Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I, you

So as per usual, I got done posting a bunch of stories, and then I just checked out. Need to stop doing that.

I can say though that I much prefer posting writing on the blog more than I do actually blogging. Need to untwist that knot, as well.

Was speaking with a new writing acquaintance and it turns out she writes almost exclusively in 2nd person. I had limited interaction with that point of view, stemming directly from my mentor in college telling me, "don't write in 2nd person." He didn't explain why, nor did I ask for an explanation.

Looking back now, I realize that 2nd person has a lot of inherent problems that 1st and 3rd person free the writer of, and the author has a lot of responsibility to begin with, but 2nd person adds on a few more hats. Most importantly, for me, is that the reader has to instantly buy-in, which is far beyond being interested, or curious. In 1st and 3rd, the reader is reading about someone else. Someone that can have all the eccentricities and flaws that good characters have. The reader can judge, can discriminate. They are free to feel how they wish. In 2nd person, the reader is the subject of the story. Suddenly those nice, detailed idiosyncratic foibles are theirs, and they have to sit with them, as part of the immersion agreement. That can be tough.

But, having met someone who was so confident, so oblivious to the terrors that I had been made aware of, directly and indirectly, gave me new perspective. I had to think for a moment about when I tried my first and only 2nd person story, and why I never tried again. It's been over ten years at this point.

So as per usual, I wrote.

A Wrong Kind of Right

You just need a little money. Not a lot, but definitely some. You got no clue about the lights, or the water, or anything else your parents are always grumbling about, fighting about. Things are like that second frozen loaf of bread, on-sale brand, so when it comes out of the package you have to be gentle or it will crumble in your hand. Dad didn’t take out a new loaf when he ate all of the previous one, so now you have to wait, leave the slices out on the paper plate to sit in the afternoon shadows peeking through the kitchen window.

“So what you think?” Pi asks.

He needs to know because you need to know. Both of you need to have an answer before tomorrow. And it needs to be the same answer, too.

So here’s what you think: it’s just air. Space. You weren’t even using your backpack all the way, anyway. The notebook, a spiral, pens, maybe a book. The rest is just air, space going to waste. And somebody wants to pay cash money for that.

So here’s what you say. “Man… I mean, if it sounds too good to be true, it prolly is.” It sounds good. It sounds like the right thing to say. “Sure could use that money though.”

“I know right?”

You do know. And here’s what else you know: ain’t nobody in this world giving money away for free like that. No one in your world, anyway. Mr. Charles and his friends, renting out backpack space, ain’t just looking at you and Pi, just because you and Pi stay where you stay. If they can get two book bags, then they can get four. If they can get four, they can get ten. And somebody is going to want to know about whatever it is you’re carrying. The folks around, Dr. Watts and Mr. Leaks and Miss Pennington, none of them care much about your burdens on most days. But you know. You know if you add this one, it would be the day when they ask.

“I say we do it,” Pi says.

You think. And you think. But here’s what you remember: your folks scrambling for extra money during tax season, claiming other people’s kids like you grew an extra brother and sister overnight, that stack of bootleg movies that y’all watch sometimes, comparing the quality to others and how well the hustle man holds the camera. You remember your grandmother telling you sometimes it’s okay so long as you don’t get caught.

“I just dunno, Pi,” is what you say, and you keep saying it, long after the bread is soft.

So the answer is no. Not a big no, but a small one, like maybe if Mr. Charles came around again, after he got some other folks roped in, and it worked out alright for them, maybe that little no might turn into a little yes. But that ain’t how it works. A no, even a little one, is something folks remember. You’re left to guess, as the days roll back into a stale kind of normalcy. Your shoes stay the same, your clothes stay the same, but you see them, the bright spots of color that appear in streaks all around you. It would be easy enough to spot the yesses, even the little ones.

You wouldn’t have been mad about an after school special ending, whispers following finger pointing and the fake police finally getting some exercise. At least, it would’ve made some sense out of something. You don’t wish bad on nobody, but you do wish some good on yourself. And you did the right thing, right?

So here’s what happened: nothing. More than a couple folks got paid, and now Pi smacks his gums at you when he sees you. He might have even gone back to Mr. Charles with a big yes, with a begging yes.

You will wonder about this for the rest of your life. Every other time money is tight you’ll wonder what you could’ve bought with Mr. Charles’ money. Sometimes it’ll be food, and sometimes it’ll be clothes. A paint job or brakes, a flat screen or a baby stroller.

If you knew, really knew, about what was happening inside of all those other people, about the weight they were carrying, and how it wore them down, you might feel better.

But you never will.