Saturday, June 21, 2008

If She Knew I Was Writing About Her, She Might Say, "Why the Hell Would You Do A Stupid Thing Like That?"

Since I came back from Buffalo at the beginning of June, I have been doing a whole lot of nothing. This summers-off thing is pretty great, and I've been using my new free time to catch up on a lot of things: cleaning, recipe-testing, and reading. I've been going on long walks. I've been collecting seashells. I've been lying on the beach. I've been honing my freckles.

I've also started a new writing project. It started out as a single story, but then I realized what I was really gearing up to write was a long, long, long love letter to all the people I worked with last summer. It was especially a love letter to my favorite waitress at the diner, a girl whose boobs I have seen on numerous occasions after she has called my name so sweetly, only to get me to turn around and see her standing by the grill (or the back booth or the jukebox or the pie case), half nude.


When I started writing, I wanted to pay some sort of homage to her. It's not just that she's weird, crazy, and a little wild; it's that she's got a life that you would not believe. If, over the course of last summer, I had kept a diary of everything that happened to her in a month's time, people would have read it and said, "This can't be true. You made it all up."

But I swear on everything holy, I would've made none of it up. None of it. Here is a list of some of the things that make her more interesting than anyone else I've ever waitressed with:
  1. Whenever her very sexually active fifteen year-old brother sleeps with someone new, he makes that girl leave behind the pair of panties she was wearing, and he tacks them up to his wall.
  2. When she was pulled over for speeding, she got out of it because she had a box in the back of her car--a box the cop found suspicious and asked her to open--and that box was full of her collection of sex toys. The cop, flustered, sent her on her way.
  3. Her mother washes her own vibrators in the dishwasher.
  4. At all times, her mother has a trunk stocked with the following things: Avon merchandise and bizarre pornos: clown porn, midget porn, I-swear-I'm-eighteen porn.
  5. Her brother has punched her.
  6. Her brother has been arrested, suspended, and sent away to a special school for angry boys.
  7. She has very seriously thought about driving over to the house of a waitress she hates just to shit on the hood of her car.

On their own, those things are just amusing anecdotes. You can't build a story based on amusing anecdotes (although I certainly tried that a whole bunch in grad school), but, luckily, this girl is made of more than just amusing anecdotes. There is something so sad, so pretty, so delicate about her, and it just begs to be written. I've seen her sitting on her couch and crying because she's so sore from having a layer of her skin stripped off because it's cancer again. I've seen her nervous about people seeing her new scars. I've seen her angry and heartbroken and glaring across the table at a boy who has, with a few clipped words, broken her heart for the fifth time that day--a cycle that will repeat for months and months and months and months.


And so I tried to write about her. I tried to do her justice. But as I started, I realized I couldn't do her justice without doing justice to everyone else who worked with me. There were five or six people at the diner who shocked me on a regular basis last summer, and they filled me with so much material that I'm just looking for the right place to put it. And I think I might have found it now. I think maybe what I'm doing is writing a collection of connected stories, although right now it feels more like a novel where each character gets a turn at narration. So even if I'm not exactly sure how it's being pieced together, the first part is done, and I'm moving on to the next narrator.

And I'd like to tell my favorite waitress just how fond I am of some of the things the character who resembles her says and does and thinks, but I know if I explain what I am doing and what I am writing, she will just scrunch up her face and say, "Why would anyone want to write about me?"

And I would tell her I've never before been asked a question with such an obvious answer.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Sounds like a good project. You might want to check out the movies Waiting with Justin Long and Waitress with Keri Russell. They might help with theme or structure or at the very least provide you with a few hours of entertainment.