Well, here I am: it’s 10 minutes to 7 am, I’m crankily sipping my way through my only cup of coffee of the day, every muscle feels like somebody beat it with a meat hammer (I am reintroducing myself to the gym, and as usual I overdid it somewhat)…and I had a lovely, but late, night.
I could be sleeping. I don’t need to start getting ready for work for another 45 minutes. And I told myself I’d get some more sleep, since WEAVE is done, and I can. But I still wake up at my usual time, ready to write.
Since I’m here, and since @SarahMlynowski started a cool new hashtag on Twitter last night that I caught up with this morning –tweet something to your high school self under #gimmeacall (the responses are really great)– I think it’s time for another how the hell post, courtesy of grogginess, nostalgia, and, um–
Yeah, I think that’s it.
Anyway. I am fifteen, a somewhat goofy sophomore in patched jeans (deliberately patched, that is) and a cap-sleeve shirt that was pretty before I stole it from my mother and frayed the hem. I have cut my hair short, really short, for the first time since 3rd grade, and I’m not yet used to the feel of air on the back of my neck. I have my notebook with me everywhere, and ink on the tips of every finger on my right hand except the pinky.
I hate my English class. I wish we could study Stephen King.
Until today, that is. Today we abandon Hemingway and Faulkner, long boring vocabulary lists and the vague concept of proper punctuation, to read Raymond Carver’s short story Cathedral. Mr. Klofas passes out the books, and I scowl and stare longingly out the window, my newly short hair standing up wildly because I run my hands through it when I am annoyed, and I am annoyed by everything today. Katie bends earnestly over her book, and I heave a sigh at the unbearable futility of it all (yes, the hormones have definitely kicked in since our last installment) and open to the appropriate page, prepared to be underwhelmed.
This blind man, an old friend of my wife’s…
I am already underwhelmed. But at least I am reading instead of making up sentences using the word lugubrious or trying to decide what an independent clause is.
I scan, issuing more sighs to show how underwhelmed I am… and in another second am caught up in the snide narrator, the fragmented sentences scattered throughout, the undertone of jealousy and discomfort — I am thinking about how different this is from A Separate Peace, how much more alive this is, how the personality of this sullen narrator is coming out of every sentence.
I am getting voice for the first time.
God knows I’ve read enough to recognize it, but I am getting it now, just this minute I’ve been hit over the head with it. I cannot stop reading. The narrator shuts his eyes and draws a cathedral, the blind man’s hand over his, and now I am getting something else — story as metaphor, a whole plot aimed toward one clear idea that’s never actually spelled out, because when you’re this good you don’t need to.
I’ve curled up in my half-chair-thing at this point, and I have a well-chewed pen in my mouth and another in my hand.
I’ve seen these things before, voice, metaphor, simile– I’ve read hundreds of books just in the past few years. But right now, hunched over one of those incredibly uncomfortable half-desk-with-chair-attached things and bathed in the unflattering glare of florescents, I am seeing the separate pieces, and how they fit, and what they make when you do that, how it turns into something totally new. I am seeing how it might be possible to create something like this.
I’ve never thought about writing before this point. It’s just something I do. Sometimes I try to do it more like something I’ve read, and sometimes I just throw it out there spelling and grammar be damned. Today I am thinking about it, and I couldn’t be more stunned if Mr. Klofas started singing Ave Maria and juggling the paperweights on his desk.
I finish, and read it again while Mr. Klofas is talking. I’m sure he sees something on my face, because he keeps asking me what I thought –but I shrug a sullen shoulder, because I couldn’t explain this even if I wanted to, and after all, I have an image to uphold here.
I take the book home with me.
So thanks, Mr. Carver. I think that was the first time I read something and thought I want to be able to do this.