You think you’re looking at one thing — but then, something happens, and the perspective shifts. When you adjust the focus, you come to see that something else has been going on all along. You thought you were just trying to lose a few pounds, but then you realize that you’ve developed beautiful muscles. You thought your work was preparing you for one type of career, but then you discover that you’ve become equipped for something else entirely, something far better than you’d planned. Was that a lightning bug or a comet? Is Benito Cereno the ship’s captain or its hostage? Is she really carrying the moon on her back?
All this time, as I’ve been thinking about metaphors of the body, noticing how my thinking self interacts with my corporeal self, I thought I was only learning about me, my own strength, flexibility, growth. And all this time, I had no idea that I was preparing myself for something so much better than I could have imagined, something far better than my own sorry self. I was in training, all right, but not the sort of training I thought. No, I was preparing to learn a whole new language.
On Friday, I sat barefoot on the marley floor of a dance studio and watched as Ali Woerner and Thayer Jonutz danced for me their first draft of “Ink,” a story I’ve knitted for years. It’s been a hard story to understand, let alone tell, and it’s been lonely, frightening work. I keep asking “Ink” what it wants to be, what it’s trying to tell me, but it’s a shape shifter, and I’m left feeling like I’ve been chasing a ghost.
It’s been a tough story to pitch, too. Ask me, what’s it about, and none of my answers will quite explain it. It’s about death, sex and Moby Dick. It’s about loss. It’s about becoming a writer. It’s about two dead brothers. It’s about the healing power of art. It’s about the artifacts of a life cut short. It’s about being the one left behind, being the one who didn’t die. None of these hashtags can explain what it’s about because “Ink” wants to capture something ineffable.
And Ali and Thayer get that – they can take it in and feel the essence of what can only be imperfectly captured in words, and they can dance my story back to me. They can dance my brother back to life. I sat on the marley yesterday and it all came back to me.
We were children together, we played, we squabbled, we laughed. And then you left. I never got to say goodbye and I’ve been searching for you everywhere. I was chasing ghosts, though, and I got lost. I fell down a dark hole, so I gave up the search. But then I saw you again, off in the distance ….
All this time, I thought writing “Ink” would help me find closure; oh, I was so so wrong. I am lucky to be so wrong – it’s a whole new beginning.