It was sunny when she finally finished that book she was writing. The one that danced under her skin like nerves on a first date. The one she dreamed of writing while scratching out rhyming poems with her stubby pencil the words neatly centered in the middle of colored 3 by 5 index cards when she was 5 years old.
The book came to her at the urging of God, a Catholic intervention perhaps? It was CCD at 6 am on a Thursday where she learned that her knowledge of the bible was next to nothing and not all donuts were equal. It was there she made the stifling realization that Mathew, Mark, Luke or John would be awesome characters in a black comedy or a cult film….. and that they mustn’t have had scissors back then cause Jesus desperately needed a haircut. The one story she knew was the fish and the loaves of bread and the other that priest told without speaking any words, that wine drinking in the morning is encouraged so long as you pretend its blood. Yeah this was alright, this could be plot worthy?
Life went on, years went on, wine drinking went on, not a whole lot of writing went on unless it was on the back of a coaster at the bar. The book had occupied her mind like the flutter of a shuttlecock, dictated by the winds. It was to be published by age 40 and at this time of writing she was 46…….and a half.
The book, the one she is writing, is the tale of 4 friends and parallels the story of her struggle, a work of fiction, “no, God NO, not a memoir!” she surmises that a memoir is simply an extension of the thick narcissism which runs high in her Sicilian DNA, like gambling and a thirst for wine. What she is writing is a work of fiction.
The story is beautiful, the same way there is beauty in a heavy weight champion’s bounce, and beauty in a man tending to a man, quick work of a team doctor’s dab, beauty in the lack of concern as he butterflies that gushing split brow, beauty in that there is a sport that encourages a knockout, and highlights it on CNN.
The book she, okay I am writing came from a nugget that was both spiritual and devastating. It came like a vision through stained glass, shining only on me. I knew I’d write it at age 21. I sat in the pew next to only family and listened just after they played that god awful song “The Wind Beneath my Wings,” the pain in Bette’s voice mirrored ours, made our hearts porous and the song somehow sounded less offensive. We sat in our suits and skirts with the eyes as big as toddlers, staring at the priest fixed and ready for the next song and hand motions to go with it? It was my brothers funeral he was 29. He said it twice maybe three times, “his life was taken from him” but the only words I left hearing were “ We will see him again” said the priest. I left inspecting every face of every person I passed by for the next week straight. Cause I believed him.
It took a while to trade playfulness for recklessness. It often got caught up, that story in me……tossed back and forth, back and forth, over the net, in the net, suspended, lifeless; trapped. No one views a shuttlecock with much value, I needn’t explain why, the name says it all.
The more the busyness of life and college and marriage and babies, took root, the more I couldn’t get to that story. And the more I couldn’t get to that story, the more I needed to. I needed to write, to feel it, to tell it from my own lips with the care of a parent at bedtime followed by a forehead kiss. I needed to tell it to the child in myself, the one who still believed in love and fairy tales and Santa Clause, the one who believed in the worth of children who were never told bedtime stories. I wanted it still but it was inaccessible like a Chinese delicacy. I wanted to taste it but I also knew after I did, I could never taste it again.
Her story; my story, was her only friend, like the drunk and the bottle. She wanted it like that. Most writers subconsciously channel pain to make for richer writing. But this way, At least she could decide for herself when to write the chapter of disappointment. “I’m writing a book,” she would tell people- just to hear the words. Soon they stopped listening. Was it a truth or lie, whatever it was, it was as anxiety producing as a muffled scream. It was as ridiculous as holding in a sneeze.
It was the longest badminton game in history. It ended up in the Guinness book of World Records. It was described as the game that divided doubt from belief, dreams from wounds, love from hate. She could still recall the day she had to stand on the sidelines and decide first where to stake the net, she practiced her swing for years, pictured the perfect volley, down to the smell of faint BO and sunscreen, roasted peanuts and beer. The stadium was filled with people; Brad Pitt and Channing Tatum, Jon Hamm, Joyce Carol Oates and Alice Munro. She could swear she saw Lucia Berlin, her ghost anyway. They were watching, they were really watching! With another sip of water, she swallowed hard and looked around, there was only silence then the chirp of a single bird, there she was in her back yard alone.