No Exit: a Short Story (a foreword)

Skip ahead to THE STORY if you want to begin reading the actual story “NO EXIT.”

Also, this was serialized the first time I put it up online, a few weeks ago, but now that it’s over, & my database was erased, & everyone already read it, I’m going to put it up in two parts only:

The following story is based on true stories. More importantly, in writing it I was trying to capture something more important than the events comprising the single story, I was trying to capture the feeling of being a young man experiencing community in a religious context, & the act of self-exile, which becomes alienation, if you’ve ever experienced the loss of religious fellowship, which is, I think, like losing a leg, & later enjoying the phantom feelings that haunt that part of you. I meant the word enjoying there in the same way you might enjoy a depressing romantic movie where one lover dies at the end & you’re left feeling alone as the living other person feels alone but somehow better at having experience this fullness. & it is a fullness. & it is a phantom.

 

When I write about Florida, for these stories in particular, I have to re-experience the place first, & do so in layers. The first layer is my (fallible) memory of Florida when I lived there, from roughly 1-18 years old. The second layer is the language of the place: yes, the language of Florida, the variety as spoken by its inhabitants–Southerners, New Yorkers, bikers, fisherman, rocket scientists, engineers, murderers…but further back even, to the folk songs & writings, to Zora Neale Hurston & Hemingway, to the language propagated by the land itself, the ocean tides, the muscular swamps & inhabiting animals, the blood drive & desperation of the land. The third layer is the character created by the language of a given moment in time: people are much how they are made by what’s around them. You can argue nature vs nurture to a certain point, & then you have a breathing human either surviving in its space or perishing. If it’s surviving, it’s adapting, because change continues. & to adapt, it must live in close relationship with the place it lives, with the people and the language of the place, the human language and the rhythms of the place, or else it is an outsider (& even then, it seeks to understand the forces against which it struggles, even if the struggle is against an internalized exterior, or what is presupposed as exterior). The fourth & final layer, at this stage of production, is the present moment I wish to encapsulate: a person in a field at a particular time, working against or with the pressures of the space he/she inhabits. So, to give you an example of how I experience the development of a narrative, of an “I” and its point of view: I pretend to remember a person, or a scene, or an image, or even a word…that I believe could have occurred when I lived in Florida. Then I think of that person or scene or image or word (etc) as a local might describe it. And while doing that, voices inexplicably chime in–voices from the past, voices from the present. There is a body of knowledge accumulated in the environment, & it tries to speak itself in relation to this person or scene or image or word (etc). & from their talking arrives the time they’re speaking about: Key West in the 30s; Miami; a Malabar motel in 1977; a school in 1986; etc. & so arrives more speakers–Al Capone riding the trains south; Roosevelt on the beach; a father who’s abandoned his family once he’s discovered he has an incurable disease; a young boy playing duck-duck-goose on a soccer field as the Challenger explodes overhead. After I have all this, the story begins–and all this can occur in the shower in 3 seconds. This happens all the time. The fourth layer is the perspiration part. The outside world begins affecting the character, & the character reacts to it. Interaction is the human part. & the hardest part to encapsulate.

So, the next post will be the beginning of a story I wrote about Florida.