When we meet someone new, the storytelling begins. We deliver the cleaned-up, well-practiced narrative of our lives with the smooth proficiency of a pitchman. We spin it to impress, to entertain, to woo. If—after time—that someone seems a likely lover or a potential friend, we flesh out the plot with all its nuances of regret and loss, its pains and unfulfilled desires. We are revealed.
As a novelist, I traffic in these blemished, yearning narratives that show the beating hearts of made-up people. My characters suffer at my hand. Unless I let them triumph. And I watch, at the ready to strike them down again, or maybe to extend a peace-offering.
It has been a long time since I’ve told my own tale like that. I am surrounded day-by-day with those dear ones who know my story in all its wrenching detail. Or with those who do not need or want to know it.
Upon breaking that long quiet over lunch in a deserted restaurant, I feel flayed, exposed, and slightly dangerous. It’s like my story could wrest itself away from the restraints I’ve placed upon it. Perhaps it could swell into something unexpected, something worse.
And I shake my fist at the Novelist, who knows a story without trouble is no story at all.