I've been thinking about this for a couple of years, and I think I've got it all together. It's circuitous as hell, and complimentary in a slightly uncomfortable (for me) way; bear with me.
I am not what you would call an emotional person. It's not that I'm exceedingly logical or mathematica
l or unfeeling so much as that I tend to attack issues with sarcasm, wit, cunning and guile as opposed to, well, anything else
. I was born without whatever organ
it is that produces empathy in humans, and while I can see
how a situation might suck
for someone, it doesn't actually make me feel
anything. I may wince, or frown, or have any number of the outward physical signs of empathy
but believe me - those reactions stop just below the surface. I didn't cry when my grandmother
died, or when my cousin lost her son to the system due to her forced incarceration in a state-run mental institution for paranoid-schitzophrenia
, or when my best friend moved to Philadelphia to unionize healthcare workers. I didn't cry; I didn't even blink.
All that is well and good if you don't know me (albeit dangerously close to the clinical definition of being, depending on your mood, sociopathic or autistic; I'm neither, but thanks for asking) but I've been writing here for quite awhile and, I'm guessing, the last paragraph probably doesn't square right with the extraneous whatnot I've been sharing more or less from the start. It sounds grandiose as all hell, but I get a certain amount of pleasure from trying to provoke emotional reactions in people - an old friend of mine once compared my writing style to frying ants with a magnifying glass - my writing, according to her, is short, brutal and deadly - you get warm, out of nowhere, and then one of us is on fire.
Ouch. She had a point, but damn.
My father is a storyteller, a storyteller so practiced that I have no idea what he's done. Who he is, yes, but the facts are murky, usually hidden at the bottom of a lake, filled to the shores with dense, brackish stories. From him, more than anything else, I acquired an inability to listen to what people are saying because I'm usually too preoccupied with the stories in my own head to care. I unconsciously listen for keywords, and the imagination takes off like a 747 bound, non-stop, for The Land of Make Believe, and. Yeah.
My mother is a listener. From her, more than anything else, I acquired an unfailing gullibility. Mix that up in a blender and you get me, a cynic who'll believe anything that I actually hear, which really ain't much.
What that all boils down to is, while the plights of my peers engender about as much empathy in me as a brick wall has for a drunk driver, stories, be them televised, read, reenacted or picked out of the air, drop me to my knees in supplication. More than anybody I know, I breathe media. Media arcs, and flows, and pushes buttons so much more effectively than our own tawdry little lives do. Stories have a message. People say things like, "So, I bought some new curtains. They're blue." Stories say things like, "So, I bought some new curtains. They're blue, and that act is symbolic of the hopelessness of my particular domestic situation."
The I in my stories is almost never me; it's usually not even close.
The language is me. The way a person interacts with the intelligent world is the words we use describe the fragments of others' lives we corrupt or improve. The only thing that will outlast us are the stories we tell.
My father, when he's not not telling me who he is, is telling me stories about his mother, an at-the-time sixty year-old hellion sliding down embankments in restaurant parking lots, or about when he whacked her over the head in fit of anger worthy of Laurel and Hardy with a metal dinner tray. She survives on strength of character all by itself.
I want that. And at the same time, I hope that none of any of this is even remotely true.