The short story is the big news, though. I've been toying with the idea for a couple of weeks now, ever since I read a 1995 article in the L.A. Times about the death of a Romanian gymnast. I've been not wanting to write this story, fearing it. I've been feeling (for the 986th time) like maybe I'm inadequate to the task of literary writing. Which is why I wrote two essays first: to get them out of my head, yes, but also because I'm on much more solid ground there. I've had more acceptances for my essays, after all - I was even paid for an essay.
Last night, I couldn't sleep. Couldn't sleep. Couldn't sleep.
I was occupied by that Romanian gymnast story. About the perspective I wanted to add to it. I told Matt while we were hiking the other day that the thing most enduringly intriguing to me as a writer is crawling inside the head of the villain. Narrating from Hannibal Lecter's POV. One of the longest early stories I wrote - novella-length - was about a young man who was compelled to commit rape. He'd been pushed out of his right mind by a trauma as a boy, and he covered up his madness until things came to a head for him as a teenager. I wasn't trying to excuse him - he couldn't excuse himself - but trying to turn out the inner dialogue of the monster on the page, like dough onto a floured surface. I wanted you to read and sympathize and then be repelled by sympathizing.
At 11:30 last night I came out to my laptop and started revising one of the essays. I pretended to myself that this was why I'd gotten out of bed, to revise the essay. I wrote a few paragraphs. I tried to get on the internet - I badly wanted to hear "Bohemian Rhapsody" for reasons unknown - but it wouldn't connect. I listened to 1 Giant Leap instead, then Moby. (18 really is a mediocre album.) And before I knew it, I'd opened a new clean Word doc and was typing feverishly: "Little bitch. Little bitch."
It took me until 1:30. There was nothing else in the world, just me and this horrendous human being and what he'd done to this girl. A different angle than my poor mad rapist: this one showed the animal, without pause, without mercy. And a really different story than the real one.
It only topped out at 1,500 words (really, I don't think it should be more, it's too ugly), and I haven't looked at it yet. But I wrote with the door totally closed, with no interest at all in how it would read inside someone else's brain. So I'm curious as hell how it'll read in a week or so. I'm going to give it some time to settle, get over my fever. After I went back to bed I had a few more ideas about how to shape the ending, but I wrote them down. I won't lose them.
This, after one of the essays I wrote this week explained at great length that I can't write ugly stories like some writers can, and worse luck. Is there anything about me that stays true for the long term?