What Nature Called Her

Today, before I checked my phone, email, or got dressed, I made a nest by piling pillows up to the corners of my bed, propped my laptop against a blanket on my legs. I opened up an old Word document and began to write, well—not write, but edit a story I’ve been stuck on for two weeks, quite possibly two years. That early in the morning, my brain submerged in the story. I could see it more clearly when my hackles were down.

I’m not sure if the piece became better or worse, but I think something important happened. Here are a few lines I reimagined: 

Rick modeled for me in the dark. His self wasn’t discernable with the naked eye. It was made up of the pattern of shadows his body made, the curve of the nose, the white strip of light off of his tongue. What he looked like without a naked yellow bulb against his body, I couldn’t say. Not then. He enters my memory in the contours of a back so thin I could count each rib, appears in the curve of a hairless arm.

Yesterday, I also tutored O., who I think became my best friend in Pittsburgh. I heard her play the piano. I still remember when she was six and cranking out lullabies, and now she’s moved on to songs that are braver, more mature. She looks at me, her eyes not even on the keyboard, as if she wants to make sure I enjoy each stroke. She told me that some music you feel inside, and it makes you feel things like sorrow or happiness. Part of me misses her as a child—it was so quick, so fleeting—the difference I’ve seen in her as she grows up is she seems more thoughtful and less outspoken. After her spontaneous piano recital, I went downstairs to say hello to her little brother, S. He’s about ten months old, and I was the second face he saw when he was born. He looked at me very earnestly, but still refuses to say my name. O. asked him—S., tell us about sweet baby Jesus. And S.’s face broke out into a grin and he said, “prayer” and “mommy Mary” and then, leaning towards me conspiratorially, “apple.” I was a little spooked, but also fascinated at what goes on in his baby brain.  

I’ve also been lost in the dregs of thinking about Truman Capote again. I was reminded of this: 

The test of whether or not a writer has defined the natural shape of his story is just this: After reading it, can you imagine it differently, or does it silence your imagination and seem to you absolute and final? As an orange is final. As an orange is something nature has made just right.

The apple, the orange, the perfect song. 

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