Like all writers, I rewrite, combine, borrow, loot, recreate, change my own work, and play with metafictional devices and the relationship between what is real and what is imagined. I combined “TP’s Muse Board” with “The Foreword to Insomnia.” Perhaps it will be a triptych, or perhaps three panels of an octaptych, a short story, novella, or perhaps a novel. It’s a WIP.
The Foreword to Insomnia
“All our crimes are the crimes of a phantom: God.” Octavio Paz
Is the girl necessary? Can you abandon her? Yes and no. She’s the curtain-lifter and the scout! Always. I cannot forget her. I was there, talking to myself, as if I were someone else. Like now.
She’s as necessary as the galoshes on her feet, paused in a puddle, with her binary reflection obscured by polka-dots, vector and speckled umbrellas billowing from ordinary windows like parachutes, or the multi-colored aureoles in the virtual vertigo — of an art installation.
She is as necessary as umbrellas on a rainy afternoon under golden arches and digital displays of saucer eyed anime faces in Tokyo during rush-hours, or the dark city around the corner with a hole in the ground — over rainy subway stairs she lost a galosh on.
When she was nine, and her sister seven, they shared a bedroom in the attic of an old Victorian house, in New England. They loved that pink triangular room, and the imaginary line that equally divided that sanctum, and it was not lost on them, that they were far removed from their extended paternal family, parents and the Irish triplets who shared a room of their own — downstairs.
It was not just the physical detachment, but on the heels of “making believe,” they began to transport each other to fictional realities at bedtime that began with a question, followed by an answer and finally a bidding, “What are you doing?” “I’m thinking.” “What are you thinking about?”
Her stories would often begin with something truly extraordinary. Diana Ross had ten kids in 1964! She was twenty years old and married to Jorge — the Ebony Fashion Fair model who was the most beautiful man she had ever seen, and one of Diana’s children was her fourth grade classmate — a Puerto Rican named, Sorah Sanchez. He told his classmates to call him Willie. He was so cute!
Theirs was the perfect family! Jorge wore gray suede shoes and cardigans advertised in Jet and Ebony magazines, and the children wore clothing from Alden and Spiegel catalogs! Images were accessible and appropriated. The stories epic and uninterrupted — unless clarification was necessary, like “What time do the kids have to go to bed?”
She loved The Supremes! In the Sixties, Diana Ross was a delicate and beautiful remix, of freedom from ugly restraint. She could scan a page for “Diana Ross” and find her like code. Ditty Bop! She could imitate her voice, her tone, inflection, her vibrato, choreography and her mannerisms!
In the Summer of 1965, she sang A cappella, “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Stop in the Name of Love,” and “Come See About Me,” on a makeshift stage in her back yard, and became an accidental star with a teenaged fan base; but, she just wanted to be left alone to adore Diana Ross — the beautiful one! Those oral narratives in the dark — were contiguous, on a continuum, interconnected — in medias res.
At seventeen she hadn’t seen her Father in four or five years. Her mother and six children took the last bus to a safe haven twelve hundred miles from Boston. But, when father walked into her home, the house her mother managed to “negotiate” by “befriending” the most unattractive man she had ever seen… and barely past the threshold, he said, “I know, I know, I know, and I know.”
It was the most honest response she’d ever heard. It made sense. No apologies. No explanations. What else could he say? Last year, she wondered why she and her sister screamed their hearts out of their mouths, eyes, and ears crouched in a closet — as if screaming would make a difference — as if screams would stop unmeasured and random assaults on her Mother in a Commonwealth where the Rule of Thumb allowed husbands to beat their wives as long as the stick was no thicker than his thumb!
In that house, little girls might not stop screams with their own. Who could scream the loudest? Who could silence the noise? Eventually, she realized the house was on Rockledge Street before pre-K, so they were one and three, or two and four years old, perhaps. In a one mile radius, the same thing happened on Cedar and Alpine Streets. On Hartford Street, her Father cut her Mother up with a meat cleaver.
She can still summon the smell of Sugar Smacks decayed and stinking in bowls of spoiled milk abandoned on the kitchen table like so much blood and flesh on the floors, doors, the papered walls, and ceiling where on her Sister’s 9th birthday, “the accident” happened.
The blood of donors rushed from other jurisdictions, the white sheet that hid her mother’s head from her children, the paddy wagon where her mother was slung like a criminal, the crowd outside the window oohing and awing, jeering, and cheering her Father, who changed into a brown silk leisure suit, brown suede shoes, cocked a fedora on his head and walked tall, proud, and un-cuffed to the Police car. The footnote in the Boston Globe, “Negro Man Attacks Wife with Meat Cleaver.” The rise and fall of orphan’s tears, swollen eyes, praying hands and bargains with God in zombie disbelief.
But, I don’t feel sorry for that little girl. Tall and proud. She could have been a psycho killer — and I would be her muse, a tiny detail, a paper doll from an Alden’s catalog — paused in a puddle for the amusement of children.
I am the one who cannot sleep. Aside from occasional drifts from the pollen consumption of moths, to the dignity of a ski-lift nose…
Copyright 2004, 2013 E Maria Shelton Speller. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.