So, I’m writing on a couple of levels.
One part of the tale is a horror story for a young student. She’s in love, and she is being used. One part is the irony of life, and of outcomes. One part is how she survives. It’s a feminist story about an abortion that a girl did not want, but because she was of a certain class, and that there was nowhere to turn, she had. It’s a story of betrayal by the male sex. It’s been very hard to write it, and I’m almost finished. But who the story is for? Is every young girl. Because, no girl that has an abortion is ever really okay after that. Not really.
People like to think that it’s nothing. It’s not.
While I am pro-choice, I am pro-life. I never want to see any girl go through what my main character had to.
Here is the irony in chapter 15, today. The teacher? Here is what happens next.
Chapter 15 — freezeframe
Thirty six in Los Angeles is a photography teacher who has to drive the snake-like freeways in order to get just the right sun, at just the right angle, so “he can walk with the light.” This is what he says, but there is no light inside of him. He’s the walking dead, come home from the war, and inside is less than a black hole, where the acid he drops in order to see God has riddled holes in what the fabric of what once was a heart, or a mind. There is nothing but light all around him, illuminating garbage, and he captures it day in and day out as if to make markers that are a reference point when he has none. He has shattered a young girl, but he will never look back. He only needed somebody to pay attention, and to love him through the desperation that was his life, or that city, or the nothingness he had inside. “I always photograph the things I am most afraid of,” he says. “Women are like continents waiting to be explored.” He has said these things on postcards. They drop like bombs across the landscape that was his student’s soul. He’s called her Tina Modotti over and over again, as if he were really an Edward Weston, but he isn’t.
John Sandman is up in his darkroom looking at negatives of he and Natasha when he hears Cathleen pull up to the house. She has bags and bags of groceries to bring in, and he doesn’t want to go downstairs, he wants to look at Natasha for awhile longer, but she’s calling from the bottom of the stairs and she says, “Let’s go out for dinner tonight.”
“That little Vietnamese place you love.”
“What’s making you want that food?”
“I know you love it and we haven’t gone there in months.”
“Give me an hour.”
“What are you working on?”
“Oh, just some negatives.”
“I want to get cleaned up. Wait until you see my hair.”
“What about your hair?”
“I changed it today.”
He hears the music come on down in the living room, and the shower water is turned on suddenly. Clouds of steam curl down the hall like mist, past the portraits that hang there. The pictures of the two of them all over the world on that trip they took in the 1960’s, their wedding pictures, the pictures of their parents, and even some prints of his that she wanted hung just so.
Everything is still like a freezeframe he thinks. Natasha’s face floats before him, the thousand images of every single picture that he took, that he’s so proud of, that make him think he was something like a Weston, or a Cartier-Bresson and his flick the photos over and over and over. He’s made identical prints for himself of everything he ever sent to her. He keeps them in an identical grey box along with the love poems she wrote to him.
They haven’t seen each other in several months. She doesn’t have a phone he can call anymore and she never seems to be at work when he calls. He laughs thinking to himself how virile he was with her, how he could just come in and push her down whenever he felt like it. It’s not like that with Cathleen. She’s prim. She wants it over with in five minutes. They don;’t even kiss, but for the last year he’d been sleeping with her again, with his wife, and that’s all that mattered.
He flips through the pictures of all the locations where they had made love, he flips through the pictures where her arms were around him, of his tongue going into her mouth, of their shadows on the sand, of the shirt Natasha bought him, the painterly shirt with splatters all over it that was so hiply Jackson Pollack and vintage. He looks at her in her kimonos, of himself in them, and there is this record that he has. Of time.
That’s all it is.
Cathleen is calling from below the stairs, “Let’s go.”
And he closes the box of grey and white images down, locks it tight, packs it away on a high shelf where he keeps it.
They’re in the car on the way to Santa Monica when he looks at Cathleen and notices she’s happy. He had missed her hair. She’s chopped it off and he hadn’t even noticed.
“Like it?” she asks, as she takes one of his hands in hers, at the stoplight. He ruffles it, and begins to drive again, into the swarm of traffic like ants slowly making their way across the anonymity of the city. The red and white lights of the cars stream for miles in all directions.
“It looks good.”
“I have a surprise.”
His foot slips slightly against the accelerator, and then the brakes, making the car jerk and slide a little.
“I guess I should have waited to tell you at the restaurant,” she says. “When you weren’t driving.”
“Are you sure?”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Well when did that happen?”
“I think it must have been Christmas.”
“In Baltimore, remember?”
All of a sudden, Christmas comes back to him. It was snowing when they made it to her parent’s house. They had huddled together, at the airport, in the cabs. They had taken her childhood bedroom, the one they had slept together in just before he enlisted, so long ago.
It’s not that he could remember the sex, exactly, just that it had been very, very cold.
“That freezing night?”
“Must have been.”
“Everything is going to change now, John.”
“You are going to be a father.”
* * *
The end of the novel will be written as an epilogue. I like the end that I came to. So the last 3000+ will ba an epilogue and my MC Natasha Evergreen, because she did make it through college, and went on to get her MA.