DIGRESSION: Actually, I wish it was the end. The ACTUAL end is, they bring you the least delicious chunks, because they WANT you to know they love you, in their own, weird, solitary, cat-ly, “but I will eat your face if you die,” way. END DIGRESSION
Humans are different. WE want things, and we have to decide what we will do to get the things we want. In life and in fiction, the way people respond to their own desires forms their character.
I very often feel called to write about awful people who want—who really truly want—to be good. Arlene and Rose Mae can’t stand each other, but they share this trait. Maybe because I am an awful person who really truly wants that—-goodness? Or maybe I just want to want it? I don’t know. If I can ever rouse the other four plates to some form of frenzied self-improvement action, maybe we will find out.
Also, people are unique in that we want things that TELL other people all about us. We laugh at how the young kids want the right jeans, so other kids know they are cool—but meanwhile, the guy down the street is fifty and !desperately! wants a Lexus, so the OTHER fifty year old kids know he is successful.
Me? I want this PURSE:
It is made entirely out of Kudzu. It’s the work of vine artist Regina Hines. I would LOVE to have this purse —not just because it appeals to me as quintessentially SOUTHERN, which speaks to my identity, but also because…
It’s so funky and unique!
If I had that purse people would notice it and say, WOW, WHAT A NEAT PURSE!
Then I would get to say, OH THANKS, IT’S MADE ENTIRELY OUT OF KUDZU AND RECYCLED MENS TIES AND SOME FELT MADE OF FUR THIS CHICK IN MACON COMBED OFF THE BELLIES OF HER REAL, ALIVE, PERSONAL ALPACAS!
I would love to have that conversation. I could have it a thousand times, and I would come out of it feeling happy and good about myself and my purse choices, every time.
I would feel good not just because all that is TRUE —it IS made of the recycled ties and combed out belly fur from alpacas—but because a purse like that is instant art fart street creds and going green farmers market recycling street creds, two kinds of cred I care passionately about in the wizened black chunk of coal I keep in my chest to push my blood along.
AND it would hold my keys.
I just sent the artist an email to ask about the cost of such a purse—her site says her prices are reasonable—vine pieces start at $20, while jewelry starts at $35—and that seems reasonable even to a tightwad like me. I do I worry that, should I get one, I would almost surely and almost immediately destroy it. I would set it on the floor and step on it, or I would set it on the table and a cat would see it and want it and tear it into chunks and regurgitate part of it onto my pillow later, as a gift.
You should see my purse NOW. It is a battered hunk of sagging leather, formerly a lovely shade of grayed out turquoise, but now stained with water so it has patches of this abused moss shade, crusted with foodstuffs and environmental clinging-horrors. It holds my netbook easily, so I still drag it around—But LORD! it looks like the carcass of something that lived a sad life in a leaky hut made of mud and weeds and then died by violence.
I also have a pristine, up-market red purse from Hobo International— the one Schubert is thinking about stromping to ribbons. I take it out of its purse bag (it came with a purse bag!) and put my crap into it when I need to look like I am a successful and responsible human being capable of fulfilling book contracts on time or speaking to a group of booksellers without drooling or needing to wear a tinfoil hat to “keep the brain waves in so I don’t kill you all WITH MY MIND.”
It is a nice purse and it, well, it holds my keys and the leather is butter-soft—it is pleasant. But I have no identity tied up in it. That purse has a job.
It’s job is to say, SHE CAN PULL IT TOGETHER AND BE A PROFESSIONAL WHEN SHE HAS TO, even though the purse and I both know 80% of my time is spent in chocolate and red wine stained pajamas, peering back and forth from own brain to a screen I am filling up with words, trying to move images and ideas from one place to the other.
I do this work preferably with several equally chocolate and wine stained and unpleasantly sweaty animals pressed inconveniently against my legs, snoring, waiting for my attention to be SO fully engaged I won’t notice one of them slipping off to bring me back the less desirable half of the lizard they “wanted” earlier.
What do you want? What does it say about you? What do you want it to say about you? What will you do to get it? The answers tell quite lot about you, whether it is something huge and amorphous as GOODNESS or inconsequential and delightfully silly as a purse woven out of weeds.