How could I have anticipated becoming friends with two Sarahs in less than a year? In July, I wrote 31 sentences about 11 hours because the timespan unfolded into a tidy narrative. But I didn’t write about meeting the second Sarah and I didn’t write about drinking humongous Bud Light Oranges on her roof, the overlap of our Venn-diagram so fat we both kept saying, “Wait, wait! I got a story about that,” and then never telling any of them. I began writing this novel January 1st with two parameters: 1. I’d compress the primary occurrence, thought, or theme of each day into a single sentence 2. If anyone is mentioned by name, I must get their green (or, in some cases, yellow) light prior to publication. I ditched the first rule in lieu of the linear essays I wrote in June and July and I’ve abused punctuation to turn full paragraphs into sentences and there are a slew of other ways I’ve circumnavigated to allow myself greater narrative freedom and, if I’m being completely honest, to save my ass from habitual procrastination. But I’m committed to literary consent because no sentence is worth bridge-burning or hurting someone and I’m committed to real names because if someone says they’re comfortable only if I pseudonym, they’re not comfortable. First Sarah has been mentioned twice so her name will remain “Sarah” while second Sarah will appear as “Sarah Q.” I think often of the sentence couplet in Scott McClanahan’s The Sarah Book where he writes: “She had a brother named Jack who I never liked but who I always said I liked. I never liked him though and I’m not putting him in my book.” I didn’t write about the divorce my coworker is going through, how his wife blindsided him one day with “I don’t think I ever loved you.” And I didn’t write about how he discusses it in such a water-cooler way even though it’s gotta be weighing on him. Or how I could never be like that, my interior life on full display even when I’d rather it not be. About how him and I are wrong—life should be approached with emotional shields and bleeding vulnerability in tandem; how leaning too far toward either pole paves the way for disappointment. I didn’t write about the jogger I saw doing that dance joggers do at crosswalks or the tiny water bottle holstered at his hip or how he knew he looked stupid but keeping his muscles loose and warm mattered more to him than shame. And I didn’t write about the 4th of July; how my grandmother’s dog ate grass, how I ate two hamburgers and a chicken skewer and an Italian sausage with peppers and onions, how I drank a six of Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin, how my t-shirt sported puddles of sweat under each pit, how my brother asked what made me any different from the white people I scorned in June, how I knew there was a distinction between myself and them, how I was unable to put that distinction into words, how I didn’t have an answer. My brother goes to school in Kentucky and flew north to have surgery performed on his arm where an unidentified years-ago injury chipped bone and set fragments up to rub against each other until they eroded into a major problem. “The Poetry of The Paragraph” by Garielle Lutz clicked right when I first read it— what words can accomplish simply from the way they sound strung together, which helped me as a writer and reviser but over time hurt me as a casual reader; my psychiatrist and therapist thought it symptomatic of OCD but they have since conferred and concluded it’s likely not OCD, just depression, anxiety, and obsession with narratives. Sarah’s a visual artist who lives on an island, more specifically a trained printmaker who, currently without studio, has turned to more primitive forms such as painting and drawing–I value her input on my writing because she isn’t trained in words and vowel sounds. Locked out, I ate pistachio gelato with my fingers waiting for Frank Price. I was on a true crime kick but now I’m not. I’m okay with this novel forever being in flux—life will continue to constantly adapt, so why shouldn’t the writing? Before I can subvert the sentence-a-day scaffolding again, I must first return to it, but now is not the time. Sarah Q. picked me up and drove us to the trees where we climbed over rocks and had conversations both fast and slow. In the parking lot she asked, “Is that person dead?” and I checked. The red car was running, window half down, the driver looking rigor mortised. When I knocked the glass, the driver startled awake, and drove slow through the lot to park across three spots in the shade. Although I’ve never experienced the scene described in Death Cab For Cutie’s “What Sarah Said,” the song has never failed to make me feel exactly what it probably feels like. The closest I’ve come was when my mother took me to a hospital room where a man I was very vaguely related to would die any moment—I felt intrusive shaking hands with his children as my mother said, “This is Steven, my oldest.” Lexx, a friend I’ve known since middle school and Sarah Q. knows through the internet showed up and walked the woods with us. When Lexx had to leave they urged us to take art they’d made from the backseat of their car—I took a painting of a devil boy and a collage of an imagined sense of home. The other day I saw the largest seagull I’ve ever seen, strutting circles around a roadkilled rat. When someone asked if the birds in this novel were working toward an extended metaphor, I said no.

 

Steven Arcieri lives in Boston. He is writing a sentence about himself every day for a decade. Read em and weep, boys.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *