I read and I read and I read. Hard and paperbacks pile up on shelves, under the bed, on the kitchen counter. Their eye-catching covers leaning against the wall like decor. I love some, and I throw others across the room. And oftentimes I think I could have written it better. And yet when I write it is about books and they “love it!” What should you read if you’re 20-something and female? What should you read if you are falling in love? But she writes what it feels like to have your heart broken, what it feels like to be alone, and it’s just not right for them. Not at this time they say. We like your posts about books. We want x for x, and you just gave us y. But thanks anyway.
So, I read. And when she writes it’s heavily influenced by what I am reading. She mimics styles, words, plotlines, philosophy. She does it without realizing it, I think. She searches for her voice as the books amass and begin to crush her. She gasps for air so that she can speak, but chokes on words that have already been written. That’s probably how she would put it. Because when she writes it’s melodramatic and self-absorbed, it’s short and quick stories about artists and lonely women.
I imagine writing something with feminist characters that love men (not just a man or no men) and about sex that is real without being vulgar or neatly packaged, an ambling narrative with a happy ending that somehow avoids being trite. But she thinks that is impossible. She tells me sadness is the only truly universal feeling.
Apart from maybe anger, I interject.
Yes, but anger isn’t “literary.”
She hoards my pain and uses it for materials, building it into unrecognizable structures that complicate my vision. But my frustration is impotent, because my pain is hers. I tell her that I do, in fact, remember and that once she writes about it, it will hurt less, like it happened to someone else. I tell her she has to stop keeping these things packed away in dark corners of my brain. It’s not healthy. But she tells me she can’t and she has to write about it and some day they will like y. They will get it. And I want to tell her she’s right, but I’m not sure if I believe it, so I read and feed her blinking cursor with other people’s words.