Telling Stories and Going Nowhere

I like to tell stories. Most of them start somewhere, figure out where they are and then go somewhere else. A beginning, a middle and an end. Someone does something, sometimes to themselves, sometimes to others. Big dramatic things happen. Or they don’t. And in between a bunch of mundane shit passes by.

I watched Rainbow Pony sitting on her grandma’s living room floor tonight. She was telling stories, too. Cross legged, she was surrounded by dolls and bedroom sets. She would pick up one doll, then another. She would search around for the little black haired one or the mermaid or the one in the purple gown and her hands would strain to hold all she needed.

And she would talk for them. I tried to listen to their stories, but I didn’t want to intrude. I knew she wasn’t done writing them yet and maybe she didn’t want to share. But I still tried. Tiny dishes and hair brushes waited to be worked into the plot. Overdressed dolls with glowing eyes lay scattered about and waited, too, without blinking or breaking their painted on smiles. The lucky ones that Pony could hold on to during this act moved between naps on various levels of the castle open in front of her and sitting around on the ground floor. The conversation circled around the sunny day and a comparison of ages. Small talk and mundane shit seems to pass by here, too.

Her stories, like mine, often go nowhere. She was clearly more comfortable with that than I usually am. I want progression. I want the stories to climb and then tumble back down. I want edges and angles and I want to see life.

Then again, life itself sometimes goes nowhere, if at times only for a moment or two.

Nowhere is where so much of the real stories reside. That’s where the dirt is, the real stuff, the honesty in between the dramatic moments. Nowhere may not be what we always remember, but it’s the stuff that sticks everything else together. Real life is made up of naps and bowls of cereal strung between blasts of drama. Life never stops and neither do stories, we have just decided to only retell certain parts.

But maybe Rainbow Pony is on to something. Maybe those stories should be told. There is depth in all characters beyond their bright eyes, weighty monologues and purple dresses. Maybe that depth can become clearer if we spend more time in the in between space.  Maybe there is more to find, more to tell.

I watched her tonight and thought of all the times I have learned from her and her sister. I thought that I was again watching the simplicity of a child exploring her world, putting it in her own terms, telling her stories in her own way and, by doing so, finding a clearer understanding of my own life and my own writing. I sat quietly there, just watching, my daughters playing, my family talking in the other room, football going ignored on the tv in the background, and felt like I was watching our story go into that nowhere place that could be so much more.

Then she got up. The dolls fell where she dropped them and lay staring into nothing. The castle sat quiet. She looked around for just a second and then just walked away, going nowhere in particular. She had lost interest in her story.

Those in between moments are the stuff that takes up space between compelling life. As characters in the story, we have to find balance in the in between. We can’t live always in the dramatic. And, while watching Rainbow Pony tell a story that went nowhere led me into my own thoughts that I found interesting, the scene itself probably wasn’t interesting.

There are many stories to tell, but not all of them should be told. As much as I want to dissect and digest the human experience in my own writing, I need to remember that I never did like Jane Austen’s books, stories should go somewhere and the mundane shit should be allowed to just pass by.


About Mitchell Brown

I am a stay at home dad with my two daughters who are a lot stronger than they look. When I'm not cooking, cleaning, dancing, reading, teaching, playing or protecting my eyes and groin, I am writing about this whole experience in all of its ridiculousness.
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