Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cheryl's Pick

You guys make it tough. There are so many amazing writers who join us here. So many different styles. Fiction. Non-fiction. Memoir. It was tough to pick just one.

But this post stuck with me, both for the subject matter and the writing.

My pick is "Just a whisper" from Aimee of Goddess in The Machine

There was a lot I liked about this story. It made me feel. It made me stop and think. It made me want to know more. And the writing is truly remarkable. She is incredibly talented and her word choice makes her writing incredibly raw - but also vulnerable at the same time:

The disease had already taken what it wanted from her, eaten all it needed to satisfy whatever instinctual perpetuation of its own life bacteria may have. That day, the day before, that hour, the hour before, all a jumble of puzzle pieces tossed on the floor and kicked. The private waiting room we were given outside the intensive care unit of Birmingham Children’s Hospital held a family that bore no resemblance to the one I knew. Their bodies had been emptied of all that was trivial, all that was mundane, all that was comfortable, and were refilled with the ugliest and most terminal truth of what it means to be human. The souls behind each pair of glazed eyes in that room were retching- choking on a jagged edge of sick reality that is the death of a child. A child who, just 24 hours before, had been my sister, my mother’s baby child, a cousin, a granddaughter, an 11-year-old girl who dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. She complained of a headache, laid her head on a pillow to rest, pulled a blanket up to her little chin, and simply drifted away. That was 24 hours ago.

I would like to see this first paragraph broken up a bit. There is a LOT packed in there. Love the puzzle pieces, the choking on a jagged edge of sick reality that is the death of a child. And then showing who this child was.

And now, in this moment, in this room, one sentence had just been set loose like a bullet from a gun, a bullet that bounced from one wall to the next, never able to find a target or purpose. The words were there, but they refused to organize themselves into a coherent thought- they just bounced. “ The EEG is consistent with clinical brain death ….we..are..so..sorry..for..your..loss.”

The line about the bullet is so visual I could literally see it happening.

From within the decaying reverb, I saw nothing less than 50 years of life ripped from my mother’s 37-year-old face. All the soft lines of packing school lunches and hemming dresses were gone. The tiny wrinkles of smiling at dance recitals and cheering at karate tournaments disappeared. And were replaced by a withered and angry sucking of collagen and sweetness, contorting my mother’s face into a crumpled ball of paper at the bottom of a landfill. It terrified me, crushed me, ripped a black void in my stomach and lungs that took my breath away. I couldn’t fix this. I couldn’t take one for the team. I couldn’t march in there, rip the tubes and electrodes off of her body and promise her every single Nintendo game I owned if she’d just please..get.. up.

I saw her mother. I could picture this perfectly, and I thought of all I have done in parenting my child and how it could be erased by the death of the object of my parenting. And the heartbreaking helplessness of the child who is left. Aimee finds a unique way of showing us, using images we to which we can all relate. That is how a writer connects with the reader.

I could do nothing, nothing but walk beside my broken mother and catch her if she fell. I was just a child myself, only 15- the oldest, rebellious, angry, having turned my back on all of her maternal attempts at nursing my soul. But on this day, at this very second, walking with her as we snuck away from the fold of well-meaning relatives so that she could fall apart in private, I was jerked out of my angsty, black teenage gutter and back to the aching womb of the woman who gave me life. It was with a brand new set of eyes that I saw her there, sitting on the curb just outside the double doors at the back entrance of the hospital. Face in hands. Deluge of tears pouring from between her fingers. It was a kind of beauty I found myself completely unprepared to recognize, the raw and visceral ache of a mother for her dying child.

This scene is incredibly powerful, a 15 year-old watching her mother fall apart and truly getting what it means for a mother to lose a child. The only thing I might take out here is "brand new set of eyes." It's cliche and stood out in this decidedly uncliched account. She is already "jerked out.." She could just say "I saw her there.." because we already know she's seeing her anew.

She took her hands from her face just long enough to cut her eyes at me, and with an edge of pathetic sincerity, she said, “I’d really love to have a fucking cigarette right about now.”

This is interesting, because it gives us a glimpse into the mother, one we might not expect.

Finally. THIS I can fix.

So I said to her, “If you swear you won’t get mad at me, I’ll give you one of mine.”

And she smiled. It was slight, just a whisper. If I had blinked, I would have missed it. But a smile nonetheless. I reached in my purse for a Marlboro Light. Passed it to her. Passed the lighter. Her eyes still cutting, perhaps with a pretense of shame to cover her gratitude, as if to say, “You know you should be ashamed, but thank you.”

You’re welcome, Momma.

I love this. It is so 15. And it left me wondering how their relationship changed after this. Or if it did. I might have taken out "If I had blinked, I would have missed it." Again, cliche.

What do you think of Aimee's piece? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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