I stayed up late playing with Legos last night. More accurately, I stayed up late reinforcing a speedy little yellow vehicle C and I spent much of the afternoon building, racing, breaking, and redesigning. I told myself I wanted to surprise him by nailing it down so it could race all the way down the hallway without veering, or careening, or tipping over, but really I couldn’t face the other stuff that needed to get done. Things like cleaning the kitchen, writing the few non-creative writing assignments I’ve got on my plate, prepping C’s lunch for camp the next day, or even just going to sleep so that I could survive the next morning on less than my normal 3 glasses of iced-coffee and some caffeine shakes. I like the caffeine shakes, if we want to be honest about it, but it’s certainly not something to aim for.
I’ve been writing this new play and I want to write it all the time. I can’t foresee what the end would even look like, and I’m in no rush to get there. I’m kind of afraid to get there. If it ends, then what? I’m more than 70 pages in and I have no idea where it’s headed. That’s sort of an odd place to be seeing as my last 3 plays all came in at or around 70 pages.
Since April I’ve been moderately obsessed with Robert B. Parker novels. I started reading them around Easter, and haven’t been able to put them down. He writes about this hard-boiled tough guy with a heart of gold, Spenser, and his sidekick, uber-tough guy with a biting wit and a heart of forged steel, Hawk. And of course there’s beautiful Susan Silverman, girlfriend to Spenser, friend to Hawk, and psychologist to the troubled and delusional of Cambridge, MA. I’d say I’ve been enjoying the books, and I think, in the moment, I have been. The stories have all started to blur together. I go through his bibliography, looking over titles, trying to assign stories to each title. Some of them I remember quite clearly, like my favorite, The Catskill Eagle, and Wilderness (not part of the series), or Cold Service. But some of them, I fear, are lost forever, only mattering to me in their ability to take up time and focus, for their ability to consume me and to be consumed, to be a light in the dark of my mind to scare off the ghosts.
The ghosts. One Christmas in our old house in Hanover, MA, my dad took over my bedroom as a private place in which to wrap presents. I kept sneaking in, because it was a) my room and b) I wanted to get a peak at the presents. I opened the door quietly, and before my dad shooed my out again, I got a look at a perfectly wrapped present. Gold paper, perfectly creased at the edges, smooth folds, a green ribbon tied in a gravity-defying bow. “Who’s that for?” I asked. “It’s for you,” my dad said, before waving me back out the door. I couldn’t wait until Christmas. I thought perhaps that my dad was putting me on, that it wasn’t for me but for my step-mom. It was too pretty a package, but there it was, under the tree, with my name on it. It was a complete boxed set of The Chronicles of Narnia. These had been my dad’s favorite books when he was little. I read them all as fast as I could, so that I could know whatever it was that was in these books that my dad knew, that made them his favorite. When I updated him on my progress, “I only have 20 pages left in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” he was disdainful, or at least that’s how I remember it, asking why I was reading so fast, how I could be getting joy out of the book if I was counting pages. I felt really ashamed, knowing clearly that I’d missed something, some essential truths; and feel similar shame now, that I can’t remember the stories of some of these Parker books. My dad loves Parker.
When I first started this blog I felt like I could say anything, because it was new, because no one knew who I was, because it felt anonymous even though I had my name on it. Now I feel like I’m keeping secrets from my blog, like there’s things I think of that I can’t say here. It makes me feel ashamed, both the thing unsaid and that I’ve created a forum for myself in which I feel ashamed to say things. But I’m writing all the things in my new play. Maybe that’s why I never want it to end.
The play is similar in style to a play I wrote a few years back, the last play I wrote before motherhood consumed both my life and my consciousness. It was written before the blog, and was a way to be honest and direct, in an anonymous way. Readers always wonder how much of a fictional work reflects back on the author, and the author’s life. Intellectually and emotionally, the answer is: all of it. Plot wise: not quite as much, because plot is the time it takes to tell a story, not the story itself. I Am Not an Allegory (these are people i know) was a play that I felt very intimate with, both in the writing and the workshop staging. I felt like an exhibitionist working on that play, like all the things I really think the most were out their, topless, about to wriggle out of their g-strings. Brad Rothbart says it’s my best play… y’know, aside from what I’m working on now. It’s having a reading in #DraftsNYC on Tuesday, July 29th, at 6:30 pm in NYC. If you’re around, come check it out, there’s some kind of deal where it’s competing against a play that’s also being read that night, and if we win the night, then Allegory goes on to be considered for a full-production by Horse Trade. I’d love to see the play fully produced… y’know, because I’m a mental exhibitionist.
I Am Not an Allegory (these are people i know)
by Libby Emmons, directed by Helena Farhi
#DraftsNYC, Under Saint Marks, 94 Saint Marks Place at 2nd Avenue
Tuesday, July 29, 6:30 pm
Here’s a clip from the first workshop back in 2011, with Havilah Brewster & David Marcus.