Such images, alien to our suburban lives, along with her shifts into mixed Spanish and English, revealed how much my grandmother still lived in that other place. She denied wanting ever to return to Spain but followed news from her native country with keen interest, eager for the demise of the Franco dictatorship, an event she lived long enough to celebrate.
The friendship is both tender and antagonistic, deeply intimate and full of spite, and Elena reflects on the difficulty of telling her own story without Lila in it. There is Lila’s story and there is Elena’s story, but Elena realizes the two are inextricable.
In 1901, a woman threw herself over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She was the first to survive this trip, which she had executed specifically for fame and fortune, though she earned more of the former than the latter. Despite world-wide headlines and a number of speaking engagements, she remained poor, hawking photo-ops and signatures to tourists. She also wrote a novel about the experience.
“It seems to me that there are only two essential things we bring to our creative work: our tools–language or fabric or paper–and the truth of our own experience, our own psychic realities. For years, I tried to write in traditional narrative forms, but I struggled with moving a plot forward in time. As much as I wanted a kind of cohesive linearity, it was not something I could do. Both the truth of my experience–which is living between places and with rupture–and what I am interested in aesthetically is about resisting boundaries and creating some kind of meaning out of chaos, from fragments.”
I agree, it’s a hot topic. But only one? Look around, there’s a wide range. Take my own, for instance. I get up in the morning. My topic feels like hell. I sprinkle it with water, brush parts of it, rub it with towels, powder it, add lubricant. I dump in the fuel and away goes my topic, my topical topic, my controversial topic, my capacious topic, my limping topic, my nearsighted topic, my topic with back problems, my badly-behaved topic, my vulgar topic, my outrageous topic, my aging topic, my topic that is out of the question and anyway still can’t spell, in its oversized coat and worn winter boots, scuttling along the sidewalk as if it were flesh and blood, hunting for what’s out there, an avocado, an alderman, an adjective, hungry as ever.