I’ve returned to a story collection I started over ten years ago. I go through stories that lay in folders in boxes, on scraps of paper torn from notebooks and printed from computers I no longer have. The stories bear the addresses of apartments and houses where I no longer live. I find stories interspersed with pictures of the place where I grew up—the ocean, the marsh, the lagoon. I come across pieces of seashells and small stones. After having two children, I am different. But still these stories remain mine to revise, mine to see again, and mine to open the seams of in order to stitch them anew.
After my first child was born five years ago, I couldn’t think. I could write in my journal but I couldn’t work on my stories. Sometimes I copied out poems like “Station” by Sharon Olds. In it, the speaker describes returning to the house where she left her two children with her husband for a short while. It begins, “Coming in off the dock after writing, / I approached the house,” and ends, “the poems / heavy as poached game hanging from my hands.” For a long time, I dwelled on those “poems,” written as if unlawfully, yet carried home proudly. But what I should have been thinking about is what Sharon Olds doesn’t describe, the act of writing itself while she sits on the dock. I’m interested in the moment in which she forgets the house behind her, the children and husband within it, and for her there is only the clarity of her own voice and the breeze riffling the water.
Now that my first child is in school all day, I have only the baby home with me. He falls asleep easily. He pushes off my chest as I begin to lay him in the crib. He smiles at me and looks at the strips of light that come around the heavy curtains, and I go. Sometimes I leave the curtains open, and he falls asleep after watching the branches sway, the leaves flap.
In this moment, I return to the story collection I started over ten years ago. I run sea glass against the tip of my finger and think about setting. I try to hear the voices of my characters anew, to have empathy for individuals that seem thin, ill-defined, yet worthy of another chance.