Isn’t it supremely paradoxical that a piece so flagrantly autobiographical—vintage photos and all—should butt right up against my blogged denial that my current novel is sheer fiction? “Blue Black Berry” is all me. Fiction only lightly filigrees this willfully-blurred, kind of meta piece.
I hope to God I’m done writing about the event that has so colored my life. (Accidental pun acknowledged and unedited.) For this is the third time I’ve written about a subject that is deeply personal. It’s a low and steady thrum in my life. It is raw and honest, and will probably make some of the people in my family uncomfortable.
But writing about it is my way of exorcising, I’ve come to see. For I’ve rid myself of The Nasties before by setting them down:
One late January morning in 1988, I went with my brother, my sister, to fulfill the Jamaican requirement that bodies be officially identified before they are released for burial. The image of my dead mother being sat up to be dressed by the mortuary’s two wizened women attendants was a short and ugly loop of film that disturbed me and iced my gut for a very long time.
The moment I wrote about it in my abbreviated memoir, “Horse Dead, Cow Fat,” I was free. (Until I called it up just now, of course.)
Perhaps I need to write down something else that has been haunting me since Christmas. On the plane to Rio de Janeiro, I woke up to find my husband gone from the seat beside me. In my fog, I looked around and saw him a couple of rows back in the darkened cabin, intently reading in an aisle seat’s small round of light. I get up, find my shoes, and go to say hey, hi, to him on my way to the loo. In passing, I tenderly rub my knuckles on his overnight bristles. He looks up at me, polite and stricken.
Awk. Wasn’t him. I’d caressed the face of complete stranger, his wife beside him giving me the same half-fearful look you give crazy folks. In the heat of my profuse apologies, she slightly rolled her eyes as she almost wagged her head. Her man, embarrassed for me, ever so mildly smiled.
Crap, crap, crap, crap, cringe!
Okay, I’ve set it down here. We’ll see how well my theory of demon-beating holds.