Monday, July 23, 2012

MMWUC: Memory Flow

"Midnight at the oasis, send your camel to bed. Shadows paintin' our faces, traces of romance in our heads." I don't know why that song popped into my head when I created this file, but it did. It pops into my head quite often. I still have the original Maria Muldaur album and play it maybe once a year on the old recorder player. Hard to believe it is almost forty years old. I even remember the first time I played it, assigned to an army barracks in West Berlin--Ken and Tex wondering what it was because it wasn't a country and western song. Waxing nostalgic, but that's okay. When you get older, that's where story ideas come from--the collision of what was, what might have been, against the backdrop of what it is.

What it was? It was the time I missed the Frankfurt train back to Berlin and would be technically AWOL the next time the sun rose, and theoretically, I could be shot for desertion.

What it might have been? The girl. She'd missed her train to Vienna, "...and then it's on to Venice for a few days, and finally Naples. Mama lives there. You could come and stay and write." We'd been together for five hours. She was cute, in a pixie way, able to squat, bend, and fold her tanned olive skin in so many ways. Her eyes--soft, and brown, caring and innocent. Lips full. A crown of freckles across the bridge of her nose. A laugh--gentle and sophisticated. I wasn't a matinee idol, but was fit, lonely (yes, horny), and over the idea of being in "this man's army." She enjoyed my sense of humor and thrilled that I could do handstand push-ups. (Guys just have to show off.) Even as she boarded her train at 5 a.m., she was still holding my sleeve. I stuffed my address in her pocket and asked for hers. She said, "No. Come now or never. Mama can make it work out. She knows government people." We kissed goodbye. She waved from her window; I waved back. she looked genuinely sad and then beyond me as if she was already contemplating her version of what might have been. Poof. She was gone.

What it is? It is good. Life, that is, but by time you make it to fifty and slip over to the dark side of life expectancy, or sixty and retirement becomes real, or beyond, the past becomes such rich fodder for stories that I don't really have to invent much. I just have to shake the bottle of experience and allow it to flow out differently. And that's where the magic starts all over.

What is your "What it might have been?" And, more importantly, why haven't you written hat story yet?


Paul Lamb said...

I am writing those stories now. I think the Fathers and Sons story cycle I've been obsessed with for the last six months is a way to invent the life and relationships that I never had and might have wanted growing up. At least in part.

A writer friend of mine has said that he was glad he came to writing "late" -- in his thirties. He didn't think he had the life experience or maturity to be a writer before then. I think that's probably true of me too.

Shelia said...

He was a student at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Miami in 1963. A sweet kid. Kind. Cute and interested in me. His goal marriage. Mine nursing school. I ignored him. My father said I broke his heart.

I never got over that guilt.

Rick Bylina said...

Paul...Thanks for sharing and writing those stories.

Shelia...And Buzz Armstrong never got over you either. :-) I think we all carry our little guilt stories around with us. Here name was Debbie, and I...

Paul said...

Also, thanks for the ear worm. (Dammit!)

msspencerauthor said...

Ah, Maria Muldaur. I still reach for that album on certain nights. Any Old Time [I] wanna come back home.