" Marcus wrapped his fingers in the thick waves of Greta’s reddish-brown hair, and there was nothing in the world but her rose-scent, her body, and this bed. Yet as he spooned her close, wriggling so there would be no place along the soft, rolling length of her not snugged against his skin, something began to shift. The white comforter that had formed a light-foam cave over them began to constrict, to change... gradually solidifying and calcifying. It became chalky and then, at the last, chalk—a small piece held in the hand of a lecturer who wrapped it up in the tight, interlocking embrace of his perspiring fingers as he gesticulated wildly in front of a broad expanse of chalkboard green."
- - -
Those are the opening lines of "CONTROL," my favorite short story in my book IMMORTALITY (and other short stories). I love it for its strangeness and its whimsicality. But even more, I love it for how it came by its title.
I'm racking my brains, and right now I can't even remember what it was originally called -- which is a little strange, considering that I only renamed it on very nearly the last draft, almost two years (and over thirty drafts) after I'd first scribbled out the story. But when I did change its name, the whole thing suddenly CLICKED, and I fell in love with it like never before.
See, for the longest time it was just a story about perception and reality -- a weird little piece of experimental fiction. But all of a sudden I realized that, no, it was about so much more. It was about a time in my life when I was feeling completely out of control. The world was careening away from me, spinning ever-faster into madness; and the flurry of writing that followed was largely an attempt to wrest some sense of control from all the insanity.
What I love about the story is that while this attempt doesn't work -- while the protagonist is ultimately forced to acknowledge his subjection to forces beyond his control -- there is still somehow a sort of beauty and hope that gets caught up in his defiance, as well.
What also fascinates me is that it took me so long to realize this. Not the principle itself, but the fact that it was woven into the fabric of the story so richly and inextricably that all I had to do when I noticed was tug a few threads, and it was there. It wasn't just there, it was obvious. How had I missed it?
That, I suppose, is the way of things.
The truth is here, now, among us, but we are all-too-often blind. It is when we stop, breathe, and deeply listen to the story of our lives that the pattern can begin to emerge.