The stories that have built her |

The stories that have built her

Mari Rose Hale

I am at an impromptu party at my own house. It is a warm evening, and the river rushes by on the other side of the deck. I don’t remember having invited people, but people keep showing up — people from my past. It is a silent movie. I mill around, hazy, quiet. I notice people interacting and moving around, but I hear nothing.

My friend Gian comes in, and I realize I have missed him, because he has just recently moved away. We interact wordlessly. The conversation is in the air around us, encircling our heads like wreaths of smoke in a vintage era speakeasy, and we silently revisit the past, laughing and telling stories in our minds.

The thought comes to me that I should write down some of my experiences with Gian, some of our conversations, laughs, dramas. Written in black and white, it would be entertaining — a transcription of a point in time. A good story.

It has built who you are. They all have.

It is not the voice of the Deep, of God, of Me. It is simply a knowing. I know that it is true, but I silently ask a follow-up. What has? What has built me?

The stories.

I look around. And I know it is truth.

A friend walks by. We have not spoken in months but she is here at my silent party, looking how she has always looked — petite, beautiful, social. She is laughing and gesticulating rapidly, and her face telling an expressive tale, silently speaking with someone else. There is a story there too; probably not the one she is telling now, but one that lives deep within me. It is a story that still hurts. I wonder how I would write that one down, what words I would use.

I walk out onto the deck. The sun is setting, and I can see the shadow of a man stepping onto the nearby walking bridge. It is an effortful progress. He is dragging something behind him, burdensome and mammoth, rectangular like a box or a crate that could fit a hundred of him inside of it. Though he is almost just a silhouette, I can see that he is weathered and ragged, perhaps even homeless.

As I watch and wonder, he reaches the center of the bridge. Then he hoists the enormous box onto the railing of the bridge and pushes it over, into the river — presumably to watch it float away, downstream and out of sight.

It doesn’t. After a deafening silent splash, it sticks firm. It is the Titanic in the shallow, early spring flow of the Roaring Fork River, lodging in the mud and rocks of the riverbed. I observe his plight, but no one else notices this dramatic happening. The man leaves the bridge and scales the steep bank of the river to get to the box. He wades, struggling but determined, into the river toward the Titanic. He doesn’t try to jimmy it free, but instead starts to cover it, bury it, with more sand, mud and rocks from an exposed sandbar.

I can see the futility of his task, but I say nothing, of course. He wouldn’t have heard me over both the sounds of silence and the roar of the river. I only observed from the solitude of my still, crowded deck.

Fully awake in the morning, I know that he is me. And that in the box are the stories of my life.

Oh, my God, the stories… The stories of Gian and Heather. Before that, the story of my mom, and of my lost Papi and of my new daddy, of friends and relationships, and random interactions. They are the Story of Me, and they are making me a haggard, ragged, burdened, worn down, beaten down, nearly homeless old man.

I want to release them, to let the river carry my box downstream, away. I know to do this I must acknowledge them, and how I have given each a meaning and to most have attached a fear. In doing so I birthed patterns, the moment I made up a story about what something meant, and I have leaned on them my entire life. They have defeated me soundly, time and again. I made a container for the painful ones, and I locked them in there, deep and dark. It’s time for them to go.

My text tone chimed. It was a text from my sweet Papi, far away, but whose broken English I could hear in my mind as I read his message.

“Mami, Preciosa, could you see the trees branches bouncing quietly in the air this newborn spring? I’m thinking at you those moments and say: los quiero mucho a todos!!! Abrazos! Besos!”

I know the most damaging story is gone, and I cry. I cry tears that water roots in my soul that will birth a new beautiful branch, one that will bounce quietly in the air, in the newborn spring of my magic soul.

Mari Rose Hale is a Glenwood Springs writer. She blogs at Semi-Conscious appears on the fourth Tuesday of each month in Body & More.

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