enter the ether
July 14, 2012
There is a great Fitzgerald quote in The Crack Up. I sent it to Mr. Brown ages ago because he of countless pseudonyms reminded me of myself. I remember one night we were walking somewhere on the Lower East Side and his phone rang and he answered it and all of a sudden he started talking real loud.
His voice, ohmagosh his voice, with the timbre that shook the back of my knees and made my heart skip, his voice became real Brooklyn, South Brooklyn, ya dig? He was sayinn fockin this and fockin that and out of the corner of my bloodshot eyes, my ears heard something else.
He hangs up the phone then turns to me and returns to me and he’s saying, “I don’t know who I am. Sometimes I’m Italian. And sometimes I’m black. And sometimes my soul is Puerto Rican.” And I’m knowing all of this. I’m understanding on a level he doesn’t want to reach. And I keep my lips closed as these words echo through my soul. You’re a fragmented man, Mr. Brown.
It’s funny because in all the years we spoke I never found myself acting. All the characters had retired in his presence. They didn’t want to be on stage. So I never heard the accent, the one no one can place. The one everyone always asks about. The one I picked up from watching Sunset Boulevard too many times. And since we never fought, I mean, since I never allowed myself to get angry with him, he never heard the girl with the razor blade tucked between her teeth and her cheek.
But once upon a time, Mr. Brown was… I can’t even say. I wrote alla this then deleted it because I have a tendency to digress. I began quoting Fitzgerald and I think it’s time I mention the quote. It goes a lil something like this. “There was never a good biography of a good novelist. There couldn’t be. He is too many people, if he’s any good.”
I flashed on this quote when I looked at the question for Day Nine. Do you feel that you have found your voice in your writing? Or are you still searching?
I have no idea. The only thing I can think is that there’s more than one voice. There’s the voice appears when I am typing. Essays and memoirs and what not. There’s the voice that appears in my head citing verse in my ear and makes me whip out my Blackberry to capture the breeze before it is gone. There is the voice that comes from my mouth, when I am caught in an emotion intense and can this be captured on paper? I don’t know but I’d like to try. Then there are voices I don’t know. Voices I haven’t yet met. Voices that come up from the ether and introduce themselves. Hey girl, how you been.
These voices humble me. Because I don’t know who they are. They happen when I write my novel. These characters just appear. They are fully formed. I can see them even more clearly than that characters I create. They swish their big ass into the kitchen or they scurry past the front desk, smoothing down the flyaways around their temple, missing that the tail of their shirt is untucked. They sometimes make me smile, sometimes make me scared. Sometimes they are spirits. Sometimes they never even appear.
Ahh. My heart just skipped a long beat. Do you know what I mean. It went paaaaause. It just held a moment of silence for all the children never to be born. It reminds me of that moment I was walking on 34 Street and I was told that I could talk to babies in the womb and I just…
Voices. Have I found my voice? Is it my voice or does it belong to someone else? Sometimes I think my best writing is the writing that happens when I am gone. When I zone out so far that I burn the rice and I only tune back in because what’s that smell?
The first time this happened to me, I got so weirded out I had to leave. I had to close my computer and put on my shoes and go outside and walk it off. It was the first day I wrote my novel. It was on page one scene two. It was at that very moment that I understood none of this belongs to me. I’m just channeling something else.
Funny thing is when it is mine, let’s be real, it’s not nearly as good. I really want to say it’s not good. Not in a bad way. I’m not saying it’s bad. I’m saying it’s kinda so what. Because I can tell the difference, not just in the quality of the text but in the quality of experience. I mean, who even thinks of that? That there’s a quality of experience to creation. We’re all so hyper attuned to the ends that we miss the means. Now I’m thinking if it could just be the means, I would be. The means justifies the ends. This is everything.
It’s like when I wrote about working with Mr. Johnson. I was literally told, Sit down honey, and take a note. I got something to say and you’re the one who hears when I speak. And there I was, right out of the shower, with a towel around my torso and a towel around my hair and I did what I was told. I began to type. And it’s not like OCD, which I know all too well. It’s like something else something else something else…