The following excerpt is from a piece I’ve been working on since June, and I’m not quite sure where it fits in, genre-wise. It’s the story of a woman told through two of her journals: one written in her late teens and another written in her mid-thirties. The journals are written as a series of titled vignettes, and alternate between her younger and older selves. There’s also a mystery that the grown-up version is trying to find answers to; an event in her past that she’s mostly erased and rewritten and is only now beginning to remember some of the truth of what actually happened.
I had a friend suggest it might fit into the relatively new genre, New Adult, for late teens, early twenties, or I guess it could be just plain old Fiction. What a novel thought! Also, I would say this excerpt is PG-13 for mild language.
For the pdf version click here: The Girl Goes Lightly
Status: 180 pages
The Girl Goes Lightly – Excerpt
I referenced it lightly, gesturing to it and telling my husband, Zen, “Here sits all of my teen angst.” We both laughed at that.
I first sifted through a morass of really terrible teenaged poetry. It’s utterly awful. A few stilted lines here and there are bearable, but generally it’s quite bad.
Buried towards the bottom I find an old notebook, black cover, gold lettering, college ruled. More awful poetry, but towards the back there’s a shift of loose papers. They tumble into my hands and my breath slows.
It’s my old journal, started from when I was seventeen. I thought I had thrown it away. I know my intention at one point was to burn it. I must never have gotten around to it.
I begin to read and am at first amused by the pretentious, self-aggrandizing insecurity, but as I continue the memories of emotions flood back. How miserable I was then, how unstable.
It’s sixteen years after I last wrote in it and as I’m reading my ten-year-old daughter, Hope, comes in from the bright outside full of the curiosity and the bright expectations of the young.
I sit next to my youngest daughter, an infant, who smiles serenely and kicks her striped-sock feet while reclining in a bouncer that makes her look like she has bunny ears.
The toddler, Flower, is in the other room asking, “Wha’ happen to sheep? Sheep go ka-boom!”
Later, I cook dinner while my ex-husband, Tanno, Hope’s father, holds Smallwise, the baby. Then we sit around the table, eating, Zen still at work.
Flower yells out her Toddler Battle Cry, her face covered in spaghetti sauce, “Bum-bee-ya! Bumbeeya. Bum-bee-YAAAAAA!” and we laugh.
That night I tell Zen of my journal, how strange it makes me feel, seeing all those intense old emotions; the smear of my own black inked writings . . .
5. A Magic Kingdom
well, the smoke was thick with people, and well Faery and i decided it was high time we had ourselves an adventure. we set off, fearless and pink, and we brandished those multipurpose cigarettes <flashlites and fearsome weapons. GRRR!> and fluttered off into the nite.
climbing trees, conquering great oceans and sneaking off into our magic kingdom. the air was soft. above, the loud drunken merriment, and below, sweet smelling flowers and fresh earth.
Faery is SO much fun, she’s the only one who has never judged me, she is the only one who has never made me cry. we can be as unreal and an unpixie like if we want to, and we can pounce and be tygers, and we can be raving bitches and tear at the Flower Girl with our fake teeth.
we sit and talk and i realize just how much i love this girl. the weeping sky is pale and smooth like this hard stone that is lodged in my stomach, but somehow Faery manages to lay her hands on the stone and soften it with her smile.
i feel as if we are sisters, sharing a common tragedy, for her Pooh bear’s gone away . . .
in our Magic Kingdom we are never afraid of Fate, and their daemons can’t reach us. we put flowers in our hair, and somehow we are innocent and our hearts are not the pallid hoarders of emotions long since still with death, still with indifference.
perhaps these days are so precious, i don’t even want to think that they soon will be gone and if i keep perfectly still maybe it will never fade, it will never fall away, and i am such a good little liar. i am already old and faded past this . . .
The past couple of days have been rough, like sandpaper on my skin; carving asperous fissures through my mind.
Smallwise has gotten to the age when babies really start waking up and staking a claim in the world. And her second tooth has yet to break through the gum making it so much more difficult to soothe her.
She can’t even begin to submit to her exhaustion unless we bouncy walk out on the porch for at least fifteen to twenty minutes, which wouldn’t be so bad except the days are seared and steamy. The heat shimmers like a mirage of sensation. No natural suburban environment could possibly be so hot; we’re too civilized for such things. It must be a trick of the mind, for only the far wild places of the world ever feel such a wet fire unfurled over the sky with a ponderous snap of brightness that hurts the eyes. It leaves my thoughts feeling bloody and raw.
First, Flower was having pooping issues. She weaned herself when I got pregnant with Smallwise when she was about a year old. Not long after she began having major bouts of constipation and started holding it in, making things worse. We give her milk of magnesia every day but that kid has an anal sphincter of steel, and still manages to hold it in. The only way to get her to poop is to catch her while she’s trying to hold it in, separate her legs, and sit her down, all while she’s screaming shrilly and fighting as hard as she can to keep her legs closed.
Because Smallwise was fussy due to her not-quite emerged tooth I had her snugged up in her soft carrier. So when Flower would start to grunt and strain I couldn’t ever get to her in time to make her assume the “Poop Position”.
I tried to be in a fun mood but the heat tangled itself in my temper which was spit quick and wicked. I grumbled when Flower began eating the glitter playdough after only fifteen minutes and we had to put it away.
“We can never do anything fun because you always end up eating it.” I immediately winced as soon as the words were out of my mouth, wishing I had bitten them down instead of letting them loose.
When Smallwise wouldn’t settle I slammed a door and snapped at her, then instantly began to cry from remorse. I hate the days when my mind seems to grow teeth and snarls at everything within growling distance.
It was just one of those days that no matter how hard I tried I could only be my least patient form, straining against all irritation like it was a personal affront.
That night, as I lay in bed I can’t sleep, and my mind keeps turning to my last journal entry written sixteen and a half years ago . . .
I tore myself apart psychologically, split myself into pieces that are only now pulling themselves back together. Who am I now? What am I now?
[T]hat I’ve lived so much of my life trying to be better than someone who probably never thought of me again feels like such a strange animal. I should be embarrassed by this revelation but I’m not. After all, it served its purpose. Could I sit in this place now without it? I finally see it for what is truly is: not a mold but a tool, one that I’ve used well, but no longer need. I set my sights on it, stalk it, and hunt it down. I crush it beneath my feet and am released from it. My life is my own again.
No one will ever again set the metric against which I am measured. Just me.
The next day the heat cracks and breaks like a fever-dream and the earth becomes mild; the air is apologetic at its former intransigence and atones with gentle murmurs and the sweet scent of flowers. I am myself again; the bright peak of sharpness mellows and melts across my tongue.
I go to chart my new course with no map and no compass. They are not necessary. I need no frame of reference. Just myself. Just me . . .