Who Owns the Memory? On Telling the Whole Story
May 11, 2010 § 14 Comments
From Guest Blogger Michelle Wittle, one of our book reviewers in Brevity 33:
It took me a long time to find my object. At first I thought I should have written about my mom’s bracelet. Then I toyed with writing about my dad’s school id from Penn State. Nothing seemed to fit and what I wrote seemed forced and detached.
I sat down on my bed and looked up. Staring at me was this small, handmade wooden box. I had my object. However, there was so much I wasn’t ready to tell about this object, and when I finished the piece, there were still many unanswered questions.
In class everyone was dying to know who the person was who gave me the box and what our relationship was to each other. I smiled coyly and in my head I said, “I’ll never tell,” because I didn’t want the piece to be about our relationship or the person. The piece was about the simple gift of a box. Metaphorically, the box represented hope and a brand new life. I wasn’t about to make the piece into anything more than that because hope and a new life were stories with enough material.
I went home with the comments and looked at the piece. I objectively wondered why I didn’t name the giver of the gift in the first draft and why I didn’t discuss his past that pushed him to the point of giving me the gift.
I was scared. Who did I think I was writing his story? What if he read it and hated me? What if he saw it and was embarrassed by my introspection?
I threw down my guard on the second draft. I figured if Luke cared enough about me to allow me to be near him in one of the lowest points of his life, then he wasn’t going to care if I wrote about it. I understood Luke in ways no one else would even try to understand him. I saw him for what he was — a brilliant, caring, emotional and lost soul. Because I was granted such insight, shouldn’t I share my information? Shouldn’t I debunk what everyone else thought they saw when they saw Luke?
Luke pulled himself out of his own dark place. Instead of letting depression kill him, he reached out and demanded his life back. Luke was and is my hero and I wanted to share my happiness and love for him with the people who heard my piece. It was all those thoughts that helped me see it was both of our stories and not just his. Luke would never really hate me because he had always let me into his life. Luke may have been embarrassed by my piece, but only because he wouldn’t understand the amount of unconditional love and devotion I have for him.
I finished the piece and I took it out for a spin during a reading held at my school. My professor who had read the first draft of the piece in workshop was in the audience. She was extremely impressed with the revision. Luke was in the audience as well. As I read the piece, I didn’t dare to look at him. I did ask him if he was mad at me for writing it. He looked at me, then off to the side, then back at me. He said, “No, but notice I had to think about it.”