There’s always the question
what else or what more. — Eloise Klein Healy
As I wrote the last half-chapter of my novel this morning, I cried. I cried so hard that I could not see the screen or move my fingers. My body rocked with the release of something I did not know I had been carrying.
A feeling, a state, a place for me that is always circumscribed by Mom’s death. But this time, inside that wide emptiness, that absence, hundreds of other people walked, too. Primus. Malvina, Nelson, Judy. All the people I had not thought to grieve because I thought I had not known them.
But of course I had. I lived with their stories for months, years. I had done my best to know them, to walk with them, to hear them speak. As Pierce Pettis sings, “The presence of their absence follows me” every time I go home.
Yet, I had not grieved them.
Writers talk often of the grief, the absence they feel when they finish a book, and I have known that place, too, feel it even now at the edges of myself, the immediate casting about of lost purpose.
But here, on this rainy Tuesday when the sun has not risen and will probably not shine today, I grieve people.
As I finished the last scene of the novel, I found I had written my way to mourning. I didn’t know I would need to travel there, but need it I did. And if I never do one more thing with this novel – if it slips into a digital archive never to be read again – I have done what I needed to do, written what I needed to know.
I miss you, Primus. I miss you, Lettie and Minerva. I miss you, Berthier. I miss all of you. I miss you, my friends. Thank you for letting me share your stories. I hope some day I will hear them spoken from your own tongues.
Many thanks to everyone who joined my ThunderClap campaign. We zoomed over the goal with 108 people signed up, and I’m so grateful. Thank you. If you’d still like to join, I’d love that. Just follow this link for more information and to sign up – https://www.thunderclap.it/my/update/10829-when-people-were-property/4339?locale=en. Thank you all.