When learning to write fiction, you begin to really listen to what is being said around you. Sitting in a restaurant, you might listen to the couple in the booth beside you, and although you can’t see them, you end up learning a lot about their relationship through what is being said–and what isn’t being said. This practice helps with writing dialogue.
Shortly after arriving in Tucson, I fell. I fell forward, down onto unforgiving, hard ground. If you’re going to fall, you might as well go big or go home, right? I messed up my right hand and right knee pretty gloriously, which limited my driving, writing, and computer mouse activity for awhile. In other words, I lost my freedom and my ability to be creative, while my job search also came to a screeching halt as well. But, it brings to mind a quote from the 2005 movie Batman Begins, where Alfred asks a young Bruce Wayne, Why do we fall, Master Bruce? So we can learn to get up again.
I developed a blood clot in my leg, but that’s a story for another day.
Once I was up again, I was out and about, intent on meeting people and to starting my life anew in an unfamiliar city. Before making the choice to come to Tucson, I’d done my research and found that there were groups similar to the ones I’d been active in, while living in the San Diego area. So, off I went to get involved in said groups. Immediately though, I began picking up on some odd statements, questions, and stories.
Introducing myself, I almost always got a long, silent pause followed by a sense of sadness from the person I was talking to. Then came the same question (in various forms) asked to me as a reply: “Why Tucson?”
Someone even said to me, “So when are you leaving?” She was encouraging me to get out as soon as I possibly could. Her point was that I didn’t fit the demographic. I wasn’t old enough.
But one of the most interesting statements to come out of those early conversations, came from a woman who had originated from the east coast. Her husband had moved her away from her supportive network and they had lived briefly in Texas for awhile, before eventually moving to Tucson–where he then divorced her. With a serious expression, she looked me directly in the eyes and said to me, “People come to this city to die.”
Um. Well. Let me just say that something like that has a way of getting stuck in your mind. Stuck in a way that has you looking at your surroundings in a whole different way.
For example, when I went looking to see if the local Barnes and Noble had any visiting author presentations to attend, I found the next topic to be, “How to die a good death.”
Or, when I went to a bagel shop, I sat at a table near the window. A motorcycle with a sidecar pulled up. In the sidecar was a human skeleton. (It was nowhere near October.)
Okay, I admit, the sidecar skeleton did make me laugh a little, but it did make me wonder what sort of town I had landed in.
Unfortunately, tales of death, divorce, disease, various types of abuse, loss, unemployment, abandonment and much, much more, would continue to fill my ears. Coming to the city with sadness fresh on my own heart, it was very hard to find a silver lining.
I wonder though, where the story lies in all of this. As a writer, you’re always told you should “write what you know.” Imagine for a moment, a story of an adventurer on a quest, arriving in a city where people come to die. Believable…or not?
Perhaps it’s time for another one of my favorite quotes:
“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” – Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
However strange, this is my story. This is the story of someone who wants nothing more than to find the truest version of herself and to live that life.
How does one start one’s life over, in a city focused on death?
These conversations were yet another puzzle piece for building up a bigger picture.
To be continued…