This morning, I finished up the last story in Stephen King’s latest short story collection, Full Dark, No Stars. I’ve always devoured his short fiction and this book was no exception. While reading the Afterword, I stumbled on a classic On Writing-ish gem from the simultaneously in-your head/in-your-face storyteller himself:
For writers who knowingly lie, for those who substitute unbelievable human behavior for the way people really act, I have nothing but contempt. Bad writing is more than a matter of shit syntax and faulty observation; bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do — to face the face, let’s say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies cross the street.
We forget to tell the truth.
Yesterday, I had bike racks installed on my brand new Mini Cooper in preparation for a month-long road trip that will take me from Denver to Des Moines to Los Angeles. Two dogs, two cats, two bikes, two wheels, my luggage and a redhead will bend every ergonomic law.
I ended yesterday realizing there was one ergonomic law I couldn’t break: bikes on roof racks don’t go into garages. Mounted to my roof was my not yet a year old custom track bike. I’d just picked it up from the velodrome in Boulder and strapped it to my awesomesauce roof racks from Rocky Mounts. And I proceeded to drive directly into my garage. Broke the carbon fork ($350). Scratched the living fuck out of the roof on my brand-new car. Bent some parts. I backed up, got out of the car and stared.
That, my friends, is the truth. I didn’t yell. And granted, there were hostile tweets and Facebook updates that followed. But the truth was that I just drove into my garage with my goddamn bike on the roof of my car and there was nothing I could do about it.
On a side note, the garage is AOK.
Why do we deny the truth? Because it’s uncomfortable. Easier than the lie (though it’s not). Truth denied is a dark passenger with excess baggage. When carried around in silence, it’s heavier than a huge box we just packed all of our kitchenware into, forgetting we would eventually have to lift it. (Not that I’ve done that recently…whistling). Truth is fucked up and it forces us to see things when we could easily choose the charade. After all – everyone else is pretending. Why shouldn’t we? The best stories we hear and read – they make us uncomfortable. Why? Because we don’t want to believe that people actually do those things. The incidents of outrage, from 9/11 to the fact that Palin continues to hold an audience, we can’t believe that people actually act that way and believe what the perpetrators believe. Moments that bring us joy are those where we can’t believe that what just happened really happened to US.
So you’re getting bitch slapped. What’s your truth and what have you been denying? My current truth is this:
- I am leaving Denver on Monday for a road trip of indeterminate length.
- I have no fucking idea how the Noah’s Ark-style listing above is going to fit in my car.
- I just jacked-up my bike and need to find someone to install my new fork today or tomorrow.
- The man I love is (still) dead, and I can’t change that.
- The damage to my car from the Epic Fucktard Incident of 2010 is going to run me.
- My life has to, at least, temporarily, fit into a 16-foot POD.
- I will be spending today doing things I don’t want to do and spending money I don’t want to spend.
- When the sun sets, everything is going to be okay. Or at least, less fucked-up or fucked-up in a new and exciting way.
What’s your truth and what are you denying? It would be a metric ass ton easier for me to make up some story about yesterday’s Private Pyle-style major malfunction. But the truth? It’s here, in the center of my box-filled living room like a pile of cat vomit. And now I can start cleaning it up. That’s something you can’t do with fiction. You can’t clean-up fake. Or rather, you can. It just takes the truth to do it.
You’ve been slapped.
PS: From friends who also ride, I’ve heard that the stunt I pulled yesterday is something you only do once. Thank Christ, pass the carbon fiber. At least I can fuck up in new and brilliant ways in the future.