Monday, August 13, 2012

Don't Read Me

*No, that's not me, the Imaginalchemist, telling you not to read this. This one is out of my hands, folks. Sometimes, stories don't need an author to tell themselves...*

Hey, what are you, some kind of nosy, snoopy, eavesdropping, need-to-know-it-all? What did I just say? There’s no reason you have to read this. Yes, I know, because it’s sitting in front of you right now, you think this is something you were meant to read. But you’re not going to find anything. There’s nothing here anymore. You missed the boat. The train’s left the station. Chickens have flown the coop. Insert a cliché analogy here if you like.
Nothing’s going to happen. Seriously. There used to be something here, I grant you that. But times have changed. Funds are low. Luck is bad. You probably know that already. It’s no different here than on your side of the page. So you don’t have to keep reading. In fact, it’s kind of embarrassing for both of us that you still are. So, go do something. Take a walk. Listen to some music. Learn belly dancing.
You’re still here huh? Hmm…well, I guess that means you actually want me to tell you why you shouldn’t read this. Why there is writing, but no story…no philosophies…no insights into social or political issues…not even a silly illustration with a caption or something.
Well, I did used to be a story once. I had everything: a beginning, a middle, and an end. There were well-developed characters, settings of all kinds of times and places, a myriad of plots that intertwined seamlessly into one another, even a good solid twist at the end that was, in my opinion, one of the most surprising and satisfying twists ever written. Yes, I was a magnificent story.
But now I’m this. I’m not even sure what I am anymore. I am certainly words,  that much I know. And words can indeed make a story. My words are in a logical order to make understandable sentences, and you’re still reading this, which means I have a reader. All of this could indicate I am a story.
But all of my characters got liquidated. All of my settings were foreclosed. My plots got compromised, run through too many committees, and they meandered off in different directions until there was no way to bring them back around. But worst of all…my twist…my beautiful revelation of events, the finely crafted screw that made the whole mechanism of the story work…it somehow got unscrewed, plinked down through a crack in the floor and rolled away into some crevice I can’t reach.

So, no, I’m not the story I used to be. I’d tell you about it, but once you stop being a story, you tend to forget things. I don’t even know who was in my story. There was a man, I think…or was it a woman? Or both, maybe. Stories tend to have at least one of each. I think there was a house…or an apartment, or a trailer, or a cardboard box. But I do remember red. There was lots of very bright red. It could have been roses, or blood, or paint, or shoes, or rubies, or Scarlet Macaws or cars or origami paper or ketchup or strawberries or toenail polish or Tomato frogs or Valentine’s Day hearts or cherry lollipops or apples or Christmas presents or balloons or curtains or poinsettias.

I just made you visualize a lot of things, didn’t I? Sorry about that. It’s one or the other; either you don’t see anything, or you see too much. Nothing is “just right” nowadays. Because once you get close to “just right,” someone or something comes along to tear you apart, or slaps its own mark on you, or rearranges you until you can’t even recognize yourself anymore. I don’t even recognize myself.

I do remember the sensation of creation, though. When a writer writes, the story can feel all those little happy tingles that the writer feels as he composes each delicate phrase, each vibrant metaphor, each appetizing revelation, and every colorful thread of verbal imagery woven meticulously into the tale. It really is quite wonderful. You laugh, you weep, you sing, you sigh, you rage, you regret, and you desire. Everything the writer feels, the story feels. It does feel abrupt once it’s over, though, when you’re no longer an extension of the author’s mind but your own entity, ready to be shipped out to the world to ignite all those vast emotions in others. It feels kind of…cold. Like you’re just a package being passed along, rather than being the one who passes along the gift. Sure, if a story’s lucky, it may inspire someone to do things. But you feel cut off, blocked from the world by the paper and the ink.

I don’t know. If I could remember my story, maybe it wouldn’t feel like that.

I’d ask you to help write me, maybe stitch a plot or two back into me, but then I’d look like one of those ridiculous Mad-Lib games and you’d probably fill me with nothing but vulgarities and that wouldn’t do either of us any good. Or maybe you’d care enough to throw a few legitimate words my way, but you’d still only laugh because it would sound stilted and phony. I don’t mind making people laugh, but only when I mean to.

You know what I’d like to be, if I could choose? A ballad. A parable set to melody, the old fashioned lyrical poetry from ages back. I’ve never heard a ballad, I admit. I haven’t heard any music, actually, since I don’t think music was part of my original plot. But I think part of me must have been inspired by a ballad, because as I was being written, I could sense my writer was thinking about something very archaic, a verse with this perfect rhythm, a bouncing between stressed and softened syllables. It was lovely, whatever it was. I wanted to be like that. I wanted to be more than words. I wanted real shape, percussion, movement, alliteration, precisely sculpted beauty.

But I don’t think I was that. If I was that, wouldn’t I have been perfect? Wouldn’t I have been left alone, rather than been picked apart, criticized, degraded, insulted, edited, censored, and sold out? Wouldn’t everyone have loved me the way I was? Isn’t that what makes a great work of literature, when everyone agrees unanimously that you’re wonderful?
Or do we all end up like this, in the end? Not even stories anymore…just…words…

Are you still here? Cripes. I told you that you wouldn’t find anything, didn’t I?
Thanks for sticking around. You seem nice.
I remember all that red…lots of red…someone spilled wine on me, I think…I think my writer was upset, because of all the nit-picking and rejection I was getting…and there were other things, too, like disappointments, losses and emptiness…I remember the sadness, the frustration, the lack of faith that things would turn out all right…not too long after I don’t remember my writer feeling anything anymore…

All that red…


That was probably a better story than I am.


I miss my twist.

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