Last night I finished what I think will be the last revision of my memoir.
Which is what telling stories is, if you think about it – attempting to leave behind something that wasn’t there before. Arranging words in the order in which they belong, even before you knew that these words, in this order, existed.
Blame what you will: Changing seasons, the start of the school year for my son, an influx of income-generating writing projects, but several projects I impulsively began over the summer remain in the In-Progress folder on my computer desktop.
At a playground near my apartment in Boston, my children on side-by-side swings, their mother, my ex-wife, pushing our daughter while our son pumps his legs until he is higher than he intended. He asks for help slowing down, then stopping. I catch his legs and hold him steady. He laughs. Let go, he tells…
Steal time to write, as if time is a commodity, something to hoard and, well, steal. From my children and from my friends and even from myself…
No matter your opinion about John D’Agata, recently under-fire for his slippery (some might say sloppy) handling of facts in his 2010 book, About a Mountain, the use of innovation (read: fudged facts) in nonfiction – which he argues is his right as the author, especially when helping foster a more artistic truth – created a genre, of sorts, situated between fiction and non, creative nonfiction, which even this magazine uses to define what it publishes every month.
Revision. The idea of revision is interesting, especially in terms of revising a memoir, because I have to decide which moments from my life, from the year covered in the book, should stay and which moments should go.
Someone once said that writers write the stories that they badly want to read. These stories that writers write in order to read the stories they badly want to read are the stories that writers remember. Sometimes the words are overwhelming, if only because they often live inside for so long. These words become memories of events that have or haven’t happened, depending on the writer’s genre: nonfiction or fiction. These memories – our memories – inform who we are and what we do.
The hallway connecting the bedroom I shared with my brother to the bedroom my parents shared. I wrote on the walls in this hallway with crayon, then with pencil, and once with blank ink.
I tried pills first, and when I woke up the next morning, I decided to jump off a bridge. The bridge swayed under my feet that night as I stood beside my car, hazard lights still on. I walked a few feet. I thought about my son asleep next to Holly, my wife, who will soon be my ex-wife. I thought about my daughter growing inside of my wife, who will soon be my ex-wife. I thought about the man, with whom I had had the affair…