Unfamiliar Words

Excepting that our every uttered word will one day be recorded by one of our helpful ‘devices,’ writing is still the best record of thought that we have. We write down ideas that are important in order to remember them in the future, and when we return to old journals, lists, essays and stories, we see ourselves as we once were. Since most of this is done privately, we get some insight into our least guarded selves as we reflect back on who we were.

Some actors don’t watch the films they’re in; the experience is too disconcerting. Some writers, likewise, don’t read their work after publication because they know it intimately, in some cases down to the word. After re-working passages countless times, they can still see the frayed edges of sentences not quite finished. At some point you have to give up.

I’m back in it. The third time around feels slower and more daunting because it seems like someone else wrote these words. Is it better? Perhaps not.

But it is more true.


Round 1 (from the opening of Chapter 3)

She couldn’t stop running. Out the door she turned west and her bare feet carried her through a blur of city blocks. She danced along the balls of her feet to avoid pebbles and broken glass, and her shoes, held aloft by their thin straps, swung back and forth in rhythm with each step. Her heart raced for what seemed like miles until she found herself simply moving. No one was following her and she was out in broad daylight amongst hundreds, thousands of people, yet she pushed herself still further on.

Round 2

One block more, China told herself, and then I’ll stop. Her feet hurt and she was out of breath, but she kept running as thoughts sped through her mind: losing her job because of an internet search, the security guard’s face disappearing into some ominous absence, Giddia Mall years ago and Hector Endlew’s entrancing, hateful eyes. The two faces, frozen in her mind, pushed China through the first block and the next seven. Not thinking, just running past people and through intersections. Barefoot because her heel slipped and she stopped to kick off both shoes before she kept going. This is insane.

Round 3

China ran, a streak of white and blue on heels that threatened to snap each time they struck the pavement. Every face she saw in the crowd brightened or darkened into a pool of vivid light or viscid black, and her terror muddled with weird allure, which baffled her. Each person who looked up and met her eyes seemed to want her. Some of them beckoned, refugees in the shadows below the buildings, while others twisted in the occasional sunlight, more awful for their grotesque contortions. One more block, she thought. Each sharp breath burned her lungs, yet another blurring face made her run faster and faster down the noisy, downtown city sidewalks.

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