What are you writing?
Everyone wants to know.
Wretchedly miserable love poems, I say.
The poems or the love?
You, of all people, must know.
(from beach bag journal, 2005)
Kauai is a study in couples.
Yesterday’s bride perches poolside, feet dangling in the water. A fraternity-size of group of men surrounds her, holding out icy cups of beer.
“No more!” she insists and jumps to her feet.
As she sashays away the rhinestone word scripted across her bikini bottom sparkles in the afternoon sun. The man wearing the white Groom hat downs his beer and doesn’t follow.
Fewer people will look you in the eye and say, I could be your lover than the number who will say they’re thinking about becoming a writer too.
Which one of these is the harder thing to do?
(from beach bag journal 2006)
The friends who join us on this trip point out The Feral Pig, a restaurant that used to be a breakfast place. “We ate there on our honeymoon. ”
These are the kind of friends we’ve had since before we both married that hot summer of 1980, D and I trading bridesmaid duties.
Today they giggle, then tell us a honeymoon story.
One morning, we saw a couple eating breakfast there.
They just sat at a table, drinking coffee, reading the newspaper. They never even talked to each other.
We think of that couple all the time. We don’t to be like them.
Repeat after me: Give the people a love story.
Los viejitos sólo deben salir para ser amables. Old people should only go out in public to be sweet.
This quote is attributed to Leopoldo, the uncle of Aura Estrada, Aura, the muse and amor of author Franciso Goldman, Aura, the woman who died in a freak body surfing accident and then Francisco wrote about her in the most beautiful book I’ve ever read. In Say Her Name, Francisco says,
“Hold her tight, if you have her; hold her tight, I thought, that’s my advice to the living. Breathe her in, put your nose in her hair, breather her in deeply. Say her name…”
He can write about love like that because he doesn’t have it anymore and no one can accuse him of being sentimental.
I read Say Her Name on the beach and remember a question I once asked an entire class at the end of a semester when I was a literature grad student.
“Where, where is the happy love story, the great literature happy love story?”
Titles peppered me like small darts. Love in the Time of Cholera. Anna Karenina. Lolita.
So I start with Lolita. I find love in a million masks: obsessiveness, possessiveness, irrationality, kindness, tenderness, anger, illness, forgiveness, relief and release, madness. Is this the only kind of love that makes great books? I really need to know the answer to this. I really need to find a happy love literary feat.
My friend who’s never been to grad school but loves to read suggests Rebecca. I look it up, it’s a romance novel. I don’t read it.
Maybe love and literature are like the raindrops in a storm. Who can write well about one small droplet of water without evoking thunder and floods and the loss of sun behind clouds? One small drop of fresh water. Where’s the miracle in that?
“We’re on our honeymoon.”
I tell this to my husband, (isn’t that a glorious word?), I tell my husband this as we stand at Gate 45 in LAX preparing to board our flight to Kauai.
“Our honeymoon. Yes. I like the sound of that.”
In truth, we’ve been married almost 32 years.
Writers block only happens when you stop telling the truth.
(Scribbled in my Theory of Fiction Class Notes)
The Gray Divorcés
The divorce rate for people 50 and over has doubled in the past two decades. Why baby boomers are breaking up late in life like no generation before.
Wall Street Journal headline, March 2012.
One small drop of fresh water. Where’s the miracle in that?
Repeat after me:
Give the people a love story.
You don’t brick over the hearth if the fire burns out. You gather kindling and tinder. You haul in logs from the woods. Hell, you cut down the whole damn forest if you must.
You hold a long-stemmed match to crumpled paper of your past and breathe and blow to fan the flame. You swear to tend this fire as if your life depends upon it.
You don’t want to be that couple that doesn’t hold hands on the beach, nor the one who doesn’t talk at dinner. You want to be that one over there, the one laughing in the surf, holding hands. I wonder if they’re on their honeymoon?
“Write love stories. I benefit when you write love stories. I’ll be your research.”
J says this to me one day when I say I’m only writing sad stories.
(From my journal, March, 2007)
Just don’t lie to me says the writer to the heart. It makes the work turn out badly.
I tell J I’m sorry. I can’t write a happy love story. I wonder though: can I write you a life instead?
~With love, C