Writing about The City of Lost Children and little girls’ notions of romance has made me think about a star-crossed love affair from my own childhood.
I thought I was over the loss, but I wasn’t. When what you had was a secret and what you lost equally secret, you don’t ever get to grieve.
To avoid grieving, I’d half-convinced myself I never felt the things I felt. When I finally acknowledged it, I was like Doubting Thomas, touching the wound in my own side for proof. I thought it would be unbearably painful, but it wasn’t. It turned out to be a relief and full of joy.
I thought I would never be able to do justice to the story. I thought I would not be able to reveal the Truth and have it believed. The man I loved is long dead and defenseless, and I feared it would open him to ridicule or blame or condemnation. As a writer, you can doubt your skills, but don’t doubt the power of your story to convey Truth to your readers. Stories carry themselves. The handful of people I’ve told the story to now…they understand in a way I didn’t really hope for.
I thought all secrets were bad. They’re not. Some are beautiful. Some are so beautiful you want to share them with people. Others are so beautiful you want to keep them secret.
If kept long enough, I assumed all secrets went one of two ways: dissolved like a baby tooth in cola or burst like a swollen appendix, leaking poison into your body. Many of them do, but others turn to scars, badges of honor on your skin. Others yet turn into fantastical things, like an absorbed twin encased within you. Strange, yes. Disturbing, yes. Still, somehow wonderful: a fellow traveler you’ve carried in your flesh.
Of this secret, I have wondered if it were a little bundle of hair and teeth, sealed up inside me, my fetus in fetu. Or perhaps it’s more that I’m a chimera. The only thing left of that younger me is her blood running in my veins.