Anthony Doerr, author of "All the Light We Cannot See"
writes of being life's observer. He observes someone and then creates his story. It's like the proverbial onion's skin peeled
back, but, it's also more. It's "knocking at doors" of people's histories to create stories. It's inventing
and surmising. It's developing fictional characters' relationships. Siblings and spouses. Parents. Ah,
yes. Parents. Or the longing for; siblings, spouses or parents. It's birth and death. Illness. It's
triumphs and failures.
Doerr, in an interview, speaks of seeing a woman in a formal dress climbing into a New York City cab. Just seeing that
launches him into his story about her. In his mind, Doerr might create a rainy afternoon. He may imagine her frustration--after
hours of preparation--to have mud splatter her dress! She attempts to shield her perfect makeup while teetering on her heels.
She'd not expected rain!
Or maybe the
sun is shining and everything is perfect. Maybe she'll meet her future husband today.
I doubt, though, that Doerr will allow such a tranquil life.
Ours is a world full of writing riches. Like Anthony Doerr,
I "knock on lives' doors". I stand as a witness to the stories I create. Stories of disappointment. Challenge.
Fortitude and resilience.
A pregnant woman. Young. My story for her: Her
first child. Her husband at the birth. Their excitement. Then horror for their first is a Down's Syndrome
Years later they cannot imagine
joy without her.
I might follow
that story back and back and back. Or move into the girl's future. Each observation brings with it endless possibility.
An elderly woman's frown as she awaits her grandson. She's set
out cookies and milk for him. She's annoyed with herself. She wants only to be patient, patient, patient with her beloved
boy and she's not. There's laundry to fold.
child's wondrous smile in spite of his mother's irritation at his gawking at an ant pile. He's fascinated with the ants'
scurrying. Why, they line up! They help each other carry things!
"Come along, Jonathan! Grandma is expecting us!" Reluctantly he turns
to his mother. She's waiting to secure him in his car seat.
Years later he will contemplate this as a clear and perfect moment. He loves these two women--his grandma
now long dead and his mother still living on her own in the house where the ant bed launched his career. He's relatively
happy. Twice divorced. He knows, though, that he uses his work as a distraction to his sadness.
observations: a stroke victim. My story. He's recuperating at home. He's In the bathroom. Alone. He regards his
contorted face reflected in the bathroom mirror for remnants of his former glory. On high school football fields. In
business conference rooms. His a booming voice. He feels again the envy and awe of his underlings. Oh his
was a life of travel! Occasional dalliances with girls. He never referred to them as prostitutes. He was
discreet. A phone call. A tap on a hotel door.
In spite of his discretion, he's certain his stalwart wife knew. She never said a thing.
His eyes water.
"George! Are you okay in there?"
He leers. "This
is where I got my first kiss." He wants to control. This is his way. Oh, he finds this older woman
attractive, but his attraction to her is his need to dominate her. He senses that it will not be easy. He likes that.
He is almost pretty. Long lashes. Thick trimmed
brows. Just a slight stubble. And his hair! Oh, his hair is his pride. It's still thick at fifty.
He likes the gray at his temples. The gray, he thinks, makes him "sexy". And now reading glasses. How
he loves his hair and his glasses. He likes sitting at his desk, calling her to his office. He likes peering over
his glasses at her primly and nervously seated on the edge of a chair in front of him. "I am concerned about your
work," he'll say. Inside he will smirk and sneer for he is a smirker and a sneerer.
He's also bored. Even he knows that when he's bored, he's
more dangerous. And she is dead center on his bored radar.