So I was out writing the other day.
Nothing new in that, except that I was writing a couple of hours before I was to host a bonfire in the staff RV park.
In an RV park, by the way, there is no privacy. Even in a Yellowstone park — especially in a Yellowstone park, for folks who travel thousands of miles to work seasonally — there is no privacy…
It’s a small village, really, this place. Everyone knows everyone else’s business…everyone wants to know everyone else’s business…
In the set-up for the bonfire, as my writing finished and I was trying to come down, someone asked me about my stories…
More specifically, they asked me why I write the kinds of things I do.
Now, normally, I dissemble on questions like that. Normally, I let the stories stand for themselves, and challenge folks to read between the lines to understand the what and why.
Normally…but not when I’m coming down from a writing session. Not when I’m living a story in my head…and in my memory.
So, in the absence of something else to write, here is the answer I gave to those other Yellowstone workers:
I went to my first real funeral at 17.
He was one of my best friends, and he died because he loved another of our friends — a guy — and he couldn’t deal with that “failure”.
Our society — our “perfect” society, our “lovely” society of forgiveness and tolerance and freedom — told him that he was flawed and broken. It — WE — told him that he was worthless, that he had no future…that he had no hope.
So he hung himself.
And I went to his funeral.
I have been to many funerals since, three of those for the suicides of friends.
Every single one of those suicides resonates with me. Every single one of those hurts. Just as every single one has its own story, and its own meaning — but they all come back to Mike’s funeral, to be honest. They all come back to when I was seventeen, and just didn’t understand.
“Why do you cry when you write your stories?” I get asked. “Why do you care so much about your characters?”
Because they are me. Because Oz IS Mike in a very real way…because the story IS about my own life, and my own friends…
Look, I’m writing this post in response to a bunch of questions from folks who just don’t know…
Those folks don’t know me, not really. In most respects, they don’t even know the same world I do. They are folks who have never lacked for comfort, who have never lacked for influence or a voice. They are folks who never can understand why a rope — or a knife — in the dark of night can sometimes seem like the best answer of all…
”What’s your story about?” I get asked…all the time.
Usually, I give the 30-second “elevator answer” to that question, the marketing and sales answer.
Usually, but not always.
What’s it about?
When you get right down to it, the whole 300,000-word trilogy comes down to one image: one broken kid holding the body of another, far more broken, kid.
Welcome to my life.