February 11, 2015

The Engineeress

February 2015
Lying in bed, in the falling asleep time that is lost now to my middle-aged, perpetually exhausted self, came to me all at once an entire story. I don't get a lot of creative ideas, and I certainly don't normally get them fully formed. The story was about a woman trying to have a baby, and it's probably the one original thing I've ever come up with. It has stayed with me ever since, over 16 years.

I decided a few days ago to illustrate some parts of the story, and this drawing is my first one. I'll type out the story in here soon, but in short, it's about a woman, the Engineeress, who wants to have a child so badly she imagines she's pregnant. Late at the office one night, she goes into labour and gives birth to a rose.

The story originally ended poignantly with the Engineeress holding her baby out to the paramedic. "Go on. Take her. Hold her in your arms." But I rewrote it last week to give it the kind of ending that only my middle-aged, perpetually exhausted self can imagine. A life-goes-on sort of ending.

I also changed it because of something that happened many years ago when I was studying creative writing under Di Brandt. We were workshopping a painfully embarrasing piece of creative non-fiction I had written about learning to orgasm. It was a bit of a manifesto. She responded to the story by telling me, "You've got all this energy in this story." She raised a clenched fist in the air. "Now where is it all going?"

I had no idea. I thought that the outpouring of emotion, the confession itself, was the point. For years I felt that my inability to answer her meant there was something missing in me. I'd had a similar comment from a previous writing teacher (P. Scott Lawrence). "There's no doubt you write very well, but..." A sort of, what's your point question.

Well, now that I'm middle-aged (and perpetually exhausted), I know that I just didn't have much of a point back then. Things make more sense now, a bit. Now I  can imagine what comes after everything has fallen off the cliff.

The landing, I guess. In this drawing I tried to show the tenderness with which we mothers hold our newborns, how our world encircles and turns on this new life.


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