I have always known I should write, but other than letters, emails and quasi-diary entries I have mostly resisted this imperative.
Literature has always been more real to me than life. Growing up isolated in a foreign country, it taught me the language and it taught me how to live. It made me happy.
My first boyfriend encouraged me to write. He said he knew I had it in me. It was mostly a long-distance relationship, so I wrote him many love letters over the four years we were together. When I didn't want to be with him anymore, he returned them and took his back. He wanted to be a writer and thought his would provide good raw material. I dumped most of mine in my grandparents' outhouse. I couldn't bear to look at the childish handwriting, often veering off on a diagonal across the pastel unlined pages. I never looked back, either to him, or the writing.
The writing that I did keep still feels like I could write it today. I'm the same person I was at 16. I haven't learned a damn thing in 30 years. Not about writing, not about life.
Which brings me to life. I never aspired to be a writer, because I had no personal ambition to speak eternal truths. I thought if I could just be understood by one person, that would be enough. I wanted an ordinary happiness - a lover, a child, an occupation where I could be useful, some friends. For that I would forsake the eternal truths. That's the bargain I made with fate.
That bargain failed.
I kind of always knew it would. Somehow, I knew my life would be spectacularly shattered. That's why I made the bargain. If only I was never too happy, I would never be in too much pain. But life thrust on me something, which would make me so happy that I couldn't bear its loss. My son. And so I spent my life in fear of losing him. When he was a baby I would wake up paralyzed by a nightmare that he was falling from a height. But I didn't lose him then. My fears were lulled. Until he grew up and refused to live by the rules, refused to stay safe, refused to accept an ordinary happiness. Recently I started waking up again, with that paralyzing pain that spread from my stomach to my chest. I tried not to think of him. I tried to think of my petty happiness (or lack thereof) instead.
And now I've lost him. And I know I made a false bargain. If only I had loved him without fear, I would have had a happy life.
That's not possible any more. So all I have is words. They will have to do.