The elusive goal in writing appears to be the creation of magic moments: the beauty of ice coating the bare branches of a tree in winter, the thrill of racing down a basketball court, jumping, and YES! perfectly blocking an opponent’s layup.
But magic moments are pretend writing, like a little girl playing dress-up in her mother’s high heels and pearls. When we grow up, we write truth. More accurately, we sneak truth by the enraptured reader.
We humans like to feel good—think whole body massages. We covet delicious food: prime rib, strawberries, did I mention chocolate? We seek to be entertained: music drifting through high quality ear phones, comedians doubling us over with so much laughter we cry out in pain, “Please, please stop.” We are hedonists content to drift along on the surface of life. Truth? We don’t want truth, that’s way too much work. So, we writers, ensnare our readers in the emotions of our main character. Then as the character encounters truth, so does the unsuspecting reader.
But so powerful is the art form, that if we write without knowing the truth, sometimes the truth reveals itself.
Several years ago, I sat across my kitchen table from a wonderful woman as she told me that she had been sexually assaulted. “Well, I was stupid,” she said. “I shouldn’t have gotten in the car with him. I was trained in self-defense, but I…It was really all my fault.”
I gripped the edge of my chair to restrain myself. “It wasn’t your fault,” I whispered. “He committed a felony. He’s a criminal.”
“No, you don’t understand. I had been drinking.”
“Did you say no?”
“Well, yes.” She shook her head back and forth, put her head in her hands, self-disgust in every movement.
“So, you did try to fight him?”
“Yes,” she stood, looking for her purse. “Don’t you see, I knew all these Kung Fu moves.” Her voice got louder with each word. “I should have been able to get free. It was my fault!”
“It wasn’t your fault. He attacked you.”
She found her purse, but not her keys.
“I’ve got some fresh organic lemon. Let me get you some for your tea.” Remembering the cookies, I put three on a plate in front of her, tempting her. “Want some, two kinds of chocolate chips?”
She collapsed into her chair. I brought a box of tissues; gently touched her arm. “Why don’t you write that story.”
“No,” she shook her head. “I couldn’t.”
I tried again. “Perhaps if you wrote it, someone who read it, might stop blaming herself. Maybe she’d realize that what happened to her wasn’t her fault.”
But that’s not what I wanted to say. What I wanted to say was, “Perhaps if you wrote your story, you’d realize the attack wasn’t your fault.”
A few minutes later she made an excuse and left. I get it, even speaking about what happened thirty years ago was overwhelming. But still she doesn’t write her story; she doesn’t write her truth. And I know as I pen these words that she still believes the attack was her fault.
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