“My heart dropped to know what kind of guilt he must be feeling, even though I knew none of it was really his fault.” — Pet Project (not an actual title)
A quick post today, because I haven’t blogged in a long time.
I’ve been caught up in writing this thing, which I’m very, very reluctant to post in its entirety (I’ve only just finished what I can write sequentially, after three straight weeks of work, and there is a ton of editing yet to be done) but I wanted to share this little scene.
Emotions have always been a particularly difficult topic for me. I don’t understand them. (Cue the, “they’re feelings, you’re not supposed to understand~!11” shit.) I like understanding things. When I don’t get it, I write about it. (That’s how I learned to hotwire a car earlier this week, though that’s maybe beside the point.) So a lot of the narrative things I write are maybe a little more emotionally charged than necessary. This thing so far hasn’t been much of an exception, but I’m especially proud of this next part, which I wrote a couple days ago.
Together, we wrapped our friend’s body in the sheet and rope he had brought. He started to pick her up, but I put a hand on his shoulder. He stopped, but didn’t look up at me.
“This isn’t on you.” My voice was shaky through the tears that had yet to stop. “You don’t have to carry it. You don’t have to carry her.”
He sniffed, and I knew he wasn’t looking at me because he was trying not to cry. My breath hitched in a sob I couldn’t stop. He stood up, then, and turned away from me. I knew he wanted space to grieve, but I also knew that wasn’t what he needed. If it were, he wouldn’t have let me come with him. I went to stand in front of him.
“We don’t have to talk about it. You don’t have to tell me anything. But you have got to feel it,” I said. He still wouldn’t look at me. “Not for them, not for her. You’ve gotta do it for you. This will eat you alive if you don’t.”
He swallowed hard. “Why’d you come out here?”
“You told me to.”
He finally looked at me, then, just for a second, before the façade broke, and he turned again and took a few steps away from me. I saw the shaking return and I couldn’t – or maybe just didn’t – help myself. I went back around to face him again and wrapped my arms around him. He didn’t return the gesture, but he didn’t fight it, and wept quietly into my shoulder. I put a hand through his hair and I cried, too.
Eventually, he put a tentative hand on the back of my shoulder as he pulled away. We built a makeshift sled out of some of the materials nearby and used the last of the rope and brought her back. I left him alone to bury her, since it was the last thing he’d be able to do for her.
I’ve never considered myself very good at writing emotional exchanges (in fact, there’s an argument between these two characters earlier in the text that I still kinda cringe over, but I’ll fix that in time) and it took me a couple of reads and some heavy encouragement from a friend to see what I’d actually accomplished in this scene. To put this in context, this exchange occurs between two people who are historically very bad at expressing how they feel. Rather than discuss it at all, they would both prefer to pretend they don’t actually have feelings. Until this scene, they’d both succeeded in doing just that, despite some rather precarious situations. So what I did was write a breakthrough, a bonding of these two people who have been trying very hard to keep each other at arm’s length. For me, this is some crazy kind of success, both for the text and for myself. I’m hoping that I can continue with these kinds of moments for these characters, though that relies a lot more on plot and situational context than anything.
I don’t mean to tease by posting this, I’m just genuinely very proud of what I managed to do here. I know I don’t share a lot of writing, but it really is for the reason that most things never make it past raw drafts, despite the ton and a half of internal editing that usually happens in the writing process. That, and most things usually require quite a bit of context and thus aren’t capable of standing on their own for any brief analysis such as this. I hope to share some more small pieces of this (currently) 35,000-word (~68-page) text in the future.