Tag Archives: fiction

Mrs. Everett Goes to Australia

After nearly two years, I’ve finally come near to the end of my Mrs. Everett story. Only one more chapter to go! For those of you new to this blog, Mrs. Everett is my around-the-world transmedia story of Prue Everett, a woman who went rogue on her life and traveled the world in search of a new one. In this scene, she is at her long-lost sister-in-law’s to mend old wounds and in the process re-discovers her love of animals and a simpler way of life. It’s a long one, so pour yourself a coffee or glass of wine and enjoy. The transmedia version of this chapter will be posted shortly on my business website so keep an eye out for that. (It includes photos, text and phone conversations with Mr. Everett-very juicy stuff.) Sorry it’s so long but as I often say, a writer has to serve the story, not the other way around. Final chapter will be posted shortly: Can you guess where Mrs. Everett ends up?

***

Mara looked older but the lines around the sides of her mouth and eyes made her appear warmer, the brittle pointedness of her face now softer with age. Prue studied her, trying to assess how Mara felt about her arrival–if she was genuinely happy to see her or if she was welcoming her out of a sense of duty as Edward’s sister.

“Welcome traveler! You should be fine to park up there by that truck just beside the house.” Mara had picked up the Australian accent and Prue was surprised at how much it suited her.

Indeed, it seemed like Australia had been good to Mara. All her younger prickly energy had fallen away and replacing it was a generous openness in her body that Prue had never seen in her before. Not that Prue had seen much of Mara in the past; Edward had made a point to ostracize his sister and often belittled her in front of Prue. Pure always admired Mara’s spirit and more so when she made the leap to live on her own just after high school. That decision, Prue remembered, came after an enormous row with Edward not surprisingly. Mara was always the rebel and Edward the hero; it was a hopeless situation that Mara wisely chose to leave.

Mara closed the gate behind her and Prue drove cautiously up the dirt road towards the house. She looked in her rearview mirror and watched as Mara whistled and made a small gesture towards the field. A spark of black and white whipped through the tall grass towards her and leapt up to her thighs as Mara leaned over to stroke the dog’s ears.

Prue shifted into first gear and eased into a spot next to a dusty truck with hay still in the back of it. She felt proud of herself she’d learned stick shift in Italy. She would offer Mara a ride to make sure she didn’t think of her as the same woman she’d been when she’d seen her last–sitting in the back of a car with a driver, never in the driver’s seat.

You don’t have to prove anything. You are who are you now. And that is enough she told herself. 

Yes. It was enough. 

With that, she grabbed her leather pack and stepped out of the car and walked towards Mara.

“Prue, you are driving that car!”

Prue beamed.

“Yes, indeed I am Mara. And would you believe it’s manual?”

Mara let out a deep laugh and slapped her hip.

“Does Edward know? My god, that is just delicious.”

Prue stepped back on one leg, pausing, pulling up her inclination to hug Mara short. Just the mention of Edward had yanked her back and she hesitated, unsure now of her place here, unsure why she was here even.

Mara measured her face and body and stopped.

“I’m sorry, you know, I shouldn’t have brought him up, it’s just the thought of him seeing you behind the wheel–

“Oh, forget it, you know? You have every right to be surprised.” Prue wanted to let the past be the past but here, with Mara, it was thick in the air, a layer they had to cut through and discard before they could be at ease with one another.

“How about a drink? You must be parched after that drive.” Mara walked by her and towards the steps, stopping to give a look that said, I won’t take your bags for you so you’d better hurry up.

“Yes, a perfect suggestion Mara, a drink would be grand.”

Behind Mara banged a screen door, the same kind of bang you’d hear in the background in movies. It was an idyllic porch . With an idyllic door.

Prue opened the back door and looked at her worn bags, flopped over with her folded hat spilling out onto the far seat. She felt worthy for once in her life. Those bags had seen the last year of her life. Transatlantic flights. A heartbreak in Italy. Coasts, mountains, oceans, taxis, buses even. Many happy solo adventures.

She held the screen door behind her with the tips of her fingers until it made a puff and settled into its dusty soft worn frame.

Inside it cooled in temperature, and Prue became aware of how wet her hair was against the back of her neck. She craned her neck around an enormous bookshelf and saw Mara. She was swirling a dark wooden spoon in a pitcher of red liquid. Oranges circled the bottom.

“Am I lucky enough to be in the same house as a cold jug of Sangria?”

Mara tilted her head and smiled. “You, my long-lost sister-in-law, my world traveler, are correct in that.”

Prue walked towards Mara, unsure of how to say what she had to say. It needed saying. It needed saying before drinks were poured or masks were tied on.

“Mara, I want to just be Prue if that’s okay? I want to just be Prue and you just be Mara. And we get to know one another like that? Is it possible, that we can do that?”

Mara looked up at her and was as calm and settled as the floor beneath them.

“That’s a relief Prue. I’m really happy for you. And yes, of course we can. I’m  really happy you came.” Mara leaned in and pulled Prue’s shoulders towards her.

Prue laughed. Mara’s hug felt incredible. It had been months since anyone had touched her and at least several years since anyone had hugged her and meant it.

“I hope you have an extraordinarily–obscenely— large glass for me.”

Mara burst out laughing again, a sharp punchy laugh that leveled you and made the room feel like a party had just started.

“Well, all right then sister, let’s get our sangria on.”

They sat in the shady living room, with afternoon light filtered by the long overhang and uneven lead windows, making the room have the air of an antique store. Prue sat in a rattan chair with a peruvian blanket draped over it. She pushed the sleeping cat to the side to make room and settled down with her sangria, hoping the loud creaks were not a harbinger that her bottom was about to break through the chair and drop to the floor.

“It’s a little less glamorous than you’re used to I think Prue?” Mara leaned back and took a long sip of her drink. “But it’s our home, a little torn on the edges but we’ve been really happy here.”

Prue paused and looked around the room. She remembered how she might have looked at this room and been uncomfortable in it in the past. How she would have noticed each picture, whether matted or framed, archival or cheap backing, crooked or straight. And she would have gone on from there, noting each imperfection like a coroner, making notes in her head like, ‘for christmas remember to tell Edward they need a large gift card to Ikea’ or ‘remember to tell Edward they could use a decent rug from 1st Dibs’ and on it would go, from wall to wall, a ticker tape of judgement that buoyed her up while at the same time fencing her in like an old Victoria torture chamber, it’s iron lung staged in her mind creating a vacuum of feeling, a mirage of humanity.

“It’s so lovely Mara, really, to be in a home, and your home, it has such meaning for me now. Trust me, after a year and a half of traveling in hotels, seeing photos in frames of real people, lived in furniture, the smell of meals, and…family is lovely. I had no idea how alone I’ve been until now.” Prue paused and Mara waited, calmly petting another cat nosing her hand for attention. Prue made an attempt to put what she was feeling into words. “When I first left, I reveled in the anonymity. It felt like I had jumped from a great height and was hang-gliding in my life, just swooping and landing wherever the wind took me and never having to think about answering to anyone, recognizing anyone, or being recognized and I could be entirely…”

“Selfish?” Mara laughed then and lifted her glass to Prue. “Way to go is what I say Prue. I salute you. I do, really. It took some courage to do what you did.” Mara lifted up her glass to Prue.

“Yes, well it didn’t come without a lot of pain upon landing but I kind of got the hang of it. Though I think it took Edward a little longer.”

“Hey, you know what? We’re just the two of us in the room. I’m in too good a mood to talk about Edward.” Mara made a silencing gesture with her hand. “Besides, you know once he figures out you’re here the phone will start ringing until we hup-ho and give him answers.”

“True.” Prue paused and looked down. “Should we bring the pitcher in here then or?” Prue smiled and pushed herself out of the low chair with some effort.

“Bring ‘er on in Prue. Pour us both another. I gotta bring in the horses now but will be back in a jiffy okay?” Mara called out to the kitchen and Prue yelled back. “Horses? I didn’t know you owned horses!”

“Yes we do and you’ll meet them all tomorrow don’t you worry. No one rides for free here, we’ll put you to work.”

The door banged behind her as she left and Prue heard her boots hit the three porch steps hard. That was Mara, thought Prue, sure of her step, no wavering or pausing or gingerly doing anything. Straight on, assured, with purposeful blinders on that filtered out what wasn’t useful or needed and kept her life one that answered to her deepest instincts.

She realized Edward was the same but his intense focus didn’t serve anyone beyond himself. It didn’t serve to deliver goodness or kindness or empathy and this was what Prue had come to realize was missing for her. She needed, more of her life spent being in service. She had no idea how she would do it but she was sure that being here, being in Mara’s world, had something to do with it.

***

Was someone calling her? Prue looked up from her book. Mara stood at the end of the drive, waving vigorously. Prue stood and letting her book fall onto the cushioned bench.

“You should come and see this!” Mara yelled, motioning excitedly for Prue to come to the paddock that was home to her many horses. Mara had long been a devoted animal lover, taking her passion into a career as a large animal veterinarian. While she may have grown up riding and jumping posh show horses, Mara preferred to work with sport horses or ‘equine athletes’ as she preferred to call them. She took a scientific approach to nursing lame horses back to health and their owners paid her well for it. She was the top vet in Australia for thoroughbred race horses and was careful about who she took on as a client. It was hard work and it consumed her.

Prue was looking beyond Mara where a sleek brown horse and elderly woman who looked like Jane Goodall, appeared to be nuzzling one another, deeply intent on some mysterious conversation only they seemed to understand.

“What is that woman doing?” Prue asked as she came alongside Mara and perched her feet on the lowest run of the fence to get a better look.

“Prue, you’ve no idea–you know me, right? Well, maybe not in the last decade much–but I know when a horse is untreatable, when there’s just no hope for it. I’ve made that call only a few times and was ready to on this handsome chap but I met this woman and she said she could turn him. He’d just become impossible for the polo field but…” Mara tapered off, staring at the horse in disbelief.

“Does he bite or something?” Prue asked.

“Oh lord, does he bite?” Mara slapped her jeans and puff of dust rose up as she did. “He bloody well kicks, bites, screams like a little angry toddler, just impossible for the rider and owners. But me thinks that last rider really made him go off–what a prick he was. “

Prue watched the woman alternate nuzzling with the horse and holding his face then laying her arms along his sides in small increments. He gave a small kick when she got near his hind quarters and she immediately went back to forehead contact and talking to the horse in what appeared to be an earnest dialogue.

Mara turned to her and smiled wide. “This horse would have bitten your face off a few weeks ago. Stunning to watch this.”

“Who is she?” Prue asked.

“Oh, why that’s my dear friend and mentor Olivia Bruselez. She’s what some might call a horse whisperer but I call her a practitioner of spiritual horsemanship. Sounds slightly less kooky, right?” Mara laughed her big open barking laugh and the horse abruptly jumped and ran out of Olivia’s embrace. Olivia looked over at Mara, shrugged and started to walk over.

“I just love her to bits.” Mara walked down the length of the fence and met Olivia at the gate. They hugged tightly and Prue felt self-conscious, as though she shouldn’t be looking then realized it was because she hadn’t been in normal life for so long she’d forgotten real friendships and what they looked like.

“Prue, Olivia, Olivia, Prue, my sister-in-law.” Mara extended a gesture to Prue and Prue shook Olivia’s hand. Olivia placed her hand over Prue’s and held it as she talked.

“This is wonderful you are here Prue. Mara’s told me lots about you. It’s really quite an incredible undertaking traveling around the world as you have been.”

“Well, thank you but it’s not quite around the world just yet. Happy to be taking a reprieve from hotels and be in a home for a change.” Prue didn’t know how to make small talk about why she was here. The story was too complicated for sound bites.

Olivia had deep-set eyes, and even deeper wrinkles. Her head was framed by gray hair that looked like a soft yellow halo in the sun. She smiled at Prue and Prue realized they were still holding hands, looking at one another. She reminded Prue of little of her grandmother and felt instantly drawn to her.

Olivia turned to Mara: “She not at all what you said she’d be Mara, she’s wonderful.”

“Olivia! Don’t poke the bee’s nest when we’ve just calmed it down, alright?” Mara scolded Olivia but not with any force behind it.

“It’s fine, really, both of you would have been right about me six months ago even. I get it.” Prue gave a resigned shake of her head and pulled her hand away from Olivia’s.

“You know, actually, I think I’m going to go in, this heat is zapping me of all my energy. “ Prue turned and walked but to the house, hoping they’d give her some space. She suddenly longed to be on the road again, alone, with no history, no husband or need to explain herself. She let the screen door bang loudly behind her and took solace in her small, quiet room at the back of the house. She was followed by her married ghost self here and she didn’t like it. But what else did she think would happen at Mara’s? Did she think that all could be forgotten so easily? Prue pulled the light sheet up to her waist and buried her face in the pillow. She let the sounds of the farm, sangria and heat eventually lull her into sleep.

***

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Unplug and burn it to the ground

An excerpt near the end of my fiction novel about a woman named Sam who is in her late 20’s and a techno-crazed mess who gets herself in all kinds of crazy trouble on a grand scale, tentatively titled ‘Based on True Tweets’. Some of you may remember her and posts on this blog from that piece. I’m threading it together in my head, albeit in tiny slices of moments in a workday when I’m not deluged with minutiae of tasks but she’s still there, trying to work her way through me!

___________________________________________________________________________

She unplugged herself. She pulled the power bar out, yanking in an abrupt, angry pull so everything went black all at once.  Then she picked up her iPhone and deleted her Twitter account. “Are you sure?” Yes. I’m fucking sure.

She sat in the silence that followed. She heard a small dog bark repeat itself like an apartment minuet and she realized she’d never heard the dog that lived above her before. Tweets had obfuscated her ability to be aware of her surroundings. Digital noise had filled her mind with clutter and in her hampster-wheel life, she’d mistaken the noise for a kind of promise. She had dulled the sharp points of her judgement with replies, retweets, and a kind of sharing that had led her as far away from her self as an information highway possibly could.

In that moment, Sam realized she had to move. Everything about her apartment reeked of desperation. She would have liked to burn it to the ground and stand in the ashes so her feet smelled of smoke and effort and survival. She’d have to settle for a storage locker and a suitcase. Slightly less dramatic, but she would at least know there were ashes where they should be: in her heart, snuffing out the danger that had lit her world on fire in the first place.

She shook her head in disbelief. It all seemed so simple in this moment. At what point had she woken up? She found it hard to believe she could have been so asleep, so utterly unaware of her own destruction. She had to acknowledge she alone had chosen to walk that road to find love, that she had led herself into those places,  kissed men not to find love but to prove it didn’t exist. She only wished she could run down that road now and pull her self back, tug on the coat sleeve of her misjudgment and prevent the inevitable moment when her illusion had turned on her, revealing its true dysmorphic disorder in all its glory. She wanted to whisper to that self: This isn’t what you think it is.  It never will be.

She stood still in the middle of her apartment unwillingly turning back to the past one last time for a look at his face.

Over. Get on with it. Stand up. Move. Pack. Burn it all down. Get your shoes on for chrissakes said an instructive voice in her head suddenly. For some reason, it sounded like Holly Hunter and it was kicking her ass. She left her laptop on the table, her iPhone still plugged into it and wrapped a scarf around her neck absently as she fumbled for her keys in the glass bowl. She’d waited for this moment, when she finally stepped in and saved herself. It felt like tap-dance happy. It felt like salvation. It tasted like a communion wafer that never melted. She wondered, as she closed the door, what her father would think then realized she didn’t care anymore.

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Trapped on the 7th Floor

This is a draft excerpt from my fiction novel, tentatively just called ‘Sam’ now but it will change no doubt. For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll remember I posted excerpts before. I’ve been remiss in writing this story but am back at it again! This is quite a bit later in the story and Sam has finally found ‘love’ only to find that the person she thought she was in love with barely resembles the person she is with. You’ll have to wait for the novel for all the sordid but highly entertaining plot details.:) 

***

She crept into the bathroom and closed the door, turning the handle slowly so there was not even a click. She’d learned that trick when she was little so her dad didn’t hear her slinking out of her room and creeping downstairs to her mom’s bed. She could smell the sickness on her but she didn’t care. She just wanted to be close to her and listen to her slow breathing in the dark.

She started to cry. She wanted to go there now, feel the scratchy hand-knit crochet blanket against her check, press into her mom’s back and hold her.

She was in total darkness except the red light of his shaver charging. She shook with cold and dragged a towel from the side of the tub and wrapped it around her shoulders.  If she could wish for one thing it would be for a door to this bathroom that would lead out into the hallway. She would find a cab in front of the hotel. She would go home and crawl into her bed. But there was no door. And she realized in that moment that there is a stage and there is a backstage in life and that actors are just people putting on wigs and makeup and their words are not theirs and the pretty way their skin glows is from lights with coloured filters hanging from a ceiling  and they are not in fact glowing from within because of their innate goodness. Sam had accidentally walked backstage in her own life and the man in the bed outside the door wasn’t the man she thought he was. She could feel herself between the world of reality and make-believe and her stomach flipped over and over until she felt bile rising up in her mouth. She’d believed everything he’d told her. She’d never wanted anything so badly. You are a bloody idiot came a man’s voice. It was her Dad’s. Of course, of course it was. 

Honey, you come on and stop that now, don’t listen to him my little petal…

Oh no, now her dead mom’s voice. Great. This is all going so, so well.

She wept into the towel.

I’m so ashamed Mom, I’m so ashamed…

You didn’t know. You do now. You’ll do better. Some men honey, when they get close to you, you just have to shoot ’em in the heart like a dog that ain’t never going to be good. You hear me? And don’t you feel badly. Takes a heart the size of yours to still love that bad dog when the rest of us would of shot him ‘fore he got to the door. 

She felt her eyes swelling up to the size of Rocky’s. Fuckety fuck fuck. She was sore all over and felt all the love drain out of her like a bad high. She felt her way to the cold marble counter and searched for the faucet. She drank as quietly as she could for a long time. She could tell a hangover was creeping in. It was deep in the belly of the night, maybe 3? She thought of him sleeping quietly with no idea their matrix was over. She started to cry again. She felt like she’d been in a car accident. She needed some help but there was no police or 911 you could call for this. Hi, I’m with a married millionaire and I’m sooooo sad.

She couldn’t let him see her cry.They were supposed to be in love. That was the play she was starring in. That was the whole point of her role. That was the story she was trapped in and couldn’t find her way out of.

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Insanity of writing, memory of marriage, and the elixir of story

What I’m about to say could possibly seem odd to you if you aren’t a writer. If you are a writer, you’ll nod and smile. Writer’s who write for money and writers who must write are two different things I’ve come to realize over the years. If you are able to stop writing, that is, if you won a lottery, and didn’t have to write for your job, and you wouldn’t miss it so much, then you belong in the first camp. If you are deprived of being able to write and find yourself going slightly mad, then it is quite likely you are in the second camp. As a metaphor–after all, we’re talking about writing–the second camp of writers will feel, after a short time without their writing, as someone who is forcibly kept underwater and not allowed to surface for oxygen. Panic begins to take hold and the urge is so intense that you feel you may die without that air in your lungs. You will go to extreme lengths to take air. You will swim to the surface, no matter what is stopping you, in order to survive.

I am most definitely in the second camp. When I spend too much time being non-creative, thinking in a linear, functional fashion, I get that edgy, unsettled feeling that begins in the bottom of my lungs and builds and builds and builds until I am that swimmer desperate for air and wildly swimming up to it as though her life depended on it.

Because it does. My mental well-being at any rate.

I sometimes wish I didn’t have this problem. Because then I would not have to ever take any time off from being a productive machine and even more likely, would be far wealthier as a result I am sure.

But I have to breathe. You might find me staring out a window quietly thinking for instance. I’m actually writing. The act of pen to paper is only one part of writing. So often I have often been criticized for just staring out a window during my life, with people violently waving their hands in my face saying, ‘hello??? anyone home???‘ Well, yes I’m bloody well home you idiot is what I wish to say when that happens but don’t because well, I’m Canadian and polite. But seeing fictional characters, feeling them, getting the details of their history, imagining their voices–all these float towards you as in a dream but you have to be quiet and still and listening for them to appear. You don’t want anyone around. You don’t want to be interrupted–dear god don’t get in the way of a writer in the midst of this process for heaven’s sake–so you  can fall and keep falling into your storyworld that was calling and calling for you all this time. It is heaven to finally get to suck in all that lovely creative air, gulping and gulping it in, finally, finally satiated.

The other day I was talking about Mrs. Everett–a story I am writing using various forms including text, audio, photographs, and video–and my son said, you talk about her as if she were real. I said to him, if she isn’t real to me, she’ll most certainly not be real for anyone else. Well, he’s a visual artist so looks at me like I’m nuts of course but a writer completely and utterly understands how these other people take up residence within us demanding their story be told.

So, after working very hard since last February in the linear real world, I am going to be holed up in December in the storyworld of Mrs. Everett and letting her finally get a chance to emerge as she wishes. I am clap-happy about these plans I can assure you as I surface for days on end to drink in the elixir of story.

Part of the storyworld of Mrs. Everett includes her poetry musings, often written in the middle of the night, usually about Mr. Everett her husband whom she has recently left. Here is a sound recording of her second poem in the project 2012-11-20 2_57_30 PM.

The first poem (Room 107) is only available to subscribers to Prue’s Postcards which you can find on my business site. In this poem/scene, Mrs. Everett (Prue) is staying on Catalina Island in California and is escaping to a posh hotel but can’t sleep as she thinks about her life and what may lie ahead for her and what she has also left behind (her marriage). I imagine she is also thinking of their early days together when they were once so in love. She remembers back when they watched Un Homme et une Femme, with Edward translating for her and saying the subtitles were all completely wrong. So, it’s a painful time of looking back for Prue (Mrs. Everett) and also with hope for what lies ahead. Here’s a still from the movie that will place you exactly in the memory she has of their heady days first in love as a young couple:

Anouk Aimée & Jean-Louis Trintignant in Un homme et une femme (1966, Claude Lelouch)

Now, because this story is written employing Transmedia techniques, I have to give Mrs. Everett a voice and image and so am standing in for her. What she actually looks like and sounds like isn’t me, so please suspend your disbelief if you think, hey that is Margaret speaking. I am, but on behalf of Mrs. Everett. Clearly you can see why my son thinks I am insane. La de da I say, and don’t give a whit if you agree with him either. For those that love a good story, this one is going to be a doozie I can tell you. So I do hope you’ll join me as I develop it. You can read the first part of the story on my business webpage at http://www.whatisyourstory.ca. The next installation is on its way soon!

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Introducing Mrs. Everett

This is a scene from one part of a small Transmedia story I’m creating to launch on my biz website soon. It’s about a character by the name of Mrs. Everett who is trapped in a stale and cold marriage to a wealthy businessman who cares more about his stocks than her. Inside Prue, her real self, lies another woman waiting to bloom, discover, and be discovered. In this scene, she is to meet her husband for an anniversary weekend at a swanky hotel. Instead, she finds out in a short text he can’t make it and is staying on in Shanghai. The story will also be told in photographs, poetry, audio, and a video diary. Stay tuned for more Mrs. Everett story unfolding!

She crossed her legs and uncrossed them. The light turned green. She heard the sound of an ambulance coming from behind them. She felt the lined leather seats below her. She thrummed her fingers anxiously on her knee. It was rush hour and they were trapped. A mirrored building beside her shone brightly and refracted urban light into her eyes.

She looked down at the text and wondered where to go now?

She called up to her driver.

“I don’t want to go to the hotel Mr. Everett booked. “

A long pause hung between them.

“Yes Mrs. Everett” answered Ted, her driver and only real confidante.

She knew she wanted to go somewhere; she could see it like a mirage shimmering, hovering fluidly on the horizon, watery and unformed,  a kind of liquid apparition she’d known was there all along but refused to believe in because no one else saw it.

“Ted?”

“Yes Mrs. Everett?”

“Let’s go to that hotel I was telling you about, remember the one I went to as a little girl? The one with proper light switches and service?” She pulled off her gloves and placed them one on top of another at cross angles on her lap. She smoothed her already ironed skirt and crossed her ankles.

“Yes, absolutely ma’am, we’ll be there in just under 30 minutes I suspect.”

“Alright, thank you Ted.”

She had the sudden urge to toss her gloves out the window, with their perfect snaps and buttery soft leather and silky monogrammed lining; she resented everything about them.

Suddenly, she wanted her hands free.

Suddenly, she realized, she could be free.

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A kiss isn’t an emoticon: The myth of digital love

I had two long distant relationships this year, one in DC, one in Hannover, Germany. I work in the digital space for a living so it was no problem for me to seamlessly shift from IRL (in real life) to digital life. I do it all day long. My German boyfriend was barely past opening email when I met him but managed, in the space of a short time, to direct message on Twitter, open a Dropbox account, begin skyping at all hours, and even made videos and opened a YouTube account. We hacked the tools to make them work for us and our time distance. Sometimes I’d wake to a dozen love tweets just as he might be going to bed. There was a kind of pause effect that I liked about digital love; it gave me time to think, to process words as a reader. I loved the idea that someone was sending small blips of poetry to me across an ocean as I slept. I adored waking to them, as though each day greeted me with possibility and sweetness, albeit in the glowing light of an iPhone in the early morning dark.

But the problem with digital relationships is that you effortlessly enter a world of fiction.

Even as I write this, there are thousands of calls being made between people full of hope, commitment, and a steely determination that their digital connection is as good as their connection in real life.

It isn’t.

Don’t kid yourself. While our cross-media relationships hold incredible power–they do communicate our powerful emotions in words, photographs, and video but the subtleties get lost in cyber space: The small twitch of a finger, anxiously drumming a leg, a poker-like tell of inner conflict that is entirely missed as the face smiles in a pixelated mess of I love you’s, no really, I do’s.

There are no soft shoulders, no forgiving spaces to lean into on a couch, no hesitant moments in a kitchen before a meal where love can heal and eat in peace together. Instead, words can slam into you at 140 characters like a semi doing 90 miles an hour straight into a brick wall. Direct messages are direct alright.

It is also easier to lie and obfuscate in digital communications. One can get carried away with the fictionalized world of the social objects created to imagine a storyworld between you and your loved one. Pictures, video links, mp3 files, Dropbox playlists, Pins, and memos, even couriered packages all begin to shape and form the world you share. Connection, that is, wi-fi, takes on a life or death dependency. And it seems real, it seems like the best possible world, it is never boring or tedious; it is in fact often better than the real thing. No breath is exchanged however, not a single touch is explored truthfully.

Doubt is easily buried in emoticons.

As our globe shrinks to a :):):):):):) and a lmao or a bleakly typed ‘are you there?’, we should not confuse digital love with IRL love. In fact, I think dating sites should really come with a warning, like a pack of cigarettes: “Nothing you see, hear, feel, or read is real. Proceed with caution into this fictionalized world.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love rabbit holes, I really do love escaping into imaginary worlds. And that is the danger. I’m so easily drawn into fiction over reality that the slippery slope ends up in a lot of digital debris and very little to show for my journey. Good fiction should transform you, take you on a journey, and leave you having learned from the storyworld something that you could not have learned had you not entered it. But digital relationships aren’t always authored by a good writer and entering into any old story world is a risk.

Smell and taste and laughter and tactile moments cannot be replaced by digital communications no matter how advanced we are; the smell of just washed hair, the texture of hands holding one another, the visceral experience of sitting across from another person and feeling their truth without having to say a word, without, in fact, a single electrical outlet around for a 1000 miles.

Ironically, the more digital I make my life, the more I savour my IRL experiences. The exquisite pleasure of sitting with my old friends, my iPhone off, wine in hand, hearing familiar laughter, clinking of steak knives on plates, the smell of coals below a dripping grill, late afternoon sun warming my back, the lightness of just being in one place, analog style, with only my five senses to record the experience.

Be wary if you think you can port your relationship into and across digital media: There needs to be a time when the circus puts pegs down into the earth, the tent is raised, and real stories get told and real people sit with one another and share them. For me, without the IRL component, no relationship can be truly alive and experienced. Besides, I am pretty sure a kiss still wants to be a kiss and not an emoticon…

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Walk the Plank

This is an excerpt from the fiction novel I am writing. You can find other excerpts under my category of ‘fiction’ to get a through-line of the story about Sam. This scene is after she has found out her boyfriend has done something, well quite shocking and terrible. To find out what that is you’ll have to read the book when it’s done.:) 

She has returned to her life but she is in a different place. It’s as though someone had done renovations while she was away and hadn’t told her. That window shouldn’t be there should it? She leaves her suitcase on a kitchen chair, unopened.

She looks around her apartment and feels ill at ease. She wishes in this moment that she owned a pet who would look at her lovingly and connect her back to how it was before with a plaintive meow.  But she knows the self she left with is no longer within her and was in fact obliterated in one moment by her boyfriend. This is what an atomic bomb of the heart feels like. Flashbacks speed through her mind like thousands of YouTube videos of her life played at warp speed: She hears snippets of his voice, tastes their last dinner together, the ting of a coat hanger as it hits the back of his closet, the flight home, of which she can remember nothing except the white glow of rupture. Her throat tries to swallow. She notices a change in light from far away. How long had she been standing in her hallway with her coat on?

Just go to bed for Pete’s sake!  It’s her father’s pragmatic, slightly irritated voice that snaps her out of her reverie. She also hears her cousin’s voice, who is studying to be a doctor, and possibly the smartest person alive,  say in a cheerful, but calm manner:

“Likely you are just in shock. Drink a glass of water and try to get some sleep for now.” 

Had she lost her mind?

She takes her cousin’s imaginary advice and crawls into bed and pulls the pillow against her chest to dull what feels like leeches bleeding her out from the inside, draining her, waiting for her to slip away entirely, until she is pale, and translucent with only white platelets left  struggling to fight the shattered debris of her emotions.

It’s okay honey. 

Her mother’s voice, smoothing her temple, stroking her hair, pulling the comforter over her shoulder. She cries then, silently, with no strain, acquiescing to her grief with no commentary. She is flatlining. She is not home. She may never be.

No Mom, it is not. It is not okay. 

Caught in a kind of purgatory, she knows before her tears will subsist that she will not be the same. Having walked to the end of the plank and had a gun pointed at her by this relationship she will feel a need to find a gun herself.

And she will want to point it at someone.

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