Thursday, October 13, 2016

Writing October, Part 2: Death and Imaginary Friends

The rain fell for most of the night last night. A cold rain, but then, here in Colorado it's always a cold rain no matter what the month. There was some sort of government, city wide alarm that woke me up just after four this morning. Just after four in the morning, this used to be bedtime, but things have changed. I listened to old recordings, Syd Barrett and Nick Drake. I covered up in the bed and awaited what would happen.

It's now, or very nearly, mid-October. The leaves are changing and in my little town, it's pretty. I try to see the beauty, which is oftentimes just the colorful leaves on the trees. I have to overlook the brown and gray leaves which have fallen and are clogging up the gutters and making oily water pools above the rusted storm grates.

For years, come October, I figured I'd just hold my breath and not exhale until November. Over the years, I have not been issued more dead friends and relations than anyone else, but for some reason, the deaths have come at this time of year. It plays havoc on one's mind, I think. On my mind, anyway. Some guys get to go to a bunch of christenings, some get to go to weddings. I have always been the other guy. I got to go to funerals. It comes with having a wide circle of friends, this I know. But it always seemed to happen in October.

Death is one thing. Life is something else. Perhaps the notion of having a time of celebrating death, like the Mexicans do with Dia de Muertos is so much less macabre than it would seem to be. Spurious thought, I know. Admittedly, I like the idea of partying with dead friends.

I also relish the idea of partying with imaginary friends.

When we're young, and I mean young, we all have imaginary friends. I see my son doing it. His imaginary friends are classmates, characters from books in which he assigns to toy car bodies and has races all over the world. I love watching him play. As for myself, I remember a specific friend named Marcy who lived in the house behind my grandmother in Castro Valley. We played all day and we had good times. Much later, when visiting my grandmother after many years, I told her I wanted to go visit Marcy. Who? she asked. Marcy, the little girl next door. There is no girl next door, she said. Did she move away? I asked. No honey, there has never been a girl next door. I was, of course, very puzzled. I thought about it for years, and I came to the realization that Marcy was not a real little girl but an imaginary friend. I never remember her and I being on the same side of the fence.

There is a point when we outgrow imaginary friends. There is a point in life when having imaginary friends is no longer healthy. There is a time in life, some point in our adolescence, when having imaginary friends is a sign of mental illness, or possibly something worse.

And having imaginary friends as an adult, well, no. You don't have imaginary friends as an adult, that is absurd and it's just not normal. And this is true for all adults accept writers. When you're a writer you get to have all the imaginary friends you want. As a writer, your characters are imaginary. They are products of the imagination. Sometimes they are foes. Sometimes they are friends. To a lesser degree, think about how you feel when you're reading a great book that is character driven and you start to feel the things the characters feel. They are not real people, but in the construct of the story, they seem real.

Sometimes when I start to think about this friend, or that, someone who has died, I tend to giggle about some experience or other. I tend to forget the tragic, or sad, or shock of their passing. I think about the good times. When my friend David passed a few years ago from cancer, I knew he got a raw deal. The deal his family got was even rawer. But David? He was an amazing person, a good friend and a model of humanity. The longer I thought about him, the more I thought about Haley's Comet, the fall of the Berlin Wall, that terrible news year of 1986 when we stayed up all night and listened to punk rock and plotted our escape.

Then, pieces of my relationship with him seeped into my writing. It had long before he died too. I used facets of his personality, as well as my own personality in the main characters in piece I wrote years ago called Mapping Generic Streets.

I can cite several stories, a few novels, that I wrote based on friends, dead, living and imaginary that have some truth to them, even if it's a feeling rather than a fact. It's good to have friends. Imaginary or not.

Today, the Colorado sun is bright and white and warm, right on top of our heads. There is no evidence of the rain of the last few days. It's dry and outside of the small streets of my small town the views stretch on until horizons on all sides. The October air is pleasing.

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