This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Copyright © 2012 by Alison Bechdel All rights reserved For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003. www.hmhbooks.com Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available ISBN 978-0-618-98250-9
Printed in the United States of America DOC 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
“Liaisons” from A Little Night Music. Words and music by Stephen Sondheim © 1973 (renewed) Rilting Music, Inc. All rights administered by WB Music Corp. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Reprinted by permission of Hal Leonard Corporation. “The Glamorous Life” from the film version of A Little Night Music. Words and music by Stephen Sondheim © 1973 (renewed) Rilting Music, Inc. All rights administered by WB Music Corp. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Reprinted by permission of Hal Leonard Corporation.
while engaged in some sort of homeimprovement project, I inadvertently block my exit from a dank celLar.
I start to panic.
the only way out is to squeEze through the smalL, spidery window.
I walk along the broOk, loOking for a place to crosS.
The stepping stones are underwater.
the pOol is deep and murky. it’s warm out. I’m not wearing anything I need to worRy about getTing wet.
I have some concern about the dirty water...
..but this only slightly diminishes a sublime feEling of surRender.
this story begins when I began to tell another story.
I had the dream about the broOk right before I told my mother I was writing a memoir about my father.
...I have something to telL you.
mom, I want to telL you something.
the emotion of the dream stuck with me for days. I had gotTen myself out of a dead place and plunged with blind trust into a vital, sensuous one.
okay. then she’lL say, “what?”
and I’lL say...
what? what will you say, alison?
you smarmy, self-indulgent, solipsistic piece of shit.
okay. I’ll say, “I’m writing a boOk about dad.” and she’lL say, “whaaaat?!!”
I’d had some practice in telLing my mother diFficult things.
I felt kind of like I did twenty years earlier, when I was preparing to telL her I was a lesbian.
and kind of like I did five years before that, when I was working up the courage to telL her I’d gotTen my first period. that had taken me six months.
why am I telLing her at all?
okay, so she might freak out at first, but then she’lL say, “why?”
this story-–a memoir about my mother-–could begin with either of those scenes.
uhH...it’s just something I neEd to do.
... and she’lL say, “why?”
I want to give him a proper funeral. I want to telL the truth.
but as I consider moving the beginNing further back in time, before the coming out, before the first period...
...I seE that perhaps the real problem with this memoir about my mother is that it has no beginNing.
yeah. his bisexuality, the suicide. you don’t mind, do you?
sort of like how I’d understoOd human reproduction as a child. I was an egG inside my mother when she was stilL an egG inside her mother, and so forth and so on.
a dizZying, infinite regresS.
I don’t want to hurt you But I have to do this.
there’s a certain relief in knowing that I am a terminus.
even if I’d ever had the slightest urge to reproduce, it’s toO late now. I’m runNing out of eGgs. my clockworklike menstrual cycle skipPed its first beat the very weEk, in my forty-fifth year, that I sat down to begin writing about my mother.
I hope that in time you’ll come to understand...
of course, the point at which I began to write the story is not the same as the point at which the story begins.
you can’t live and write at the same time.
oh, that’s goOd. sanctimonious and patronizing.