Summer Reading

The cafe was in North Beach, and it was called Melt. Being a therapist (okay, being me), I thought, maybe it should be called Meltdown. It was open mic night, and poets, musicians, and the like had gathered to air their craft to the seemingly unsuspecting audience of espresso-swillers and fondue-aficionados.

I've decided to write a book of short stories about characters I've met throughout The City, an amalgamation of real people and fantasy figures. No patients :) This was my opportunity to read my first drafts aloud and ask for feedback. I felt guilty pocketing the details of people's lives to fuel my fiction. But, as we too well know, real life is often stranger than fiction. I wondered why I needed to write about these tourists who'd wondered through my years. Was it anger expressed in a fantasied betrayal of their private lives? A working through of an unresolved, ambivalent relationship that actually echoed some earlier attachment? Or simply a chance to lapse into a fantasy with an external object that was actually an internal self-object? These were not questions I could ask of my audience. Instead, I asked whether a character portrait alone was sufficient for creating a short story. Did something need to happen to the character? A good question for the subject of analysis, yes?

After I read a few chapters and gulped down my steamed milk, a man came up. He suggested that my characters be faced with a choice and in that choice could reveal themselves in some way, demonstrating a change or not. It made me think of my yoga teacher who breathily admonishes us at the end of class that thoughts become words, words become action, action becomes character, and character becomes destiny. Or, something like that. I get confused, because "destiny" is such a sexy word that is practically a foreign language in our field, and it makes me a little manic. Before the man went back to his seat and his wine, he noted that my characters all seemed to possess unhappiness. That made me think of Freud, and one of the purposes of analysis is to discern between neurotic suffering and ordinary human misery. But, "unhappiness"-- that is something a fiction writer can work with :).

Cleopatra Victoria, MFT