Stories

For Jean.

We tell stories so often, but we so rarely ask why.

Sometimes they’re a diversion, a distraction, a way to pass the time. We laugh and we weep and we forget for a while, then we pick ourselves up and move on.

Sometimes they’re a correction, an apology. We didn’t do enough, or we did the wrong thing, so we smooth things over. We sew in new patches: middles and endings, scenes that should have been, answers for the important questions we forgot or were too scared to ask. We make it right, if only in our heads. We make heroes of ourselves or the people we love. We make them icons, statues, noble and brave. We wash away the blood and old shames, we smooth down wrinkles and we create an ending, so we can rest. So they can rest. We remember, but we remember right.

Sometimes they’re a lesson.  Let me tell you why your father used to hunt there – it’s where the good mammoth are. This is what happens to people who don’t look when they cross roads. The heroine kept riding, kept trying, and determination and a cool head prevailed.

Sometimes those lessons are also confessions: I never asked enough, I never tried to understand; there were many hours of silence that could have been filled, so many stories untold, and please, know it all while you have it. We take our regrets and we give them to someone who needs them. We press them into palms, fold fingers around them. We look into eyes and say: Take these. Study them, and understand them so you won’t repeat them. We say it, but we can only hope it gets through. On the good days, it does.

Sometimes a story’s enough. Sometimes it isn’t, but we try anyway. We keep trying, we keep going, and we hope that someday the story will be told right. Someday they will learn, or they will live again, or they will be happy, truly, just for a moment.

Sometimes a story’s enough.

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