On the final Wednesday of each month, I will share with you excerpts from my memoir. Enjoy!
“Everybody’s got a secret life, little girl. Maybe even your great grandma. Maybe even your own mother.”
As I look upon my family gathered in this parlor, this same room where my Mama has married at seventeen and my aunt at fifteen…the same marble coffee table my grandpa busted his nose on, toppling over drunk to meet Mama’s fiance…the same door her fiance tore through after Mama left him, hollering into the family home that “y’all should know that Linda sucks dick”….This parlor, a stage upon which my people both enact their dramas as well as relive them, is now full again with the conversation. Here stands my kin, here they have stood for generations, concocting narratives to justify crimes, to polish dullness, to turn our awfulness into heroism, our horror into romance. Who among us now has my name on their lips? And if so, what name do they speak?
I’m worried what they know about me. Worried that they’ll find out the full extent of me. I don’t just dance on a stage, Aunt Verda. I am no Gypsy Rose Lee. Look at me. I know that not every stone can be shined into a gem, know that there are parts of me that can’t be spun into poetry, know that there are parts of me that are just flat-out bad, no romanticizing them away.
Ghosts of real events haunt this parlor like an angry ancestor, scratching holes into the stories we tell to remain pretty, the twists we inject into the plots of our lives to retain some sense of decency. It’s all speculation, legend, romance mixed up with the facts. That’s the thing about secrets: they erect around themselves their own kind of truth. “Everybody’s got a secret life,” Mama said.
Whether you’re “a writer” or not, this following exercise is something I highly recommend. Try writing your story. Start with 200 words a day. No pressure and no expectations. You won’t believe how much you will grow.