Friday, September 30, 2016

The moments

We get into our minds what something should look like, and we forget what it does look like.

Over the past two weeks, we have worked with putting together the feelings behind a joyful occasion: one that may have had more than just joy associated with it.

Yet just because we remember the feelings doesn't mean that we can necessarily communicate those feelings to anyone else.  How exactly do we do that?

Well, simply, you move moment by moment.

It may drag at first--that's fine.  That's why we have editing later.  But in order to see, we have to be there.  In order to be there, you must take us there.  To take us there, you must bring us with you, living as you lived.  And, like it or not, we live moment by moment and breath by breath.

So how do we do that?  Where do we start?

I would not start at the beginning.

Think about it for a minute.  When you remember an event, do you remember it from the beginning.  No.  You remember it from the middle.  Or from the most important parts.  Or in the senses that stick out to you.

For example, there was a confrontation this morning.  When I think back, I remember conflicting feelings when I started realizing there was a confrontation.  I remember the itchy cold and the waiting.  I remember gratitude toward those standing up and the necessity of being there.  I remember the way the officer puffed up his chest when I reiterated the point he was trying to blow off.  I remember the frown the other officer made at me as he turned his head back toward us, having acted like we were not worthy of notice before.  I remember feeling his glare even through his sunglassses, which I didn't quite understand why he needed at 8:43ish in the morning on an overcast day in Pittsburgh.

Do you see?

When I start to remember, I don't remember moment by moment until later, in the moment that the moment became important to me.  That's where you start to write.  It's usually a moment of conflict or excitement.  If it's too upsetting, you might need to write from another parallel moment and move back, but you don't start at the beginning or you may take another path.

So I would write:
"Now if there had been danger to his property, then he would have a claim," the shift supervisor said, measuring his shoulders back and making himself bigger all the while drawing his head higher as if that made the distance down his nose to my neighbor, no longer standing her full 5'2", even farther.
I could feel the shift in my stomach and the bile rising in my throat.  My own shoulders were stretching back and my chest puffed out.  Part of me knows this is my problem.  I don't deal well with bullies, even official bullies.  If she had held her own or if her husband had spoken up, maybe I would have been quiet.  And maybe they would have spoken.  
But they weren't speaking fast enough.  
They weren't, in fact, speaking at all. 
I could feel my own breathing quicken, and then I felt the gulp, and then, while my mind was still saying, Oh, no, he wouldn't.  He would not dismiss my neighbor and a mother trying to protect her children, not while her husband, two other mothers, and I watched him.  Not without resistance, he wouldn't, while my mind was still saying that my mouth was already opening.
"What about the kids' property?  He and the others have threatened and even taken their toys."
If it was possible for his blue eyes to get colder and his chest to get bigger, they did.   
His compatriot, back up, or whatever you call him--that second officer who arrived in yet another too big SUV who occasionally looked to his supervisor but never swung his sunglassed face our direction--finally turned to face us.  
"That's a two-way street, ma'am," the supervisor said.
I could feel the glare of the second officer through his black lenses as his face, which had been at rest before, drew into tenseness.  I could feel the judgment.  We're supposed to shut up and accept the judgment they pass.
But I do not accept it.  Nothing has been decided.  Nothing has been done.   
"Yes," I answer him. "It certainly is.  I hope you remember that too."
I'm not sure I actually said that last part, but I said something like it.
He turned to my neighbor, "Are you satisfied?" he asked.
They discuss a few things, and she finally says, "Yes."
We all turn our separate directions.  My coffee is now cold in my cup.  I am not satisfied.  But I do understand why the police hate me.
Now, this is not the whole moment.  There's a lot missing.  There are parts that are too much.  There are moments that are not enough.  But it is where to start.  I will need to back up.  I will need to find all the places I wrote, "feel," and replace them. I will need to expand the setting.  I will need to add moments of sensation for the passage of time.  I should ask the other people who were there to be sure I remembered correctly.  I should also pay attention to my own narrative voice.  Some people abdicate responsibility here, but it would be disingenuous of me to not preface this passage in some way that clearly reveals my own discomfort with the police.  It would also be unfair of me not to show more form their side--there is a point of moral responsibility in what we write, whether we want there to be or not.  But it isn't always covered in that initial moment.  It will take time.  It will take reflection.  It may take visiting another medium, like song, art, poetry, or even baking.  But it comes later.  What comes now are the moments.  Later you can decide where you want them to go.


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