I have voices in my head. I call them the production crew. They’re how I write. The editor made me write this very sentence about four different ways. The critic told me not to write it at all.
I’ve been doing some grief work with a therapist for the past several weeks. I blame the documentarian in my head, the one who records everything, the footage of life that I later review and write from. But more on that in a moment.
Hang on. The critic is having a shit fit right now. The critic, a lazy balding type (who also smokes cigars, of course), actually took the time to get out of his chair (which rarely happens) and stomp across my brain to the centerstage.
Stop. Quit it. You don’t tell them that. No one wants to hear about the oversensitive blathering you do in therapy.
And the editor, who is always uptight and overly-cautious, is half-shrugging and half-nodding along with the critic. The editor plays it safe, defers always to the critic, and has no creative mind of his own.
Fuck those guys. (Who also never let me curse.) I’ve learned grieving isn’t like camping. You can’t just rough it out in the wilderness. Besides, I should have known better. I hate camping. I’m a princess. I like showers and sheets with thread counts.
By now, as per usual, the critic has shirked out of the room. It usually takes about a page — 300 or so words — to get rid of him. That’s my advice anyway, if the critic is holding you back. Give it a page. They go away.
My mom died 219 days ago. 31 weeks ago. On November 9th, a Saturday seven months and six days ago. At 12:15PM. Fourteen minutes after I kicked the Careful Wet Floor sign across the waiting room, while waiting to get buzzed into the ICU unit, which took nine seconds to mechanically open, if you didn’t just yank the doors and barge through them yourself. At that moment though, I was in no rush.
Two weeks earlier to the exact day, I’d talked to her on the phone for the last time. It was October 26th. She said she wasn’t feeling well. Before we hung up, I heard something in her voice. I guess it was fear. I quickly brushed it off, but the documentarian didn’t. The documentarian hit the record button.
This also turns out to be the day we conceived. The same day my mother began dying is the same day my son began living. It’s just too dense of a forest to get through—let alone understand. It’s obscured and overgrown with brush. You’d hate camping out here, too.
The real problem began when the documentarian got fed up with me. After a few weeks has passed, the documentarian got tired of lugging all that hospital footage around. Trunks full of such rich film, emulsified in the stark black and white of life — life and death itself — but also deep in the grays, like those faces of the hospital nurses, filled with empathy for you, but also removed boredom, waiting for a shift change.
Go through this shit already. I recorded all of this. One of the most significant events in your life. I took down every excruciating detail for you. Watch it already so that I don’t have to carry it around.
Hell no. I didn’t dare want to touch it. Didn’t want to look at it. There was some stuff in there. Bad stuff. Stuff I can’t talk about with anyone, ever. So the documentarian began showing me the footage all the time. Against my will. When I was driving, reading, sleeping, dreaming. Having dinner? Here, have a face.
Oh, here’s one. Here’s a good one. How about the face of your mother on the dialysis machine? She’s shivering, because the dialysis makes her cold. She has the blanket pulled up around her neck, like a little child, which is where she is right now, her brain is swelling. She thinks she is a child being tucked in for the night. In a small voice, she asks me to sing her an nursery rhyme before she goes to bed.
Fuck no. This shit has got to go. It’s nuclear. I need to get underground. I need to live in a fallout shelter. I’m done in this forest, hacking away at this brush with a machete. Time’s up. Grab the shovel. It’s time to start digging.
So I dug for a few months, and couldn’t get far enough away from the radiation. It’s a cancer. It will eat you alive.
“And who are you in all of this?” the therapist asks me, after I describe the production crew.
I’m the writer.
Writing is also like being on a path that is always obscured and overgrown with brush. Never knowing where you’re going with it. You spend some of the time hacking away at that density, but you spend most of your time meandering.
Why do I write? I want to give an honest answer. Not some cornball answer that you often get from writers, like when they profess their love for words. What does that even mean? You know what I really love? Sour cream. Seriously, I will scoop loads of it on my tacos or baked potatoes, and you’d think no one has ever heard of saturated fat or heart disease.
But enough meandering.
I actually write because I’m an incredibly shy person. I don’t even like eye contact. You know what creeps me out? That you’re supposed to look at another person’s eyeballs in their eye sockets the whole time you’re talking to them. Sometimes when I’m looking at people’s eyeballs in their eye sockets, I’m like dude, this person actually has a bloody skeleton inside of them right now. Right now I’m talking to a bloody skeleton. And that is weird.
So that’s why I write. It’s communication without the bloody skeletons. Something like that. But I’m not going to tell the therapist this. It might need a diagnosis.
Or maybe I just write to quiet the voices in my head. Which also probably needs a diagnosis. And I guess that’s why I just wrote all of this. To shut the documentarian up for a little bit. It helps, you know.