Story-Telling

The first truly ambitious story I have ever managed to write to the end, “Silences”, contained many themes that I have found myself facing personally, some time after finishing it.

Most obviously, it was the irruption of contingency into life, that sudden, violent and undeserved principle that animates the bleeding heart of classical tragedy. With any big event, new words start populating thought; they dwell on the tongue, and whether you want it or not, they come out repeatedly, strangely associated with the word “I”. Words like “trauma”, “fear”, “helplessness”. Words like “nightmares”. Words like “withdrawing from university”. Words like “Spiders”.

If you survive, then you find words like “post-traumatic stress syndrome”. Words like “valerian”. Words you can’t easily forget or cut off.

And you wonder if this “I”, surrounded by all these new words that had never been possible, that didn’t even exist before, has any resemblance with the old one.

Another major theme in “Silences” was what I like to call “making stories”, or “giving stories”, that is, what we make of words, signs, or indeed of silences; what we make of what we have.

For a long time, I haven’t been able to make much of what I had; I shrank down to a shadow of my former self. The word “fear” in particular became so loud that it pushed everything else away, and the only sense I could make of things, or rather the only sense I could find, orbiting around my smaller and smaller “I”, was “I am scared”. The old sentences had a feeble sense of fading familiarity, like the photographs of a time before memory, when you have learned to recognize yourself in the picture, but ultimately you know that that isn’t you, or at least not anymore.

I was aware of this change. The words “I wish this had never happened” formed themselves in my mind several times, but so did the consciousness that the sentence was self-defying. It couldn’t be that simple.

But a feeble fire was still alive inside of me: partially as a drive to get out of the circumstances that fed the word “fear”. But there was more than mere instinct of survival. In several hard decisions, I have always taken the most difficult road I could endure, for the sake of a better future; even when I had done a lot more than enough.

When the loud scream of fear died down, the echo kept going on (and sometimes it still returns), but I had the chance to look at what was left, the shatters of the old me. At first I thought I had lost so much, but I kept looking, and I found again all that mattered. There were two differences though: a few new words, intruders, or rather remains; and the order, or rather the lack of order. It was not a whole anymore, everything was scattered around.

It was only natural, and inevitable, that I should begin to work and make something of what I had, even if what I had were only ruins. My loss was complete, and I measured my progresses on the comparison between where I was now and what I was before it all happened. And while I knew that going back wasn’t possible, I strived for the most accurate and faithful replica.

At this point, I happened again upon the notion of “making stories”. It approached me slowly, quietly, and waited for me to take notice of it, a bit more every time I told other people what had happened, what was going on with me, and indeed every time I told the story to myself. Eventually I realized: I was telling the story, and the story was me. (The story was telling me, as Derrida puts it). I needn’t be only a character in a story, helplessly subject to the plot, for I was also the narrator; and while I couldn’t change the events (I was not the Author, what has happened has happened) it was up to me to tell the story one way or another. I-character could be the victim of this terrible thing, inspiring pity in the listener; or I could be something different. Without denying how terrible it had been, I-narrator could tell the story so as to prepare it for a finale that was yet unwritten (future) but that I would have pointed towards with my very own telling. A finale in which I-character would have recovered from it, and would have been admired rather than pitied; in which tragedy, after survival, became possibility, in which I could build rather than re-build, with even more ambition.

The way I was going to tell the story was the way I was going to make sense of what had happened, and finally the way I was going to be; up to a conclusion that wouldn’t deny depth and inherent significance to my pain, but that nonetheless replaced in my identity the closure of victimization with the openness of possibility. An ending that would put the whole story under a new light.

I am now at the point when what I am is still hard to tell. I have my fire back, strong, warm and determined. My passion, my wishes, my desires are back, and my essence is there again. (This is why I’m writing here, why I can write here again) But it is all very fragile, and largely incomplete. (This is also why I’m writing here, why I am writing this) I could say it’s scary, that things that wouldn’t normally touch me can tear me apart. But I could also say that it looks like a wonderful adventure awaits; and I think this kind of narration will make the story a lot more beautiful.

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