The past month I have been finding myself having problems writing. Something about forwarding a middle grade storyline is just not sticking with me. The last time this happened, I realized there was something in my head plugging up the works. Something I had to get out. This past week I may have identified it.
While watching the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions I was hit at the end of the acceptance speech for Lou Reed, given by his wife, Laurie Anderson. At the end of it, after saying the last of the list of three times you die is after the last time your name is spoken, she called for one more and the gathered crowd called out in unison, “Lou!” This past year was one of the few times since I was a kid that I didn’t stop and process the hurt. My friend and companion for the last 15 plus years was gone. And in the five weeks or so before we found a mistreated dog that needed our help, I hadn’t sat in the silence of an empty Tuesday night and processed it. I ran from it.
Now we are coming up on 11 months since we lost him. I can feel it approaching on me. Clinging at me while trying to pull me down. It has made me wonder how diffcult it would be if – like many of my friends – I suffered from depression. Which snowballs into me worrying about them and pushing off my own shadows again.
I have no idea why, but this reminded me of The Lost Story. I have a folder with most of my first writing from high school. Anything and everything was worth keeping. Who knows? There might be something useful in there now that I have the experience and skill to write it. Maybe not, but I still saved it. All but one.
I have never read this story aloud. I never turned it in to my creative writing class. Nobody has ever read it. This includes my wife of nearly 25 years or any of the people involved in the story. It was written the first time that I was plugged up like this. My first “memory” of the darkness from inside needing to get out. But this story has a prelude to it. An explanation into the evolution of it.
Above I put the word memory in the literary equivalent of air quotes. Since leaving college I have been through a number of changes. One of the major ones was meeting the business end of a dump truck at about 45 miles per hour. I suffered what they had then called a concussion, but what doctors have identified in the post-war era as a TBI or Traumatic Brain Injury. This had three major effects on me – 1 physical and 2 mental. Probably more than 2, but who really wants to deal with that level of introspection?
The physical effect is that the frequency and intensity of my migraines would increase. A rather helpful nurse practitioner informed me this would likely include a near constant low-grade headache. She followed this with the date and street on which she had suffered hers.
Mentally, I had forgotten how to memorize numbers. I used to do so in a relational method, by plucking patterns out in the number strings. That annoying guy that could count pi out to more digits than years you’ve been alive? Yeah, that used to be me. It is so alien to me now, I can’t even accurately describe how I did it. Good thing I became an English major in college.
Additionally, I lost my memory of the week prior to the accident,with my first solid memory being in the hospital watching Highlander reruns late night. Though they tell me I was hallucinating, so who knows what I was watching. This also included just over four years of memory from further back. Middle to late 80’s, or high school.
Now if you’ve heard my stories from high school (the Lost Story being one of them), this is because I remember them. But it was like if I read it out of a book. I remember the words to the story. I even remember how to vocalize it to impart the meaning behind it. I just don’t remember being there. Since that time I have had flashes of memory return. Usually with a stabbing headache or migraine along with it, but a few have popped back. One of which was having a pair of ribs kicked out of my sternum at 16 years old. Another being the incident that spawned the Lost Story. So any potential positive from having substantial memory loss was completely gone. Thanks, karma.
In my creative writing classes I was attempting to write fantasy. Probably because between school, a full time job, martial arts classes 2-3 times a week and a girlfriend, I had no time left for Dungeons and Dragons. I wouldn’t pick it up again until college. So I was trying to write high fantasy and all of this darkness was hanging over me. What I wrote, I wrote for myself.
What I have come to see today, nearly 30 years later, is that what I wrote was similar to many of the stories I was watching. Spoken word poets writing about their pain and torment, storytellers at The Moth reliving the painful tales of the past – the Lost Story was mine. It was cheaper than therapy (of which I was highly allergic to in my teens), and easily done. And to free myself from the shadows of it, once I had decided not to share it, I remember taking the pages and burning them. Giving that story and my emotional attachment to it a viking funeral.
The odd part? Even though I can’t remember walking across the stage to receive my diploma in 1988, I remember this story. I remember the catalyst in vivid detail. And today I am going to put it back down to paper. I may post it here as a serial, or I may take it to The Moth in Milwaukee (depending on the theme that month). For all I know this copy will never be told aloud or read either. I’m just hoping it leads me towards processing the pain that is stopping me today, so that I can finish my fantasy story tomorrow.