It’s been a while.
Here are some things.
A story of mine came out this month. It’s called “On the Way Down.”
You can read it, along with many other wonderful things, in the eleventh issue of formercactus. They are cool. Look at this cool art, for example:
Here are some things about “On the Way Down.”
It can take a long time for a story to get published. People say this all the time. So much so that you probably forget sometimes that it’s true. I bring this up now because “On the Way Down” took about ten years to get published.
I wrote the first draft not long after a friend introduced me to the amazing Stuart Dybek story, “Pet Milk.” My story is not as good as that story. If you only have time to read one yearning, bittersweet short story then you should probably go read that one.
In “On the Way Down,” I wanted to capture something of the way Dybek played around with time in “Pet Milk.”
I wanted to speed it up and slow it down and generally make a mess of it. This is where I began thinking about a story of a couple in a hotel room standing at a window and thinking about the different paths their lives took to get them to this moment.
This is not at all what my story ended up being about. Or, well, this is exactly what the story ended up being about, but not at all in the way that I thought it would be about it.
This is how stories go when they really go. They get away from you. A poem that ends up being about what it started being about is not a very good poem. The same is true of stories.
While working through that first idea of the story–of those people in the hotel room–I heard one of the characters telling the other character about a dream they had where they jumped off a building and ended up floating in front of a woman’s window. I thought this was neat because it would sum up the character’s emotional state—mid free-fall.
But, then, I wondered: why am I writing about someone’s dream in a story when I could just write the story as a dream? Isn’t that what stories are anyway? Shared dreams?
So, a night came when I sat down, and I wrote the dream. I wrote the story of a man who fell off a building and stopped, mid-fall, in front of a woman’s window. I let that moment of magic stretch and encompass everything I felt about time while reading “Pet Milk.”
It was the first time in my writing life that I had that feeling of a story arriving, more or less, complete. This wasn’t really the case, at all, of course–since I had been thinking about it for weeks, but this was how it felt.
I sent it to many places. And I showed it to many people. No one wanted to publish it, and this was sad. But, two people who really enjoyed it told me how to fix it so that it would be the best version of itself, and this was wonderful.
One of these people was a teacher. The other an editor at The Paris Review. Both said the same thing. Alas, I didn’t figure out what they meant, though, until ten years later.
At which point, I sat down one afternoon, and I rewrote the story.
The version I wrote that afternoon is the version you can read in formercactus.
I hope you like it.