Tuesday, June 06, 2006

erase you : ignore you

Sara Culler

At Least Like Melissa


I picked out a page, as blank as I could find. Found a couple more. An old textbook served me well for paper. The blank pages at the end. Over 100 novels resting on my bookshelf all with three or four blank pages near the end, near the front. Stories I'd read already, sometimes twice. I turned off the lights, closed the curtains, flicked a match off a matchbook, heard the clllick, saw the spark, lit a candle. Dragged a reluctant pen from its case and began to write. Wrote my whole life story, got it all down on paper in fourteen hours - couldn't sleep that night.

I blew the candle out; forwarded the makeshift book to a publisher. It wasn't marketable, it wasn't intriguing enough. Their editors said my life story was just the same as everyone elses - "But look at the grace and honesty with which its written!" I protested - it doesn't matter, they said, none of this does: who's your target audience? What type of genre are you going for? They took my story, and years later they cut it up into millions of little pieces. Tore me straight from the page - lifted my beating heart and found one that beat faster - replaced me with someone more beautiful. Changed the setting to somewhere more exotic - we were thinking of Thailand, Hawaii, Tokyo, Rome.

They took all those pages that I poured my soul into and they turned my memoirs into a novel full of high-octane thrills. The press loved it. The readers loved it. They loved the truth of it all. They loved the intrigue, the mystery. They loved the way it seemed so real, so genuine. Now I'm a wounded, stray dog, who's laugh is a nicotine coated bark.

I'm whispering, so my words can't be heard and taken apart and replaced. I'm a beating heart, I'm a bruised body, I am real, and I "spit out my smile" for all to see. Back then, I decided that my art from that point on was my life. In life I would be a readable book - but first you'd have to meet me, stare me down, watch me "shiver down the left" and "bleed down the right".

When my life story was drifting towards its conclusion, I didn't know how the last page should be read... I picked out my favourite book from that shelf - fittingly, it was a memoir - and cut out its last page, and then left it blank. No one knows what ever happened. But the critics and the readers alike, they tore the meaning apart, said I was too beaten down to carry on, got myself into such a mess I couldn't continue, so sad I couldn't get out of bed. My father died when I was only twelve, so the story goes, and I'd been hiding the sadness until I finally couldn't bear it and broke down. The ones who knew me, they whispered to each other, words coming out as breaths so as no one could hear, "I think he escaped".


This song took me by surprise. The instrumentation sparing and quiet, allowing way for the voice to float in with venom disguised as a platitude; a whisper in your lover's ear. Escape and freedom resonate from the ending chapter of the song where words are ditched in favour of ad-libbed vocals cascading along tributaries. It's the voice of a fallen Angel; still angelic and beautiful, but further from Heaven than any of us could ever know. And at the end of the song, as a deep breath is taken and then coughed back out, you accept your sadness. Because it's your sadness; no one elses. You embrace it with open arms; you look at yourself in the mirror and see it staring back at you - your one, true, reliable friend.

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