I have a secret to tell you: I don't exist.
Writing is the only thing about me that is real.
As a writer, I often pretend I am an omniscient god directing my author avatar throughout a strange and hostile world. This Martin Rose fellow is just a vessel I occupy for the time being. He is quiet and observant and his face sometimes bears a "flat" aspect that adds a menacing cast to his features, and as a result people are quick to do terrible things to him, whether it is punch him, put his medical paper work at the bottom of a stack, or just charge him more at a bar where he hopes to drown himself quietly.
His unfortunate sense of disassociation -- this ring of coldness in his heart -- is something he learned, being raised by a paranoid schizophrenic. He carries it within. And in the dark watches of the night, he writes it down, he transfigures blood into words and together he and I are one person. This schism that defines my center -- unnerves and unbalances people.
That goes in the writing, too.
The threat of schizophrenia is a driving force in my life -- a clock that counts out each second as the last possible one in which I can feel, sense and live in a semblance of normalcy. There is a hunger and desperation to beat the clock before my time runs out, and so every free moment I have is spent writing. To record these moments of humanity while I still possess it.
All writing advice falls flat before this: Write as though you will be dead tomorrow. After that, the creative process becomes easy.
All of the world is two feet deep in white snow in February when a bread truck crashes into a snow bank.
The van swerves and wobbles and threatens to upend into Martin's path as it careens into the drift, throwing white into the air as it comes to a stop, the wheels spinning in slow revolutions against dirty snow. There is no time for panic or a racing pulse. Time slows and Martin flies past with a foot pressed on the brake, skidding to a halt up ahead. He exits the vehicle into the frigid morning with hot breath steaming from his mouth as he runs through the snow, and there is a strange sense of awareness of all living things, the ice crusted trees which nestles them, the other cars stopping and swerving and drivers getting out. He plunges through the snow to the truck and a man meets him there, and together, they open the door.
The driver is leaning back against the head rest and his eyes are open. He breathes, but sees nothing. Martin makes the emergency call while the other man cuts the power to the engine.
Once the EMTs arrive, he leaves the scene, but wonders about that moment -- the truck as it tilts into his oncoming path, intersecting with his life with its treacherous mass and gravity. He learns and observes and times the confluence of fear and apprehension. This moment was not wasted. The bedraggled cast to the driver's features as he stares into space -- all this will be a part of his words later on down the line, the taste in his mouth as his breath turns bad with adrenaline.
He'll think of it again when he has gun in his hand and takes his first shot with a Glock 19. What led him to the firing range in the first place is a fictional character of his own making, but he wants the reader to know what gun smoke looks like when it hangs in the air; that your lips taste like lead when your tongue runs over the flesh.
All of life, is a creative process.
Deep down, you all want to be lied to.
It is the acknowledgment of this desire that is taboo. Any attempt to insert truth into fiction is an unforgiveable trespass and we call it art, because it subverts the unconscious contract between the entertainer and the entertained -- to be lied to.
You don't really want to be there when the van crashes, and you don't want to know the pallor of his skin as he exhales, if that breath is his last or a mere first among many.
You don't want to know that Martin's mother loved angels. Saint Michael. She also loved B-movies and pulp fiction and trashy romance novels and books about reincarnation and alien abduction. She hated the religion that raised her, but loved the warrior angel of the flaming sword.
You don't want to know Martin's father was a sandman. He put people to sleep for a living. He also liked to wear Ray Ban sunglasses because he believed they shielded him from detection by the infiltrating alien race.
You don't want to know about Martin's father, who leads his family into the rural Midwest, where many things are lost, like beads through a sewer grate; he slips his family through the cracks of everyday life, and there is no paper trail to track Martin's existence, no social security number while his schizophrenic father leaves a convoluted path behind him to confuse the federal marshals and the extra-terrestrials he is convinced are tracking him and infiltrating his daily life. And with the exception of the aliens, they really are.
You don't really want to know the pain of being disappeared, of not existing at all, of having no past that can be confirmed by anything but subjective experience. As though Martin Rose doesn't exist; and never has.
You don't want to know about the cornfield Martin and his father set on fire with a gasoline can and a match; you don't want to know about the day the pack of dogs brought home a deer carcass and consumed it whole until a cage of bones remained on the front lawn like a forgotten tribute to a dead God. A broken wilderness filled with bones and angels and aliens and sandmen and saints.
You don't really want to know about these things unless they're posed as a lie -- as a fiction.
But you're content to watch it through Martin's eyes, to know the pain through his skin.
In this way, an audience member shares the same "split" consciousness as a schizophrenic -- you, the reader, are terrified to know the truth, the implications of that pain. It's easier to put it into terms of soap-opera cliche, of stereotyped angst, of fictional longings and desires. By relegating it to the level of make-believe and fantasy play, we can numb ourselves and anesthetize (oh, like a sandman does) and tell ourselves: it's just fiction. It's not real. It's a lie. A cleverly worded, romantically crafted lie.
In the background, I am exploiting my experience and engaging in new ones for the privilege of feeling it and bringing those feelings to you raw and unformed, to make them as real as possible. I'll call it a lie and fool you into feeling them with me.
You think it's fiction. I'll let you think that, for just this while longer.
After all, I don't exist.