When I tell people I’m working on a Graphic Novel, the question inevitably arises: What is it about? At first I would try to summarize the story. “It’s about a stoic, bitter old man, who lives in the forest alone. One winter night, as he’s chopping firewood, he hears a strange sound emanating from the dark woods. He goes to investigate and finds a wolf pup, lost, weak, and collapsed in the snow. Being the thick-skinned mountain man he is, he turns away leaving the pup to die. But as he does, he has a memory of the woman he loved in his younger days, and it softens his heart. So the book is about these two separate story lines — one of the old man and the wolf, the other, his memories of this woman — interweaving back and forth.” At this point I would motion my hands like two snakes dancing. The person listening would usually nod thoughtfully, not giving much indication on whether they thought this was the basis for an interesting narrative or not. I think this description satisfactorily describes my book, but it’s also quite a mouthful, possibly more than they bargained for, and not a quick answer appropriate for such locations like, say, a grocery store line.
So I went the other way. When asked, I would simply say, “Memory…” letting the word float mysteriously, lingering on the air like a light forest fog. At this, they would give me a quizzical look, and I would have the feeling that I just failed at the authors’ duty to promote himself.
Now when asked, I just feel like grabbing their collar, tightening it around their curious heads and shouting: “It’s about my EX alright!??!? I’m wounded and feel like I’ll never find love like that again and this is a form of catharsis and what do you expect a lonely middle aged man who lives deep in the forest to think about except LOST LOVE?!!?” But this response probably wouldn’t be appropriate and might make me look more pathetic than I actually am.
Fact is, this story is largely inspired by my last relationship. Is this a bad thing? Well if it’s giving me the emotional energy to complete a 100+ page book, my first real attempt at completing something substantial, I don’t think it’s bad. My drawing talent and technique has improved greatly over the past 9 months, all due to this book, and I don’t think that’s bad either. I’ve had someone gently ask, “… but how do you expect to get over this relationship when you’re focusing so much time on it?” It’s a valid point. I guess my answer would be something like, “Hey, I’m a sensitive guy, and I’d probably be suffering anyway, so I might as well turn it into something productive.” But I do need to finish this book as quickly as possible. I don’t want to have this corpse hanging around my neck forever. I don’t actually want to turn into the embittered, hard-hearted old man of the woods.
And I don’t feel like I am. I have my moments of darkness, yes. I feel pangs in my heart when I see happy couples touching and enjoying each other. When bushwhacking though ancient forests, traversing wild rivers, walking down sandy beaches, or fixing dinner, I long to have a partner to share it with. But these experiences are still beautiful to me, not diminished in any way, just different. Life is beautiful and precious always, and I’m grateful I feel this. I’m grateful for the place I live, my friends, the bountiful food I eat, my ability to pursue art and words — my calling — freely. I live a rich life and the dull nagging loneliness is part of the richness of experience. In a way it is the fuel that fires my creativity.
Lingering over this book doesn’t make me unhappy, but it does, somehow, inhibit me from being fully present with another woman. Perhaps right now it’s impossible for another woman to compete with my Ex, my first love. Is this because I don’t let them, or because what her and I had was special, exceedingly rare, hard to replace? I’m trying to answer this. It’s probably a little of each.
My Dad is visiting and yesterday we were on the coast, sitting in a little driftwood hut near the beach. I was reading poems aloud: Goethe, Frost, Rainer Maria Rilke. A beautiful young woman came into view through the doorway, walking solitary down the beach. “There goes a poem,” says my dad. With those words I felt a sense of expansiveness, of openness. Yes, what is her story? What are her pains and her joys? Could we laugh together? There are millions of poems in this world, and though most of them may not be to my taste, should I exclude strange and unfamiliar ones out of deference and attachment to my favorite poem? Who knows? Who knows…? I figure it out as I goes.
In summary, it’s hard to summarize a book in a couple sentences. My story is about everything written here and more. Thanks for allowing the time to explain.
1. It took me twice as long to get to work last night
2. I almost saw a fight last night
Positioned at my valet booth, I have a unobstructed view through the window of a bar. Listen: Big, ape-like man is apparently acting surly and misogynistic. Female bartender interjects on female customers behalf, tries to take Apeman’s beer away. Apeman refuses. Female bartender sticks her fist in his beer, and tells him to “drink it now”. Apeman becomes enraged. Apeman is thrown out of bar by 4 smaller men. Words are had. Apeman kicks a guy in the balls. More threats. Apeman finally comprehends that he’s not wanted. Apeman reluctantly sulks away.
3. I was almost in a fight last night
Two women and a man approach me and ask if I would call them a cab. This is generally bad etiquette since valets only have their personal cell phones, so why not use your own? I skirt the issue by telling them I don’t have a cell phone, which is the absolute truth. The woman gives me a scowl. “Really?”, she says, not as in “Really, you don’t have a cell phone?”, but more as in “Really, you’re going to lie to my face? You ought to to come up with a better excuse because everybody has a cell phone. And you look ridiculous in that day-glow yellow vest with reflective stripes.” I try to convince her. I say, “No, REALLY I don’t have a cell phone.” But really I’m saying “No REALLY I don’t have a cell phone, and I know I look ridiculous in this vest but you don’t have to be a bitch about it.” At this point she makes a sound with her mouth which is hard to describe, but everyone is familiar with. It kinda sounds like “uuhh!”. Imagine a trust-fund baby with entitlement issues learning that Starbucks has run out of their chosen coffee. That’s the sound she made. They proceed to push rudely past me without even saying farewell. They’ve essentially called me a no good liar.
Now, I’m pretty laid back guy who generally avoids conflict, so I’m going to blame my next move on Apeman’s testosterone laced pheromone which still clung to the air. As they walked away I said, “With an attitude like that, why would we?” (call them a cab). Admittedly, it was bratty thing to say, but at least it was reasoned and somewhat intelligent; moreso than calling them “bitches” or “assholes” or something. The man took a few more steps before deciding that he should probably stand up for his girlfriends. He turns around in the middle of the street and starts doing the whole “You got a problem?!” routine. I can’t remember what I said to him next, but it must’ve been pretty good, because it turned him into an Apeman and caused him to come nearer. Now for the uninitiated: when Man A aggressively approches Man B, Man B cannot back down if he hopes to maintain a shred of pride. I almost said “shred of dignity”, but it’s mostly about pride, stupid male pride. So although the guy was bigger than me, I didn’t back down. It helped having my co-worker, Greg, there. And then: “Comeon! I’ll take both of you!!!” I’m starting to like these odds, but trying to resist being transformed into an Apeman. We’re also giving him the opportunity to throw the first blow, lest this goes to court. It’s probably good nothing happened, though he did call us pussies as he walked away.
Human behavior is so fascinating.
4. I socialized with other human beings over alcohol last night
Perhaps our confrontation with Apeman Jr. was a bonding experience of sorts; after work Greg offered to introduce me to some good bars and people. At one point found myself walking down east 6th singing harmony for a rousing rendition of “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys.
5. It’s stunningly beautiful today
The SXSW people really couldn’t pick a better time, the weather is spectacular right now. Warm days, cool nights, and a wonderful breeze blowing through the freshly sprouted leaves.