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She Doesn’t Understand

February 19, 2010

I wasn’t going to post a #fridayflash this week because I found myself utterly exhausted last night from the wear of the week. But I woke up with a little more energy and wrote anyway. Yay! I’m glad to get one out.

I started this story years ago. I set one word after another like perfect pearly teeth lined up to devour someone else’s appetite. I had a whole army of those teeth. Then one day I forgot, that is, one day I decided that the teeth were old and gray, and, at any rate, would only stick with pink-gelled Polident.
Biting into someone’s thirst for an apple would be hard indeed.
Dearest Jim,

I fear I will not be able to wait for you much longer.
So I began to erase, starting from the end, back towards the beginning. (I believe in old-fashioned methods of composition.)
But paper has a mind of its own.
Or something does.
Each word came back and laughed at me, daring me to erase once more. I tore the paper with those attempts, only to be thwarted by penciled marks, hanging high in space between lines, writing the forgotten. Wite-out did no better. The words simply bled through, this time in ink.
To the wastebasket. Crumpled paper left behind.
I sit in front of a computer screen.  My coffee is cold once again. I’ve been to the microwave at least five times to reheat it.  (As a student, I buy cheap, instant coffee.) Outside the day beckons, but I choose to spend my time inside with ghosts. The ones I create, and the ones I struggle to listen to as I mine my way through a plethora of Civil War letters.
Love letters. I read the space between. What cannot be captured in straight lines, edges, and curves. But is sometimes captured in coffee stains, scuffmarks, blood, and fibers worn as smoothly uneven as threadbare sheets.
Letters from North and South, I read them all.
I watch her daily. She reminds me of the year I turned twenty-three, although I know she is closer to thirty. They grow up so much older these days.
Jim, she has our letters.
I tried to make her understand what it was like for us. How I walked away from our burning house with only your letters in hand. How they were my life-blood for years during the war and after you never came home.
But my letters for her were repetitions. Each retraced the path of the old words, one after another, my hand writing in worn grooves, the same ones my eyes bore into them years ago.
Those are dying letters, Jim. They always have been.

No, not dying. Still born.
But their birth is something I’m not allowed to forget. And yet I can’t remember.
Don’t want to.
She doesn’t understand.
31 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    February 19, 2010 3:15 pm

    Story for #fridayflash
    I’m so glad you wrote a flash, and I’m very impressed that you were able to do so despite being weary. Admire your determination!
    Of course, as is always true, I love how you write. There are so many fascinating lines here, such as: “They grow up so much older these days.”
    I’ve always thought that reading (and hearing) “the space between” is where one truly gets to know and understand.
    Lovely, lovely piece.

    • February 19, 2010 8:37 pm

      Re: Story for #fridayflash
      Thank you, Marisa. 🙂 I agree with you about “the space between.”

  2. Anonymous permalink
    February 19, 2010 3:20 pm

    “they grow up so much older these days” – yes, we do, don’t we?
    I liked the old fashioned methods of composition 🙂

  3. Anonymous permalink
    February 19, 2010 3:25 pm

    I love the timeline on this – the writer, the reader, the writer as ghost. The same words with different meanings at different points in time.

    • February 19, 2010 8:39 pm

      Re: beautiful
      Thank you so much–and thank you for noticing the changing meanings of the words.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    February 19, 2010 3:42 pm

    A fine read. You get across the mood so well.
    A. Gully jr. (who can’t be bothered to figure out his LJ login from work.)

    • February 19, 2010 8:40 pm

      You’re cracking me up. I’d be the same way at work. 😉 Thanks, Anton. it’s good to hear the mood was right. 🙂

  5. Anonymous permalink
    February 19, 2010 5:48 pm

    As usual, your words are just lovely. I always feel I’m beside a creek, listening to the water gently flowing, when I read your stories. I too am glad you fought that weariness and wrote a story this week, (better than me – I couldn’t get past the sorrow to do one yesterday).
    Super job!

    • February 19, 2010 8:41 pm

      Re: beautiful
      Deanna, you are so sweet. And–sorrow? Oh, no. We need to catch up. And taking care of yourself 1st is #1.

  6. Anonymous permalink
    February 19, 2010 5:56 pm

    Great layered views, ghosts of the past and ghosts of the present.

  7. Anonymous permalink
    February 19, 2010 6:16 pm

    The structure on this piece is weird, but works. There is just enough give and take so that it flows without confusing the reader. In fact it’s done in such a way that at least for me it kept me wanting to read more.
    -Scott King

    • February 19, 2010 8:53 pm

      Heeheehee. It is a bit weird. I’m glad it worked. Sometimes I am very quirky… I’m glad it made you want to read more. As I was writing I thought there could be some interesting stories here…(I always feel as if I’m discovering as I write, that the piece-and the characters-have minds of their own. Lol.)

  8. Anonymous permalink
    February 19, 2010 9:20 pm

    She Doesn’t Understand
    Ha, as an ex-historian, this opened old wounds for me as well. Historians for all their research with original source documents, are not allowed to approach the human, the emotional, the sublime. As a historian, she will never get ‘it’. The creative words eluding her, swimming off the page, represent the struggle I had turning from history to the more creative outlet of fiction. You represent all this so cleanly, so evocatively, thank you.
    marc nash

    • February 19, 2010 9:30 pm

      Re: She Doesn’t Understand
      Wow, Marc, I’m blown away. This is exactly the dilemma. My eyes are tearing up. Nice to be understood. 🙂

  9. Anonymous permalink
    February 20, 2010 1:41 am

    Glad you found your energy…
    I found this quite compelling. For some reason, “Those are dying letters” really got to me. Just lovely. Peace, Linda

    • February 21, 2010 2:56 pm

      Re: Glad you found your energy…
      Thanks, Linda. Saw you were reading GR?…We’ve got to talk…

  10. Anonymous permalink
    February 20, 2010 4:53 am

    You’ve created a really thoughtful mood here. The way words mean different things to different people. I loved the first bit, as it seems I’ve got at least one story that won’t seem to leave me alone, no matter how many times I’ve failed it. Thanks for sharing this piece. Really nice work!

  11. Anonymous permalink
    February 20, 2010 10:29 am

    Loved your flash, couldn’t tell that you are exhausted, it’s perfect 🙂
    I especially enjoyed reading “I read the space between. What cannot be captured in straight lines, edges, and curves. But is sometimes captured in coffee stains, scuffmarks, blood, and fibers worn as smoothly uneven as threadbare sheets.” Such beautiful sentences! (aside from these too, won’t copy your whole text) 🙂

    • February 21, 2010 3:09 pm

      Re: Lovely!
      Thanks. I’m fascinated by the spaces in-between–however they are conceived. So glad you’re back in #fridayflash, btw!

  12. Anonymous permalink
    February 20, 2010 1:13 pm

    I like the format and the telling of this story. Lovely writing throughout!

    • February 21, 2010 2:57 pm

      Thank you! I very much enjoyed your story as well and plan to come back and read many more in the series!

  13. Anonymous permalink
    February 20, 2010 2:45 pm

    I love the “spirits” in this story – the paper, the pen, the letters,the ghosts
    “The paper has a mind of it’s own” just one of the beautiful lines in the touching story.

  14. Anonymous permalink
    February 20, 2010 2:46 pm

    last comment was from Anne Tyler Lord

  15. Anonymous permalink
    February 21, 2010 2:38 am

    She Doesn’t Understand
    I very much like the opening. It did take me several reads to understand the story (but it’s possible I’m too much in the same condition as you were when writing!) I did stumble on “white out,” but otherwise, the language especially in the beginning is very rich. Good writing.

    • February 21, 2010 3:49 pm

      Re: She Doesn’t Understand
      I was wondering if it’d be a little confusing. It is a little weird. Glad it ended up working okay for you. Interesting that you mention “white out”–I stumbled across it, too, a couple of times when I read through it in my mind–but for some reason I kind of liked that it stumbled and I didn’t want to lose the idea of liquid paper. ( I think I thought of phrasing it another way, but still liked the “wr” of “writing the forgotten” followed by the “w” sound in “white-out.” But, if I ever did anything with this piece, it’s definitely something I’d look into editing. Thank you so much for your comments!

  16. Anonymous permalink
    February 22, 2010 4:34 pm

    karenfrommentor said:
    I loved the white out, the idea of the words bleeding back through the liquid paper, and since I used to to use it a lot back when an electric typewriter was the height of technology,it evoked another of my senses which were already delving so deeply into your writing.
    This was a lovely haunting piece.
    Karen :0)

    • February 22, 2010 10:03 pm

      Re: karenfrommentor said:
      Thanks, Karen! Haha-I just saw that either I will have to call it “liquid paper” or spell White-out right–the brand name: “Wite-out.” I remember typewriters, too. Thank God for computers. A lot less pain (in terms of correcting typos), although I miss the feel and sound of typewriters, especially really old ones.

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