Kurt Vonnegut once told me (and everyone else in the auditorium) never to apologize. He then went on to give one of the most heartfelt apologies I’ve ever heard.
I’m sorry for the title I gave this post. I’m sick over it. I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive myself. Mainly I’m sorry for not having the courage to stick with the joke I’d originally conceived, which was to have been “Two Girls, One Post.” I will leave this portion of our discussion now and move on to greater things. Braver things.
The first girl is 93 and was our guest on the most recent E2Books Presents Craig and Scott Live. Her name is Sherry Pratt, although her book Times Remembered, is written as S.J. Pratt. If you’re offended or even caught off guard by me referring to this woman as a “girl,” then I encourage you to watch the episode to learn why I did, and have always. Come meet my friend, the nonagenarian girl, skipping rope with her words.
I have only one regret about that show, and that was that every person on Facebook didn’t watch it. Because I knew from the day Sherry agreed to appear that everyone who did watch would be blessed by doing so.
I was not wrong.
Sherry shared stories with us of her life, of her love for her husband, and of her writing.
I am fortunate enough to know Sherry personally and was even more fortunate to have attended a local writers’ group with her for a few years, so I thought I’d be well-prepared for the episode, in which Craig had suggested I should take the lead.
But once she began telling us of how she took a job at Syracuse University, just for the 18 free credit hours the school afforded each semester to all of its workers, and then used to sometimes call in to work, feigning illness, so that she could stay home and write, I realized I was completely unprepared for her. I was essentially reduced to a stammering fanboy for the bulk of our time together. Thankfully, I have a partner who managed to keep me from looking completely inept.
There was so much warmth in the telling of her stories during the show, and the same is true of the stories in her book. In fact for the first time in my life, I wish I was a genuine internet “influencer,” so that I convince a ton of people to buy her book. Not to show off my clout, or even, really, to help Sherry sell copies. No, I’d like everyone to read Times Remembered for the enrichment it will provide them. There are only a handful of writers, sprinkled across all of history, who tell a story as well as Sherry Pratt. That is not hyperbole, but you’ll never know if I’m lying unless you read the book.
As is my wont, I won’t make you suffer without watching the show, but you have to get to the bottom of the post first. So you can either scroll there now, or work your way through this discussion of…
The Other Girl
The other girl is a bitch. She’s a liar and she is a cheat. She is also my life-long lover, and no matter how I try I cannot crawl away from her, only closer. Always closer.
She is writing itself.
I need her. I can taste my need. I can hear it, hear her. She laughs, she mocks and cajoles. She calls herself my true mother and she promises me everything, every day.
Some days she delivers. She delivers it all. All the promises are kept and there is magic. True magic, the sort not even the magician can explain, not that he ever would. To all appearances, a writer sits alone in a room – his office perhaps or a bookstore café or a crowded barroom. There may be other people, but he is always alone. Alone among the physical maddening crowd, but in that vacuum he is crowded out by the people living in his head and, with any luck, on his paper. The place may smell like stale beer and chicken wings, but he smells the sea – hears gulls calling that are a million miles removed, even though they exist only here. In his head and, with any luck, on his paper.
But other days she hides, or worse still, comes stumbling in at 4 am, drunk and smelling of another man. Her words are slurred, they make no sense, but he understands every syllable, every breath. Yet he cannot. He cannot be with her like that. He loves her no less for it, but his heart is so exposed and she can be so vicious.
And so the promises are revealed to be lies, and there is nothing in his head and not so much as a stray pen stroke on his goddamned paper.
He dies a little either way, but she does not care. She is wrapped around him, clutching him, constricting him. But she does not even know he is there. She never has. She thinks that she is above him, and indeed when she notices him at all it is briefly, from far above. She thinks she doesn’t need him. “There are others,” she says. “There are always others.”
But, of course, she is wrong. She is, as I sadly admitted to you, a liar. Do not judge her for this. The lie is all she has, on her own. I cannot judge. I lie twice as often, four times as masterfully.
The hapless writer knows this at some level. With his mouth, he gives her the credit. “She must be,” he says. “Without her, I am not.”
But he also calls her a bitch. He calls her a disease. He finds others with the same affliction, and they call her these names too.
And perhaps they do not know (they do) that she sounds different, looks different, smells, and tastes different to every one of them, even though she herself is ever the same. And perhaps they do not know (they do) that she cannot be without them. It is their lot to have to wrangle her. To have to scrape their initials thinly into her rocky façade. It is their fate to make her sing or soar or clutch or kill. It is their duty to make her breathe.
How odd a girl she is! How I hate her.
How I worship her.