Another night and I stand once more in my artist’s studio located on the top floor of the building that houses my club “The Crypt”. No one’s allowed up here unless I say so, and tonight I wish to be alone with my thoughts. For two days now I’ve been wrestling with the idea of trying my hand at writing novels.
In some ways the idea seems ridiculous. Me? An author?
Then another question comes to mind in the form of one word, why?
That’s the sticking point for me. Why would I take up writing? Because I’m bored and want to try something new that I’ve never done before? It wouldn’t be the first time. When I joined vaudeville, it was simply to keep myself busy and working behind the scenes as a stagehand at night seemed ideal. But then I started to get to know the performers like Julius, Arthur, Herbert and Leonard… better known as the Marx Brothers. Their range of talents fascinated me. The number of instruments they could play, or the snappy patter they should spout on a moments notice never ceased to amaze me. Plus, they seemed to sense the feeling of being ‘lost’ and ‘adrift’ in me, which made them reach out so I could be a part of their comeraderie. But it didn’t stop there. Others in the troupe welcomed me as well, like “Fatty” (Roscoe Arbuckle), the Keatons, Harry and Bess Houdini, the lovely and sweet Mae West and so many others…
Before I knew what was happening they’d be teaching me all kinds of skills and even dragging me out on stage to help out in their acts. I could write endless stories about those days and the ones that came before.
My days on the battlefield while serving in the Union Army. So many stories were lost there that only I know about. The hopes and fears of my brothers in blue, as well as some of those who wore the rebel gray. In 167 years of walking this world, I’ve not forgotten a single person who I’ve met, good or bad, I remember them. I also remember the stories they shared, the sweethearts they pursued and the outcomes.
So many stories to choose from, but where would I begin?
I brought up the idea of my taking up writing to Brian and his family last night at dinner. Much to my surprise no one laughed. Instead they eagerly supported the venture. Brian in particular urged me to take a couple of creative writing courses at the college where he teaches history. “We’ve got some really good instructors there and they could really help you hone your skills?” Brian pointed out. “I’ve taken a couple of them and they were really helpful. Of course, you’ll need to decide on a genre to write in. Agents and publishers like to represent someone who has a specific kind of novel.”
“You should write romance,” his daughter Lisa suggested with a twinkle in her eye as she looked at me. Even though she’s only a child I have a feeling she’s developing a crush on me. I’ve seen that look before in girls her age and even younger, over the decades. But only one ever managed to land me, but she was extremely persistent.
Even now I can feel her eyes on me after seven decades. Looking up I find myself staring into a pair of dark eyes, forever captured in oil. Dark hair frames those eyes along with the lovely face and strong chin. “Magda,” I whisper and smile.
Our time together was not nearly as long as either of us had hoped, but it was magical. Our first meeting and her prolonged pursuit for my love could fill several volumes. Her persistence paid off and after three years she became my wife at the young age of sixteen.
As I stand there lost in thought, the sounds of music reaches my ears from several floors below. The Crypt is now open and is already filling up with the usual crowd. Even from here I can sense the whirl of emotions and life down there. Laughter, sorrow, broken hearts, lust, hopes for love…
A flash of light through the window catches my eye. After several nights of gathering clouds it looks as rain is finally drawing near. I make my way up the stairs and onto the roof of the building to watch the approaching storm.
I see lightning in the distance over my hometown, it’s going to be a good one. But instead of retreating back inside, I stay where I am and feel the breeze on my face and close my eyes. I can feel the storm’s energy on the wind and without thinking, several lines of words describing the feeling come to mind. Some of the words are trite, but they still help paint a picture within my head.
Suddenly my eyes shoot open as realization sinks in. Painting a picture, but with words instead of oils or acrylics! No pencils, no paintbrushes, just words that form an image or a scene within the readers mind. That’s what an author does. But they don’t just paint one picture, they paint a whole series of images, coupled with emotions and thoughts. Yet, I can still use my skills as a painter as well. Illustrations and book covers… yes.
And I have so much material to draw upon. My own experiences as well as those of people who’s memories lives I keep alive within me. I’ve shared their stories countless times with descendants so they are never forgotten.
But what kind of stories to write?
From down in the alley I hear the sound of raised voices. Looking over the edge I see a young couple having a heated argument. The boy is obviously breaking up with the girl and leaves her in the alley alone. But she does not remain that way for long. Three others, friends of hers arrive and comfort her. One of them is a young man who obviously has feelings of his own for her. But instead of being foolish and declaring his affections, he merely gives her the support and comfort of the friend she needs right now.
But I can sense a change in her. It’s not big, but her gratitude to him and the two girls with him is obvious. I hear her say she wishes more guys were like him as they step inside. Perhaps something will come of it eventually.
However the thing that gets me most is the image that forms in my mind. Just like the other night down in the club, I could see other figures, superimposed over the trio. Their outfits changed several times within the span of a few seconds. I saw flappers, soldiers, suits, gowns, hippies, but their actions were all the same and leading towards one thing… romance.
“Love Across Time…” I murmur as the first drops of rain start hitting my head.
Why not? I’ve seen and experienced it so many times in the last fifteen decades. Oh, the settings and ways one behaved have changed over time, but the feelings never do.
Feeling elated at the idea, I spread my arms wide and let the rain and story ideas pour over me.