You know how reading a really gripping book can get your creativity flowing? Well, it worked wonders for me this past week as I dove (quite literally) into Deb Caletti’s book, HE’S GONE (Bantam, 2013).
While this book is about remarried woman who wakes on a typical Sunday morning only to find her husband is missing, it has little to do with first love, which my novel is about. Dani (Caletti’s female character) can’t remember them coming home the night before, she’s stumped. Over the course of 10 days, she recounts every last moment together, the words they said, the moments they shared trying to recreate the possibility of what happened. I was particularly taken with Caletti’s well-crafted sentences, the gritty language, and overall gripping tale that our lives–and our marriages aren’t always what they seem.
Interested in how HE’S GONE sparked my own creativity? Here’s an excerpt written just last evening that will go into Slippery Slope (working title).
“I can’t sleep. The sheets are all baggy and sweaty. Joe lies next to me, the hill of his shoulders lifting up with every inhale, a valley with every exhale. He says I am his ocean, deep and pure. Love can move mountains.
The notebook I bought for these interrupted nights rests on the bedside table, amid the reading glasses, pens, and catalogs. We write to taste life twice. God, I love that quote. Hearing the words pour from my internal dialogue, seeing the letters fall on the crisp paper, the sweet taste of those letters. They pop-sizzle-pop like cheeries on my tongue, encompassing all of my senses. Yet, I can’t make myself roll over and reach for it.
My eyes glance back at Joe sleeping peacefully in the moonlight. It’s amazing how much the human eye can see in a darkened space. Rods and cones, pupils and irises. The mind’s eye. Is he dreaming? Of what? His body is splayed like an exclamation mark, a warning. What, Joe goes on inside of your mind as you are drifting into sleep, when you are stuck in that limbo land of awake-not-yet-asleep state? Are there microcosms of thought twisting around an impetus of me and our family?
Are there strobes of light and color gnarling, shaping, molding images of sprightly love? Innocence and remembering. Her. Your first love.
I groan and reach for my notebook. I’ve got to get these ideas down. I pick it up; it feels of cool—malleable—those thoughts and ideas bending, my brain molding the thoughts into words I can transcribe.
Joe mumbles something in his sleep. It doesn’t sound like anything intelligible. He huffs and jerks the sheet away from me, rolling his body onto his side, facing away from me; two lovers split, a bifurcation. I swallow and twist my legs to the edge of the bed, dangling them over the edge. Inhale, exhale. The room smells of sticky, sour sleep. The notebook beckons me. Open me. Write onto my pages. Your secrets are safe here.
I lean forward snapping the notebook into my grasp. The problem with words, once spoken they can never be retracted; once written they remain forever, like fingerprints on a heart.
In the master bath, I flip on the light, close the door. My legs are wobbly and weak, I let my body slide down, broken and confused. The notebook falls from my hands, a splat on the tile, splayed open to a blank page. I lean forward, rubbing my face in my hands. The thoughts need to go away. They need to get out my head. I take the pen from the coiled binding of the notebook and let my hand flow along the pages. I have no idea what I am thinking, no idea of what to write. My mind seems to know something I do not.
1868. You and me. In the English countryside. Stonewalls and moss. Gray-blue skies. Flowers and clover. Violet. Secret rendezvous. Violent. A class difference. A life-long chase. A marriage. A binding. A contract. You promised. Steve. SFK. ILY. Make the thoughts go away. Violent, violet. Again. Violent, violet. Again. Violent, violet.
My eyes assess the words, they mean nothing. My head pounds, a loud banging, pulsing between my ears. I am spent, tired. Bound and broken on the floor. I reach up and grab the doorknob, stretching with my fingertips. It feels so far away. I press my body on the door, twist the knob. The door opens and the weight of my body pushes me forward into the room. I lay there for ten seconds, two minutes. Honestly, I don’t know how long my body lays prone.
I stir to the sound of Joe’s snoring. He says he doesn’t snore, but he does. The wind blows through the crack in the window, the curtains dance, moonlight falls on my bare legs. I stand, ruffle the wrinkles from my nightshirt and shuffle to the medicine cabinet. A past dental procedure. Vicodin. It glows like an amulet, a promise of good fortune. It’s old, but I don’t care. Maybe the half-life has expired; it’ll be less potent now. I twist the child-safety cap and pop a pill into my mouth. I turn the facet on, tip my head and cup my hands as I slurp the medication into my body.”
[Remember, this is an orginal work of fiction. Copying or distributing as your own is strictly prohibited.]