I am lonely. The only words today so far came from the Norm’s waitress. ‘Good morning, how are you?’. I order pancakes and sausage and she asks ‘Link, or country?’ The food is good and the heavy young waitress who tousled my hair a few weeks ago says ‘Hi’ when I’m leaving and I say ‘How are you doing?’.
The cashier inquires, ‘How was everything?’ and assures me I gave her a twenty when I fumble through my wallet after giving her a two dollar discount coupon. She counts the change that she puts in my hand.
Over at Big 5 the clerk in the shoe section asks ‘Can I help you with anything?’ and I point to a pair of Saucony shoes I’m wearing and point then to the top row where a similar pair is on display.
‘Other colors?’ I ask. He says, ‘No. They’re on sale, $44.95. These Nikes …’ and I stop him, telling him I’m usually not happy with shoes I buy later when I get home and they don’t fit. The Saucony’s fit fine, I say, so I just want another pair, like in black. There are no other colors. I slide out the aisle and around the long line of customers holding boxes, hangers with Under Armor shirts, toys, skateboards, baseball gloves, and I turn down the aisle past the protective athletic cups and racks of leather baseball and softball gloves, the metal bats stacked in the chrome holders that spin so you can pick out your favorite. The manager stands at the counter and calls ‘Next’ and then I go out the door and on to the sidewalk, past a man getting into a big Ford F-250. His door is open and I walk slowly so I can hear when he fires up the big diesel engine to hear its rumble and clacking valves and watch the big knobbed black tires spin when he puts it in reverse. The back panel has red letters; 4x4, the truck is grey and he eases the big rig over the speed bumps in the parking lot. My Jeep is in the back and it clicks open and I get in and check the phone to see if Ray Davies has called back.
The clouds have come in and the day is cool. Yesterday I wrote the scene where Teri is killed and I don’t feel real good about it. I did it, so that’s good, but I don’t know how to merge the action with the emotion, and that’s what I want to talk with Ray about.
Ramos puts up lots of good stuff to read, and today I commented on a piece by David Ulin on the fact checking debate. I used the Kennedy assassination and the variant works of film and literature that weave conspiracy theories and all kinds of political intrigue with the ‘known facts’. Nobody really questioned the film directors or writers who took all kinds of liberties with facts and investigations. But now with the advent of literary non-fiction, essayists and writers are justifying their interpretive work by saying they are telling emotional truths. Careful, I say, with the term emotional, lest it give way to all kinds of revisionist history.
I feel better now. Earlier I’d driven around, wandering, getting angry again, feeling lonely, immaterial, ignored, and while I like to blend in and I seek anonymity and crave it sometimes, often I meander around seeking some human contact and feeling alone and left out when I don’t get it. There are all kinds of places I can get to talking with people, and sometimes it just happens naturally and I don’t have to initiate anything. I must give off the ‘don’t bother me’ vibe sometimes because I can sense when people are avoiding me. Like I have a scowl, a frown, I’m looking menacing, maybe I’m carrying too many knives and thinking about appearing mean and projecting a ‘don’t fuck with me’ look that puts people off.
All is forgiven, now. Ray calls and we have a good conversation about the scene, the death scene I’d been avoiding. I finally wrote it and told him that it was something I’d avoided, because of course, I hate killing my characters, and the emotional impact is weighty. I can feel it in my shoulders for weeks, my muscles and neck tightening, as if I’m carrying an iron bar across my shoulder blades. It bends, twists, knots, tightens, sometimes releases for a while, then it returns in another location—-left to right, right to left, up, down, in, to the surface, to the muscle that connects to my right ear and when that happens it vice-grips my head into a migraine and I lay down until it loosens enough to eat or piss or walk around.
Ray says it’s common, he felt it too, the first time he killed a character. ‘It’s emotional, in a strange way,’ he says. Whether to have the main character emote, rant, cry, yell, scream, shut down, it’s entirely in keeping with the character, he says. Don’t worry too much, let the character breathe, live, work things out. He has a good sense of the story, and tells me that the tension I’m building is real and felt. I feel good about that.
He asks how far into the novel the character dies, and I briefly explain where I am. He won’t read the scene for a few weeks.
‘The editor brain is different than the writer brain,’ he says. I know immediately. ‘I don’t outline,' he says. Neither do I. A general idea of the end game, is how I put it. Knowledge of where the story is going, generally, without detailing out scenes, chapters, events such that the joy and spontaneity is sucked out long before sitting down to do the work. The work has a joy of discovery, of creativity, fresh and alive, and it has to unfold in front of me. I know the characters, the setting, enough that I can snap out dialog, sketch a scene and let the characters talk and act. But killing Teri, I had to, because it’s the event that takes Mat over the edge, off the reservation, literally, causing him to shrug off authority and go it alone.