such is the power of writing. It allows expression of a very unique type, tapping into the hidden and forbidden, revealing the fractals of the person we once were, the person we are, perhaps who we want to be. It is different from STORY, yet at a cellular level, buried deep in the DNA of letters and words and the lemniscate of collaboration among them, lies the lie…
I am only the scribe.
From this lofty perch, where age, experience and too many tragedies and scars and brands have defined and redefined this self… I know that to be a falsehood. The STORY perhaps, yes, the tale and all its particulars, the denizens who cohabit roles both assigned and walk-on, the set design and stage directions… all that might spring fully fashioned, yet the choreography of STORY is crafted over time, its growth organic. Never seamless.
Movement seldom is.
STORY has elements, historical and otherwise. It is a craft one learns and practices. It is a template and guidepost, a tick the box beat of a compact between storyteller and audience. It has the bizarre quality of being insanely rigid and unbearably plastic. It has unmatched tensile strength yet it snaps and self-destructs on a seeming whim. It is bendy and pliable.
STORY exists and persists and takes on a life of its own, its particulars on endless repeat. It never gets old…
Why is that?
STORY is amenable to analysis, to parsing out its component parts. And those parts must fulfill the requirements of functionality, tinged with effectiveness. With purpose. Value may be assigned to STORY.
But not to VOICE.
Voice is what makes STORY universal. Voice is unique. It is driven by the engine of history and the tears of solitude, the pain of self-loathing, the joy of touch, the fear of touching. Voice is the self of the storyteller. Voice is a memorial to bravery and courage and perhaps an unconscious need to shed invisibility once and for all.
Voice takes STORY and turns the template into art.
Here is my VOICE. From the literary fiction WiP, A Season of Firsts…
When he was twelve, he sat in that spot, that exact one, the weeds and rushes cupping his ass. The horizon is endless when you’re twelve. Mostly because you don’t know about that, about what it means to not see an end to things, to not have four walls and ugly chipped tile and corridors that parade on forever, and it’s an effort to move through the crush and when you do, sometimes it gets wrong.
Wrong. Wrong enough to recognize it. Wrong enough you want more. More, like in endless.
But endless, like a horizon, doesn’t count unless it really is. Mostly it’s just there, but sometimes you cotton onto the meaning of it. Like when you’re twelve and the long dry stem you twirl and shape into a cylinder is thick enough to roll on your tongue, back and forth, back and forth. Thin enough you got to talk around it.
Talking round stuff you learned early. Especially at twelve.
Hey. Nah, nothing much, you? Wanna go… Where, shrugs, don’ matter, nothing much doing.
The best thing about nothing much was how much there was in nothing. You got to look past the big shit and probe at what you couldn’t see right off, making shit up if you had to because nothing much doing was a challenge and a promise so you looked hard or you skipped stones across the pond… Fffp, fffp, fffp and it filled up nothing with something.
It was in those particulars you found the truth of things.
That wasn’t exactly his thought, it was a halleluiah, come to Jesus thing his grams said when the notion took her. He ignored it most times, except there in the soft bottom of grass and weeds and reeds and the sound of bullfrogs reminding him of nothing.
At twelve you weren’t original, but the odd sound, a remembrance of canon and scripture and all the words you shut out because at twelve they were too big, too weighty to own, sometimes you got a surprise, found it sticking in places inside you didn’t expect.
But mostly you just let it happen.
Even the wrong, especially the wrong.