I’ve been working on a new story, about a woman who loses a kidney to cancer. I’m trying to tie in the loss of the kidney to the loss of her belief in magic. To that feeling of hollowness, the empty room that once was full. To the sense of conviction we (and when I say we, here, I mean “me” – I know plenty of adults with a healthy sense of magic, and of them I am jealous) get as we get older that magic was never real. It’s like a sine wave. Slowly increasing as we rise from infancy, hitting a zenith in prepubesence, then dipping, dipping, deeper and deeper.
It starts small. One day you find yourself stepping on cracks and not really believing they will break your mother’s back. The small beliefs you cast aside make your life easier in some ways, and you let your fingers go uncrossed when you walk underneath the bloody-Mary tree in the school playground. But then the tree you climb after school isn’t a secret staircase into the sky anymore, so you stop climbing it. But then you stop praying at night. And you stop believing in a lot more, things like justice, or friendship. Eventually you find you don’t even believe in love, really, despite the fact that you spent so many hours reading romance novels that you felt could have gotten a PHD in the subject by the time you were fifteen. And one day, you turn around and find you don’t believe in yourself. You only believe in the things you can see. Your imperfection. Your parents’ arguments. Pettiness. Ugliness.
This has been the story for me. Partly, at least.
I fight it, even as I succumb to it. You have to succumb to it, a little bit. You can’t live in a dream your whole life. Can you? My main character has been living in a dream her whole life, and suddenly she is faced with the end of her life. The end of a half-lived life spent dreaming and not doing much else.
This is what I want the story to be about. That idealistic desire to cling to magic, even if it’s hurting you, even if your desperation is hurting you in a hundred different ways. Holding you back from engaging fully in the world. Something like…blind loyalty to ideals or magic is just an expression of cynicism toward real life. Refusal to participate, refusal to be open minded towards real life, even if parts of it are stupid, petty, ugly, is a mistake, a deeply nihilistic act. One that steals from your actual life in order to sustain the one you live in day dreams, in books and fantasy.
I have always read to escape. And in my escaping found the world of books, of speaking edro and opening doors to be far superior to the one where I am trapped.
I have always slept to dream. And in my dreaming found my world of soaring flight far superior to the one I wake to, tied so firmly to the ground – borne down by my own weight.
It has been like a secret kept. A precious treasure hidden. But Teccam said that secrets of the heart will kill us like a slow poison. My protagonist’s cancer is like a manifestation of that poison. The doctors take the kidney away, and she feels bereft. Like they have taken her secret world away as well. She needs to realize they have not done that, and it doesn’t need to be destroyed. She only needs to fashion a door between her life on earth and her life in that other place.