I wrote a story once. Or rather, I didn’t write it but I thought about it. I outlined it in my head, I sketched the characters, maybe even one or two sentences or lines of dialogue appeared. And then I tucked it away somewhere in the scruffy notebook of my mind and never actually wrote it. But I remember it like I wrote it.
I don’t want to break the spell and write it now, but I’ll give you the gist. It’s about a divorce. A man and woman who decide to divorce and it’s sad but amicable and on the day they sign the papers, they decide to have one last hurrah – one final night together. They go to a nice hotel and they order champagne and oysters and when the man wakes up in the morning, the woman is gone and he is violently sick in the nice hotel’s toilet.
A few months later, at a birthday or something, he eats oysters again, and again, he is sick. Perhaps he tries oysters once more, on a separate occasion. Or maybe twice. But each time, the same result. And he realises that he must be allergic, that he must have developed an allergy to oysters. And he thinks that his body must be remembering the night in the nice hotel. The divorce in the nice hotel and the heartbreak and the waking up alone and his body is saying No. No more of that.
And maybe that’s not the end of the story but that’s about where I got to.
And not only did I not write it, I never even looked up if emotional allergies are a medical likelihood. I didn’t decide where the story was set or how long the characters had been married. I didn’t even name them.
But sometimes, I forget that that story isn’t true.
Someone will mention oysters or divorce or allergies and I’ll go to tell that story, like it happened to a friend of mine. I have to stop myself telling it. I have to remind myself that it’s not true, I just wrote it. Or rather, I didn’t write it, but I remember it like I did. I remember it like it really happened.
And then I think, what if one day I just say it. I tell the story like it’s true. And it’s a good story. The sort of story that the person you tell then relates to their friends except, instead of saying it was my friend, they say it was theirs. And on and on. A chain mail of half- truths. And one day, some time in the future, someone tells me the story. They tell me the same story, except with the details slightly changed or enhanced. They probably tell it better than I did, more dramatic. And they say that it happened to a friend of theirs. And this me of the future will listen and she’ll think Fuck, it must have been real all along.
A version of this post was sent by email on the 8th December 2019 as part of Internet Care Package – a weekly memoir project in the form of a newsletter. It also includes links to the best things I’ve found on the internet each week and occasional updates on my theatremaking. This blog is a select archive of those emails. Subscribe to get them right in your inbox.