I knew what I needed to do. I had to explore this character that wouldn’t leave me alone, this character that was haunting my thoughts, my dreams, following and critiquing my every movement.
I had done him an injustice the first time around with Rooftops and White Walls. Pfft. What was that, anyway? At that point, it was a distant memory, a time of playing pretend; it was a dream that my character had, a long, 20 chapter, life-spanning dream.
Now it was time to tell his story.
But where would I begin?
One of my best friends bought me a journey that was constructed from a recycled Dr. Seuss book, and I carried that around with me wherever I went. I began to scribble down ideas, notes, story-lines, anything that would remotely resemble this character.
This was the first thing that I wrote in my journal:
I was pretending to sleep. My coat and bags spread out on the adjoining seats to keep bloodthirsty strangers from plopping down next to me. I almost felt bad because it was Christmas Eve, but I loved watching the nine-to-five suits scramble for an opening. I’d never seen so many crammed into one train car before that night; I guess even the Wall Street-types had mothers who loved them. They were all so well-groomed, pressed with slick, greasy morals. Most of them were probably the bread-winning saps from my town, from a life I wanted to escape.
I was only going home to see Ma; I’d give my right arm to see her smile again.
Crackling speakers overhead interrupted my thoughts: “Last stop, Croton Harmon.” The phantom conductor announced, “Transfer to Poughkeepsie is across the platform. Please make sure you have all of your belongings. This is the last stop on this train. Happy Holidays.”
I stepped on a blanket of freshly fallen snow on the platform outside. A shiver, like stroking fingers, crept up the back of my neck. I closed my eyes as flakes melted on my cheeks. By a fallen lamppost, I waited. The rim of the overturned lantern was coated in shards of ice, clumped salt around the rim of a margarita glass. Icicles dribbled down the sides, distorting its shape like a monochromatic kaleidoscope. I traced its outline and it came alive; fresh, wet paint on a new canvas.
Still, something wasn’t right. It was a start, but it just wasn’t right. I particularly loved the ice around the fallen lamppost visual, but none of this comes close to what is now in the completed manuscript. Not. Even. Close.
It wasn’t the voice that I wanted. It was too…angry. He couldn’t be angry. He wasn‘t angry.
But I was angry. I was unhappy. And it was affecting how I wrote.
I was beginning to understand, but I would still take a few semesters to figure it all out…