Life’s been rough. It’s been rough in the past, but this has been very lonely in its roughness, so it’s rather unique in comparison. I want very much to listen to Norbert, to hear his mostly unfair banter with Gill and watch him make pickles with his plunger. I want to hear him talk lovingly about his onions while Hongi makes a nice cup of tea and Moai watches sports in the background. I want to have a brownie with John and remember, perphaps a bit innocently, maybe even ficticiously, that no matter what happens, there is love to be found in this world.
I spent a great deal of time with Norbert, John and the others in the past, both on good days and on bad. Everytime anything was unpleasant, they were always there to cheer me up, usually to great effect. I always felt happier, more excited about life after spending time with them. Often the only negative emotion left after a visit was the impatient desire to share them with the rest of the world…to bring the warm sands and lazy waves of King’s Beach to anyone in need of adventure or respite from a storm.
But they’re trapped now. Trapped between the brightly colored cover and the embarrasing author bio, labelled with a generic summary and tattooed with a barcode and an ISBN. It’s not that I did not want my story to become a book, or that I’m unhappy it became so. At the time of writing I wanted nothing more than that, to have the physical book of their struggles and loves sitting on my desk. At the time, I’d felt if I did not have it, I could lose it. Someone might have my idea and steal them from me, or they might be lost to a computer failure or other such data-driven disaster. And, if others hadn’t seen the story, perhaps it didn’t really exist.
But now that the books are there, the relationship has turned complicated, like a celebrity love in the limelight of other people’s judgment and opinions. It’s not that anyone would bother being unduly harsh or overly observant of my little books (I’m not that sort of famous and fancy), but they have driven a wedge between us. Somehow the cover, like a door to a house, has shut me out and my characters in. An angry, overgrown shrub of potential judgment spreads out like a bramble over barbed wire, the blue light of an alarm threatening to cause trouble should I decide to try and enter.
Norbert’s story spans two books now. The Merman’s Mark and Rebel Fires are sufficiently long and life’s been sufficiently eventful, enough to cause things to be forgotten in parts, which much to my dismay, I have done. I have memories of most things…the onions and pickles… the roaches and exasperated neighborly reactions…but not of every detail. If I really want to visit them properly or finish writing the third book, I have to reread the first two, and that, it seems, is decidedly difficult.
I’m not sure if I just can’t reread it, or if being afraid to do so is making it seemingly impossible, but every time I try, I end up sitting with the book next to me, closed, in this sort of awkward stance I suspect would be found between two people who once were very close but now are not. It’s lonely, and somewhat hurtful, and I’m definitely not over it.
And I’m not supposed to be. This is not real life where things can hang aimlessly, half finished and with horrible, wierd emotions that don’t quite know what to do with themselves when there’s no real closure. Fiction (most of it, anyway) has a higher standard than that. Hearts need to be broken and mended. Life needs to be lived. Things need to come together into a nice neat package, wrapped with a bow and stamped with The End. The characters haven’t gotten there yet, and they’re not going to, so long as they’re trapped in the house.
It’s not like I’ve fallen out of love with my characters. I’m not sure how an author could ever really do that, and books have a magical way of making empathy felt even for murderers. But love for one’s characters isn’t enough. There has to be self-love also, and a certain amount of pride in one’s voice, and that is far more difficult.
Despite Merman and Fires still being my favorite stories of any, it’s far too easy to get pedantic, to read a few lines and think, “that detail didn’t need to be there” or “that could have been explained better,” or “why didn’t I catch that mistake?…Is that spelled the way it should be?” Embarrasment, criticism, a misguided drive for perfection masked under the desire for self improvement… it’s damaging, lonely and mostly unnecessary, and it affects the relationship.
It would be nice to say something philosophical here about how this can and should be overcome; to mention inspirational things about self-love and how you have to be your own “number one fan” and all that. But saying without doing is fairly hypocritical, and for all the logic and reason and value behind the sayings, at the moment I am not doing, so we’ll have to leave it at that.
Mr. Omar knows I’m not feeling well and, much to my exasperation, has recently been buying (and almost forcing) me to eat brownies from the local grocery store. I couldn’t understand why and have been fairly grumpy about it. Now, as it sits half-eaten on my desk next to my computer, I think it might be reminding me of what he has known but would not say… that I have lost sight of my story beneath the bramble and need to find it again. I need to get my characters out of the house and to remember and write that yes, there is love to be found in this world.