Stories

We’re all made of stories.

We’re all living stories.

We’re all making stories.

Everything in our lives can be seen as a story. There’s the story about how you were born, the story of whose braid you pulled in first grade, and when you got braces, and why you chose to take physics in high-school and where you had your first kiss.

We all tell stories every day. There’s the story you tell your best friend about how your date went last night, the story you tell your aunt about whose car you dented last week, and the one you tell your coworker about when the boss got drunk at the office party, and the one you tell your cat about why you’re giving him canned food instead of dry today, and the one you tell yourself about where you wish you were right now.

We all make up stories all the time, too. There’s the story of how you wish your father was alive, the story of whose life you’d want to try out for a day, and the story of when you’ll really feel like a grown-up for sure, and why you’re going to win the lottery next time and where you can picture yourself living in ten years.

But then, there are the missing stories.

The stories of horrible events that need to be suppressed.

The stories that you’ll never know, because there’s no one who can tell them to you.

The stories that will never be, because they’re too frightening to really accept.

Even then, though – there are stories. Every minute of every day of your life. They are stories.

Groceries

You can learn a lot about people when you go the grocery store. Well, perhaps that’s not right. Seeing them shop doesn’t tell you a thing about their life, not really, except for their attitude in a grocery-store, surrounded by ads, products, sales and other people. But I like to invent lives for them, as I pretend not to watch them.

There’s the man who’s losing his patience with his two young sons. There isn’t a woman around, and I assume that this man has already started his spring vacation from the office but his wife is still working. That’s why he needs to take the boys, who are on their vacations too, shopping with him. The man is large, tall and broad with a beer-stomach hanging over his belt, and his two boys look to be between eight and ten years old. Both have straight brown hair, not cut shortly but allowed to grow around their ears, and round faces, rosy with the fun of shopping. They run between carts, duck under baskets and then run back to their dad, shouting suggestions. He snaps at them, but it does nothing to dampen their enthusiasm.

There are two women standing together at the cheap, bad quality clothing section. The clothes aren’t folded very well, and the shelves look a mess. Still, one of the women is holding up a shirt to the other one, and they seem to be deciding whether or not it’s worth it. I can almost hear their conversation, even though I have earphones on: Should I? No, I shouldn’t, right? Sure you should, look how cheap it is! But do you really think it’ll look good on me? Yeah, I do, but who cares – look how cheap it is!

At the checkout line, there’s a young man with curly brown hair and fuzz on his cheeks. He’s waiting patiently in line, which isn’t surprising, because he’s too occupied with a loud conversation he’s having with his cellphone. He smiles a lot and laughs, and I like to think he’s talking to a buddy, laughing about the antics they’re looking forward to experiencing during the coming weekend. He’s also looking around a lot, keeps turning around from his cart to gaze at the aisles. I think he might have met someone here a week ago, at around this hour, and that’s why he’s here again this week at the same time. He’s looking for her, this woman he laughed and chatted with and didn’t have the guts to ask out on a date last time.

In front of me, in my line, there are two women – they have to be mother and daughter, but they couldn’t look more different. The one who’s leaning on the cart is short, tiny, and ancient. Her hair has that bluish tinge to it and is thinning, and her hands look like a map, veins representing mountains or streams and the liver spots representing dwellings. Her daughter is middle-aged, probably around fifty or so, and is tall and skinny. Her face is lined, too, but from care or hurt rather than from age. She has sad eyes, even as she acts with great speed: taking things out of the cart, moving it to the other side of the register, starting to bag the items and putting them back in the cart, and paying her bill. She speaks familiarly to her mother, and even though her actions point to an efficiency and brisk character, there’s a subtle tinge of tragedy about her. Maybe a death of a loved one – husband, or maybe even a child.

And then, finally, it’s my turn at the register, and I mimic the sad woman’s efficiency, trying to get my things out of the way as fast as possible so I can get back home and out of the heat of this sunny March day.

Distraction

A buzzing drone in my ear, I struggled to open my mouth in anything other than a pointless flapping and ranting of facts and figures. As my mind struggled to stay with the task of solving problems, complaints and mistakes, my fingers itched to be of use, and dragged my mind elsewhere, time after time.
It was hard to believe that the despair that had overtaken my mind and emotion just hours earlier seemed to have dissipated and dissolved under those same itching fingers, those same thoughts that were causing my mind to wander and my mouth to smile more often than not. The feeling of my fingers flying across the small pages in those precious few minutes between the chattering of voices in my ear – ah! The best feeling in the world, to be for once creating instead of venting, making up instead of putting down facts.
The ink flowing from the pen seemed to give birth to new ideas and characters with every twitch of my fingers, clutching the pen so tightly that my arm began to ache before long. My mind flowed with names, situations, ideas, friendships, worlds – all so far and free from my own that they made me dizzy just to think about them and the control and power my make-believing mind would have on them.
The hours passed quicker than they ever had before – even when I could not write for an hour or two at a time, my brain never ceased to create and invent and add flourishes to the characters and their unique traits and situations. It was the best distraction, and I’m not minded to forget it any time soon.