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3D Googles

In 7th grade, Cheever’s The Swimmer introduced me to the world of short stories. In the following month, I read the story about 17 times. I can still remember Neddy flying down his wooden banister and being snubbed by the bartender at Grace Biswanger’s pool. Whenever I fly into JFK airport, I can’t help noticing the zigzagging maze of suburban pools.

I didn’t appreciate the word zigzag until Schulz’s Street of Crocodiles. After that, I used it in quite a few of my stories: He sporadically cut the noise short while zig-zagging up and down some imaginary musical scale. She wandered in zig-zags until the excitement melted from her face.

One of the first stories I wrote was about a boy memorizing the lines for Waiting for Godot. I mimicked The Swimmer and made the hour seem like a lifetime. The prose reflected the boy’s growth. At the beginning, the writing was confusing and disjointed, like a child’s. By the end, there were nice nostalgic metaphors and clean sentences. The teacher didn’t get it and wrote there was some age confusion and a lot of run on sentences near the beginning. The next story I wrote was very literal; it was about a breakup.

I returned to The Swimmer and studied the works of Cheever. In an independent study, we read over 40 stories about the crumbling aristocracy. I finished the collection at The Mountain School when I was supposed to be mapping trees for environmental science. Then, for a while, I tried to make eye contact with a yellow birch split by a quaking aspen.


After reading Orozco and Lydia Davis, I quickly dabbled in the second person but you sounded too accusing. I went back to writing in the first person. I wrote a lot of first person and I wrote a lot of kids in the first person. Kids who use the word “and” over and over and over again and dwell in a world inside the world they are living in.

I became jaded by Joyce’s light and dark and Fitzgerald’s hot and cold. Seasons changing and the juxtapositions of black and white became lackluster clichés. I rolled my eyes at these novice devices and cared about the art of pillowcases, ceiling murals, and birthday cakes.

I started reading non-fiction. I started to appreciate telephone poles, apologies, and state fairs. I tried to write about my life and wrote a lot about The Mountain School because that seemed something worthy to write about. I read Eula Bliss and found the lyric essay. I wrote one about short stories.

I remember stories by their endings. Characters and plots slip away but I can’t forget the sound of someone pushed into an empty pool or the silence of a plaster-sealed tomb.

Reading reveals a different way of perceiving the world. Short stories make walking off subways more interesting - I recall porcelain vases and what symbolic decision I might be making. Writing expands the scope of the other dimension. As I step onto the yellow line dividing subway from cement, I get to create that grand decision and add some symbolism to the freckled woman I see brawling with her umbrella.

The end of a story is followed by a minor exhale and a blank stare. With a mind slightly shaken, I need time to recuperate. In the next minute, I drift from the world where crowded trains are images of isolation and strained tension to one of sweaty faces and wobbly footing.



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