I’ve been corresponding with a young woman, a college student, who plans to go to law school, provided she doesn’t kill herself first. She hasn’t said this exactly, but that is the gist.
I am loathe to lobby for one choice over the other. Suicide makes as much or as little sense as anything else (particularly law school), and besides, it’s her call.
Many would disagree with my approach, but that, as my correspondent has noted, is a lot of crud. The ties that bind must be self-applied – and always are, ultimately.
Recently I asked her a question:
I’ve long believed that we each have a story about ourselves which we try all our lives to prove true, unaware that we are doing so. This story invariably explains a lot of otherwise inexplicable behavior.
What do you think your story is?
Note: It can usually be expressed in just five words.
Note: This can be a difficult and scary question.
Her response took the form of a meta-proof.
After some serious thought, I’ve decided that my story would be this: I’m a lost little girl.
And yes, that scares me… but there’s nothing I can do about it. I wish I knew what the right choices in life were, but I can barely keep myself afloat as it is.
I nodded as I read this, for it showed that she knows who pulls the strings of her suffering. Not that knowing this diminishes her suffering, nor changes the story that drives it, but at least it’s a start.
Whatever it was, I was supposed to not only know what it was but be engaged in doing it, because evidently everyone else was doing it. He was aware of this and accepted it, so the question boiled down to how often and to what degree.
I had no idea what he was talking about, but given the tenor of our conversation, which I can only characterize as “on-the-level,” it seemed best to nod in agreement whenever agreement seemed called for, rather than risk being thought an idiot or liar or both.
This is how I came to admit that I periodically stole from the restaurant, the same as all the other waiters and waitresses, using the obvious method, whatever it was, but in moderation.
I discovered today that my readership has gone up twenty percent since I stopped writing so much. Among other things this reminds me of the old saw that women are attracted to men who treat them badly. Sadly I think there’s some truth to that, broadly speaking.
However I assure you that our relationship is based on a different model. You are hungry and I feed you. Or rather, I try to. And in the process am fed. Actually the hungry person is me; I feed myself.
This reminds of an old Jewish saying: There’s always enough food in the kitchen for one more meal. It’s a lie of course. Eventually you run out of the last thing you have, and the meals are over. Is the speaker suggesting we eat our own flesh? If so, our flesh will run out too, same as everything else. Nothing doesn’t run out.
I keep a document of fragments. Most of the pieces I write emerge from these fragments. Mainly I change things; I read through the document and make small changes. This is what happened just now. I found a fragment I liked, only it didn’t seem quite right: too many commas, too broken up and stuttery. So I removed some commas, and that made it better. Then I realized that the fragment was actually a quote from Beckett, so I put it back the way it was:
I don’t know: perhaps it’s a dream, all a dream. (That would surprise me.) I’ll wake, in the silence, and never sleep again. (It will be I?) Or dream (dream again), dream of a silence, a dream silence, full of murmurs.