I’m sorry I haven’t come to see you in so long.
I haven’t dropped by to share any thoughts, or words, or stories. But things have been a little tough. I’m writing a book, a novel, something which has been a decade in the making. I think you’ll like it. I hope you do. After so many late nights writing and rewriting. Editing, and reediting. After digging around through the archives of loose leaf paper accumulated over the years, searching through pages and pages, putting everything together into a cohesive whole, I’m finally finished.
It felt like tying together a flock of frightened birds with the sort of cheap string that tangles and snaps when you tighten it. But, when done properly, it can send you off among the stars like a certain little prince in a certain little story I’m sure you know.
I worked late into the hidden hours of the night. Scrambling about blindly in the dark. On my knees, begging, wishing for a friend and hoping that someone might shine a light down as I let my soul slip out into the story I’m writing. Submerged in despair and love for imaginary lives, and finding it funny how the two emotions are so alike. There’s a pain and sweetness to writing that makes me feverish. It makes me feel so intensely when the rest of me is so inexplicably numb.
Do you know why I’m numb? Because I left my soul in the pages of my book.
And now that I’m done, I send the manuscript away, pages rolled inside a bottle. Sent out into the world on invisible waves. Messages flow back after several months. I read through the courteous, carefully crafted words, written by seasoned professionals with the right amount of encouragement to balance the scales of rejection. Politely declined. A gentle dismissal. I feel the impact in my very soul. I read those honey-soaked words over and over, a form of torture, no doubt, as it triggers old memories, painfully stored away.
Out of sight, out of mind.
I remember the moment my first crush told my inquisitive friend “No, I hate her. She’s ugly!” as he brushed a lock of ice blonde hair away from his eyes. No matter how many times my partner tells me he thinks I’m pretty now, I still feel like he’s lying. Humouring me. I know I’m ugly, because a boy once told me so. An irrational little girl who absorbed this fact into the fibres of her being at age six.
And my first grade teacher wanting to keep me back a year because she didn’t take the time to notice that I could read. “Did you know that she reads every night? All on her own?” my mum asked, shocked by her assumption. “Really?” the teacher replied, confusion in her eyes. Startled that she hadn’t even known. I loved books from the moment I could turn a page on my own. They were everything to me.
The girl in high school who punched me in the side of the head over and over until I saw stars because I dared to stand up for myself. I lost an earring after that fight, one part of a set my grandmother had bought me for my birthday. Silver studs in the shape of triquetras.
The thesis examiner at the end of my Honours year at university writing that “Tretiakova is not a natural writer of fiction”. After three years of earning my stripes through a Bachelor of Arts, and then battling an intense Honours year afterwards. Only to learn I’m “not a natural writer of fiction”. Another way of saying give up. Move on. It’ll never happen for you. Words that still cut so deep, even after I won a national award for a short story and was told my writing made total strangers cry.
A thousand bruises. If you could see all those ancient hurts, my body would be a patchwork of colours. They say that our obstacles, our mistakes, our scars are what shape us. They’re what strengthen us. I guess I know myself well enough to know exactly what I’m going to do next. I’ll pick myself up. Dust myself off. And as life races by, faster and faster, I’ll stumble, slip, fall and leap back up. Crash through walls. Never knocking and waiting for an answer, but instead taking an axe to the door. “Here’s Johnny!”
Because I know that with the right combination of words, in just the right order, I can rip through the fabric and create something that will last. As writers, we’re always working the late shift. Unseen and unnoticed. The production lines in our factories never grind to a halt. Getting here was too damn hard to stop now. I’ve fought for every word and bled into every story, and when you know the world will never be handed to you on a platter, it’s actually a blessing, because you’ll never be foolish enough to lose what you’ve fought for.
So, my readers, if you’re still there, thank you for listening. Not just now, but for everything you’ve ever read that I’ve shared with you. You keep me going. I hope when we meet again, I will have a happier story to tell you.