Every so often (weekly at the moment), I’ll be writing a commentary about a story from EMPTY ROOMS LONELY COUNTRIES. I’ll tackle the stories in the order they appear in the book. Given the nature of this exercise, I cannot guarantee that I won’t spoil specific details from the story. So you may want to return to the commentaries here when you’ve finished reading the book. If I don’t address an aspect of the story you were interested in, by all means leave a question at the end of this post and I’ll do my best to answer it.
“THIS IS NOT FOR YOU”
I wrote this in one sitting back in 2001. It’s been through a few drafts, but this is one of those stories that made it to paper with very little resistance. This is the last chapter in the story that’s been weaving in and out of Empty Rooms Lonely Countries since “Defying Gravity”. The title itself was taken from the dedication from Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves.
Like the song goes, you were on my mind tonight. I’m too old to be this stupid and I’m too young to be this haunted. With that said, I’m not going to wait any longer. It’s time for me to move on. This house was comfortable for as long as it lasted. Every window, every door, every corner, it all reminded me of you. I’m moving on, but I don’t know if I should destroy this house or let it sit, as it is, up here on my mountain. I’ve been considering setting fire to it, watching it all turn to ash. When it was through, I’d be on my knees, cupping the remains in these hands and…and what? It doesn’t matter. I won’t do it. Not because I haven’t the strength, but because it’s too tangible, too sure of itself.
I set out to accomplish a few different things when I wrote this. The most important thing was to excise this part of my life, this relationship which had been entering my life like an earthquake and exiting like a hurricane. Beyond that, I was consciously playing with the complexities of putting these kinds of experiences and emotions down on paper, and building on the mytholization of the relationships we have in our lives.
And I know how pretentious that last bit sounds, believe me.
The goal was to interject fairy tale and folklore motifs into the story to the point that as many of the passages as possible would remind you of other stories. The thing is, any love story, good or bad, happy or tragic, is something anyone can relate to, and I wanted the familiarity to come from other places, to see how epic these kinds of love stories can be. This isn’t to say this story is grander or more powerful than others, but rather to reflect the epic nature of love when it’s happening to you. You and your lover are the good guys, the heroes in your own story, and all adversity is personal and monumental.
By doing it this way, it allowed me to effectively find an ending to a big chapter in my own life, and at the same time, attempt to portray this story in such a way that it’s recognizable to the reader. Even if you don’t know all of the details (and when it comes to other’s people’s stories, we never do), there’s something tangible to hold onto.
Also, the changing of the names in this story was very deliberate, as this would be around the time I was finally come to terms with what I was doing with my writing, and this was my way of ending the game of whether these stories were true and really about me.
This story was recorded along with six others (many from ERLC) with some original music and voice acting. Out of all the stories recorded, this one was always my favorite. If I can figure it out, I’ll post the track here for you to listen to.
The most emotional part of this story happened in July of 2003. The woman this story was written about had come to see me before I left for Poland. She asked if she could hear the recording for this story. The track is a little over eight minutes long, and sitting there watching her listen to this story, was one of those surreal moments. In a strange way, it felt like how you’d imagine it would feel if you witnessed your own funeral. When the story was over, she asked to hear it again. Before it finished the second time, she was crying. There was no elation or satisfaction on my part, just a profound understanding that it was time for me to start again somewhere else.
We are still a few stories away from my coming to Poland.
Next week’s story “The Mariachi” begins the South Tampa years, from 2001 to 2003.
#1 “Cowboys and Indians”
#2 “Little Conundrums”
#2.5 “Playing With the Dead”**
#3 “The Illusion of Swing”
#4 “Kicking Love’s Ass”
#5 “On Being Velma-less”
#6 “Muted Porn”
#7 “Defying Gravity”
#8 “The Fifth Ocean”
#9 “One Dead (Potted) Plant”
#10 “Remembering Drajra”
#11 “Pancakes, Wishes and Other Tales”
#13 “Before Waking”