Monday, October 20, 2008

Recycling stories

I write a part of a chapter and I have been here before. I have written a short story that explored an early version of the idea at the centre of the book. I struggled over ideas and images that would explain the kind of waking into the world that you would have. Confused, finding some things clear in memory, and other moments lost just beyond the edges of a swollen bruised brain. I wanted to explore this coming to the idea of the change in a kind of slow awakening. I go back through the story and trawl for ideas and images that could be re-used. I do not like traversing the same territory. I become bored of an idea if I have written it once and come to some kind of peace. Still. The ideas that are contained in this earlier version of the story are vivid. They are well worked. I want to use some of this in the current version.

I know I should just put the old story aside and start afresh but I can't stop fiddling with it. My character has changed. I have found a voice that it fresh and exciting. A voice that I am in love with in that flippant way I have of falling completely for a person or concept or book and remaining faithful to it for a time before waking up one morning wondering what I might have seen in it at all.

My character was older. He was middle-aged, tired and jaded and struggling with the loss of his identity as a sexual being. This was a theme I visited in my memoir. This is something I am finished with now. Today I can't imagine why I ever worried about my sexual identity. Today I am sexy and alive and without fear. Today my character has grown young. Perhaps he is in his early thirties. My new conundrum is not about age, it is about communication. It is also about beauty, which is something I still wish I could hide myself inside. My character, therefore is not beautiful. He relies on his wit and charm to make the conquests that he does. All this is what he looses when his brain is damaged and he wakes back into a world that is completely changed for him.

This is a segment from my earlier story that I am toying with, inserting it into the current draft, honing it back to its component parts. This is procrastination really. This kind of close work should come at the end of things, but I am avoiding my first human interraction. I am wanting to sit alone with my character for just a while longer:

He moves his toe. He knows it is moving because he can feel the rub of the sheet against his skin. His toe is thick as the trunk of an elephant, heavy as a car. The corpse of his leg drags at his hip. He moves his toe and he surfaces from the effort of it, panting.

The woman notices the movement in his toe and her eyes become wet and glassy. The woman is his wife. Ex-wife. Wife. He doesn’t know what to call her after all this time. He is surprised to see her here next to his bed. There is the relief of months between them. The acrimony finally dulled from a shriek to a sigh.

He can’t remember her name. He can’t even remember his own name. He wants to tell her that he moved his toe, but he can’t remember the word for toe.

“I moved…” he tells her, and her brow furrows.

She opens her mouth and sounds spill out but they aren’t words. She is underwater and her mouth is filled with mud. He can hear the mud popping from her lips, one drop at a time, each bubble of nonsense accompanied by a tear. She has forgotten how to speak, he thinks. She has replaced language with this gurgling.
“I moved,” he says, “I moved my –“ no word for toe but he strains to move it once more for her to see. His face is red with the effort. His teeth bite down against pain.

She opens her mouth and there are the bubbles of sound, rising. He almost laughs. She never made sense even when they were together.

Amongst the trickle of sound from her mouth there is a word he understands. It is the word he was searching for. Toe. He now understands the word toe. He moves his toe. He remembers movement.

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