Lately, though, I've been reading Cheryl Strayed. First, Wild. Which completely freaked me out, it resonated so loudly. Not just the coincidence kind of resonance (her mom died at the hospice in Northern Minnesota where my dad was working at the time), but the place-in-the-world resonance. I'd never read anything before about the hole that is left at the end of a chaotic but mostly not unhappy childhood when that childhood falls apart. Her mom died, my parents divorced at the same time. But the sense of dislocation she describes is exactly exactly EXACTLY what I felt at the time. If my whole identity was being a sister in a family, and there was not longer a family, then what was I? For awhile I cried, screamed, fought, forced. I wanted us to be a family again, so I could be a person again. I gave up fighting long before I recognized it was never my fight in the first place. I went west. I changed my name.
Anyway, this week, Jeff and I went to see Strayed (Cheryl? Sugar? How do you name the person who you never met but who shone light on your soul's darkest corner?) read from her new book, Tiny Beautiful Things - we all got copies of the book which I've been reading this week. And something about reading it makes me realize I've been sort of all wrong about this writing thing. I heard this voice this morning on my bike ride: It's not a thing to save inside until its fully bloomed, sweetpea. The more you write, the more writing there is.
So, here's a tiny story. A guy came to my office this week. His pants were half falling off - he said he found them in a dumpster and I believed it. He smelled pretty bad, like a guy who had found his pants in a dumpster. He was wearing grey hole-less socks that said REI on them, but no shoes. I was fixated on the shoes. He kept trying to get me to buy him a train ticket, but I kept trying to figure out how to get him shoes. "I don't need shoes, I got these good socks," he kept saying. He left without either shoes or a train ticket, but with a jar of peanut butter we found later on the sidewalk, half eaten and already colonized by a swarm of tiny black ants.