How Do You Write a Memoir If You’re Not Positive You Exist?
I don’t know what I am. I keep appearing here, moment by moment, and when I stop in front of a mirror I keep seeing a form a lot like the form I saw last time, but even that can’t be quite right or trustworthy because I’ve seen the photos from a while ago, when I looked a lot different, back when I possibly existed in a fresher form. I don’t know if that was me, though. I don’t know who that was. It’s all speculation. I look at old photos and see the figure that we all agree is me, and we seem to be in agreement about some other things about what this me was, and is, and should be, but it all seems so flimsy.
There’s a body always here around me, all flab and jammy softness and blood and skin, a bag that always looks about the same, lumpy here, flesh around the hips in a certain way, always these breasts hanging in that one style. The eyes used to be symmetrical and now one’s a little different from the other one in a way that makes me sigh.
And I’m making the words appear right now, and there’s a click-click-click, pause, a different sounding click or five, pause, click-click-click-click. But that’s only right now. Later there will be words that will have been here a while and I won’t really be able to prove how they got there, or believe that I put them there, exactly.
The through-line is flimsy, I’m saying. What is this hanging on? What’s a me? What distinguishes me, besides this bag business and the sound I make when I make sounds come out, the lilt I’ve developed over years of making sounds, hearing people’s reactions to those sounds, and adjusting those sounds until I like the reactions of the people around me to the sounds I make? What even is this?
I want this Tina phenomenon to be good. I know I want that. I know that if I have a hope for this airy conglomeration, it’s that the whole be experienceable as having an obvious quality of goodness, a winning quality that’ll spare me from moment-to-moment whatever version of the executioner’s axe is on deck. Spare me. Spare me your wrath, wrathful being. Spare the ostracism, crowd. Don’t say no to me. Say yes, ultimately. Arrive at yes. Let me in, let me through, let me pass.
And I’ll squint at you meanwhile, reading you, reading your movements and twitches, seeing if they add up to no or yes, like measuring your heart rate, the little arrow moving up and down, the scratch-scratch line of my evaluating machine hooked up to the living being of you, yessing and no’ing me, and I’ll talk a little more softly or loudly or boldly or gently, I’ll lean back or lean forward and look engaged or detached, I’ll smile or not smile or smile a little more or less, until I think the machine is scratching out a pattern that I like, one that makes me feel safe.
So that’s something that Tina’s doing, and I don’t know that she’s much use there with all that. That sounds tiring and like a response to a threat that isn’t there. Use, though, is relevant to Tina. I think consensus has been that she’s not much use, or that’s the idea on the table that we’re proving or disproving. I’m proving it and disproving it. What a thesis. Uselessness. My dad always wanted to be useful, because he felt useless — and probably worse-than-useless — and I think this is a family heirloom.
Does this heirloom spark joy? Do I love it? Is it useful? I can’t give it away because I don’t know. We were at one point advised, collectively, to consider the lilies of the field, and how they grow: not toiling, not spinning. If I knew whether I was a noun or a verb or something else entirely, that would help, but the whole operation is under investigation.
Things certainly happened, so that’s something. There were settings and characters and there have been objects and there was weather and feeling and meaning was made. But can a narrator be nothing? Must a narrator be something? Can you tell a story if the spine is empty? I want to tell you a story but I want it to be true.