Thursday, October 31, 2013

Memoirs, Relationships, and Rigoberto González

When I write I don't think about anything else aside from where my story is going. Where will it take me? Do I like where it's going? Does it like where I'm taking it?

It's not until much later and many edited drafts past the original that I think about reading it aloud. Last, night I read two pieces I'd never read aloud before. "La Trenza" which I'm excited is about to be published in the latest edition of Cream City Review and "Dimming Lights" which is a small heavy piece I used to divide my memoir into sections of before and after my grandmother Ita's, death.

Last night, I read them in front of an author who I read when first figuring out how to write my own work, Rigoberto González. I read his memoir Butterfly Boy: Memoirs of a Chicano Butterfly amongst others when I was still undecided on what shape my book was going to take. It was interesting because I felt as if I knew him, already had a relationship with him, and I wanted to say, "Do you remember when you told me about your mother? I thought about you when I was writing this part of the story." But, I realized he couldn't have remembered because I had a relationship with his book, not him.

What an interesting concept, for him, and I'm now realizing for myself as well. The stories we choose to share on paper make tiny relationships with our readers. Every reader develops a relationship with a book they love, but with a memoir, the stories are true. The stories happened to the author and instead of going through getting to know them, slowly as you would a friend, the formalities are skipped. Instantly, the reader is in the inner circle of thoughts and stories.

As Rigoberto began his reading, there was a moment when he said, "With memoir you're lucky to have started so young. I got started when I was older and had to rely on my memory for many things." A knot formed in my throat. I felt as if he was speaking directly to me as I stared back at his thoughtful dark eyes. I wanted to tell him, but I still missed chances, she had to die before I realized I should try to be "in the moment" with my family, my friends, the people who make up the pieces of not only my heart, but my stories. But, I didn't. I sat quietly contemplating his words as he began to read about his father.

I heard a difference in his voice from the one I'd imagined when reading Butterfly Boy. He sounded older, the words wiser somehow, or perhaps it's because of the other stories he'd told me when I read his book late at night under the covers, that I heard the tinge of nostalgia which wasn't there before.  

I wonder now, how people who have read my work feel. Do they feel the same way?
And, how many people have unknown relationships with Rigoberto, who's written several memoirs, I wonder?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Halloween Means Fall

In El Paso, the month of October means fall is here.

It seems almost as if from the first of the month the city starts to shake off the summer heat. The snake waves of heat dissipate instead of lingering and multiplying. I love this time of the year because it means winter is coming. And for me, winter means scarves and boots, coats and hats, it means fashion and not burning up with flushed cheeks while simply walking across campus. It means cold nights tucked under heavy blankets, costumes, and holidays with family.

Most people complain about the cold in El Paso, because well, it's filled with desert rats that need a sweater when it's 75, but for me it's my favorite time. It feels as if because of the cold we all bundle up and somehow end up closer. Some of us more fashionably than others.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Flashbacks, Forwards, and MetaFiction Attacks

In a week where everything has gone up and down and all around. I want to pause a la Woody Allen and tell you, "This has been a very odd week, indeed."

"What are you talking about? What happened?" asked the reader. 

I had a visit from my prior life in the shape of an ex-regional manager now friend. I loved talking and seeing my now friend, but moments of surreal flashbacks of my prior life popped in and out. I heard the language I used to speaking fall from her lips, "Yes, we made the day with a 12% increase," only now it sounded foreign.

For many years before I moved back to El Paso, my Spanish slowly shrunk down into a tiny space that almost didn't exist because of lack of use. I understood when people spoke in Spanish but couldn't always communicate with them. I felt the same shrink effects on my business language, the phrases she said, "SIM, LY, Decrease, Increase, Rally, were all familiar, I understood, but I couldn't quite communicate. The bits and pieces of business we spoke about in between catching up about family, trips, marriage, and shopping ( I definitely still speak shopping)  made me remember a life before writing, school, and teaching. A life I'm glad to have had and left.

"Okay, what else? That's not too weird. You hung out with a friend from Dallas. She brought you Sprinkles cupcakes, don't think I didn't see the photo! But what else happened?" The reader asked with a raised eyebrow. 

I heard from two friends I love dearly but unfortunately hadn't been in touch with lately. Things like life and all the dinners and work and kids and school and moodiness and alone time and significant others had gotten in the way. Both gave me news I was surprised with, shocked even as I stared wide-eyed at my phone, and I suddenly felt the weight of being an adult. The weight of growing up and not having the time for others. Paying bills and gas and and and and...uses the energy you have and leaves you simply wanting to turn the volume down on the world. Literally, where is the knob? Can someone show me? Realizing that others are looking for the same knob snaps you out of your bubble and helps you realize there many things happening at all times and it's just hard to keep up with them all. But it's important to try, because without the little strings of connection to other people bubbles become smaller, tighter, lonely places.

"That makes sense, I guess. What else happened?"

Another friend lost a family member. The loss of a sibling is something I don't even want to begin to imagine. My heart aches for her and also reminds me of that numb feeling right after someone gets that type of news. There is a raw ache in your throat from where it has closed. But, words still feel as if they want to push out and up through your chest and into the raw red flesh of your throat and out of your mouth. But, as each syllabal pushes and shoves against one another in the small cyllander space of the throat they just becomes a tight compact knot that only makes it impossible to swallow but your mouth and lips firmly sealed keep them from spilling out. That's what I remember. That's what I imagine everyone feels. That's what I imagine is happening to her. And she, holding all these words, leaves us all with just a few.The simple ones, of "I'm Sorry, My condolansces for your loss, I am here for you..."

"That's so sad."

I know! But I wanted to share because among all these stories that have happened this week (it's only Thursday) it  only made me want to come home. I want to take off my shoes, feel the cool tile against my warm feet, put on my favorite faded cotton indigo nightgown, talk about my day with my him, and hear about his day/week as we make dinner. Later, as I drift off with the murmur of the TV in the background I'll say a silent prayer for everyone I love. I'll ask that everyone be taken care of, for their hurts to be made lesser, their hearts be lighter. And as I drift off to sleep, and I feel his hand on the small of my back, I'll say thank you, because right now this is the stuff that counts. The stuff that makes life good before my mind starts flashing forward and planning and back and remembering and missing and dreaming and and and and....

"Focus!"

 Yeah, that's what I'm talking about focusing on the this stuff. The stuff that gets us through everything else that happens along the way. You know?