The Story in The Story

It is six thirty in the morning and I am sitting at our dining room table with a cup of coffee on one side of me and the window half open on the other.  I opened the window hoping that inspiration would be carried on the back of the cool morning breeze. The half-light of the sun barely illuminates the living room, which makes the dark grouping of objects seem more like a suggestion of furniture instead of concrete reality. If I were to stretch my arm through the window I could almost touch the brick corner of our neighbor’s building.  But it remains just out of reach: as does any inspiration for a story.

As a writer a great deal of my time is spent trying to bridge the world around me with the world inside of me. Often times, Paul will catch me staring blankly into space.  I worry that he feels like he is living with a person who is experiencing the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease; someone who is not always present in the world.

He will snap his fingers in front of my face and say “Hello? Can you repeat what I just told you?”   When I flatly recount his story verbatim he’ll look at me and say “Wow, my story sounds even more boring when you tell it.”  To which I respond
“Not really.”

But that is the crux of the matter.  Any story can be told, but it is the way in which it is told that matters. If I write about my grandfather’s table, I can describe the way it looks.  It is round with dark grained wood, curved legs and has multiple leaves to make it bigger. All of these things are true.  It is an object in this world.  But if I speak of its journey from the mountains of North Carolina to its spot in our dining room with our blended family sitting around it for the first time together on the evening before our marriage, it becomes something else. It becomes the bridge between this world and my world; a story in a story.

“I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.” Rodin said.

I suppose that is what I do with a block of words.  Whittling them down until the story hiding inside of the story is revealed.  It runs in my family.  My grandfather did this with his drawings.  We would sit at his dining room table and he would begin to draw as if the picture already existed on the paper and his pencil merely highlighted it.    And so must his mother, who was a musical prodigy, have done the same with him; at the very same table singing in French as she played the Mandolin. The love of art and the art of love played out over and over again upon this table.

Paul walks into the living room humming and arranges the pillows on the now clearly defined sofa.  The clock above me plays its tune and strikes eight.  I sit up, stretch my arms, look out through the window and catch a glimpse of my neighbor sitting at his kitchen table.  I wonder if he has been there the whole time.

“Did you find any perspiration?” Paul asks playfully, knowingly misusing the word as he kisses me.

“Yep” I say, ready to join the real world again.  “It was there in front of me the whole time.”

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