There is a friend I like to drag aside when the world is particularly brilliant and clear. I bring him to my vantage point and say, excitedly, “Look! Look at that. Do you see that?” And most of the time he does not. “I don’t know what you’re trying to show me,” he says. “I wish I could see what you see. I wish I could see with your brain- no, with your heart.” And I understand, because it isn’t a purely visual thing I’m trying to show him. It is all of the complex moments that lead up to it and the context and the stories that are there, before, after, during, the people, the place, the time of night. It’s the fifty people dancing outside a warehouse in Hearst to drum and bass with a four year old and a six year old in their midst. The four year old’s been playing bar-tender all night, now she’s hula-hooping and the sun is setting and the beer is flowing and it is just such a bizarre, wonderful scene. Can you imagine growing up with that? With the acid-tripping treeplanters playing in puddles with you and teaching you to hula-hoop? I can’t and again exclaim, “Look at that. Look at that.” My friend who I show things to and I start to climb up the ladder to the roof of a friend’s van. “Do you want to go up there?” he asks. And a few steps up, I stop. “No, it isn’t right.” There are thirty different directions I could go in, different parties to join, different directions the night could take. I can’t commit to anyone. But I ask him to take a picture there, one foot poised on a ladder rung. “It can’t be the same,” I say with some sadness. Later, looking at the photo, I can’t remember it still being daylight at that point. The unreliable narrator emerges.
I’ve collected things all my life. Seashells and beach glass, the names of birds and flowers, hobbies and careers. If you could have all of something, put the pieces together, have something complete. A full picture. Stories tie into this, too. Is it in somebody’s character to pick up those pieces of glass along the beach in Vik? Or do they buy a book of folklore everywhere they go, instead? Or do they eat the food of the locale? What do characters collect, what makes them themselves? What makes me, myself? I can never decide. I’m a poor character. But I’ve collected stories my entire life. Those of others, and my own. The man who sells pens outside the grocery store, the Rouge Valley farmer, the Australian backpacker playing the accordion, the nights at hotels and in tents and on the road. They live and breathe and sing. Life gets boring and I want it to be a more interesting story and I strive for the odd and unusual and beautiful, though stories can be mundane and lovely in their own right as well.
The end of cherry season, nobody can remember the entirety of the last night party. Except me. I’ve can participate and instigate and observe, all at the same time. Once, I say, “You can either be a part of it, or you can watch,” which isn’t entirely true. You can do both, to some degree, though eventually you have to stop observing to fully participate, to be fully present. “You have to find the storytellers, like Bex,” somebody says. I know- I have the night, here, in full color. I have the feeling of the dishsoap underfoot and the smell of the fire extinguisher, I have the unsettled feelings in the bowels of climbing on the roof, I have the sadness of lying apart and thinking about the end. I have the entire walk from the camp through the cherry trees and down the road, through the hayfield and the spread of hazy smoke mountains all around. I have the rafters and the shower and the dancing and the humiliation and the sadness and the exuberance and the alive-ness of it all. And a story needs a plot, but that’s what they’re really all about.