Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee


Now here was a boy asking her to do impossible things. He was making everything unsimple.p 18

Can you spool your life back, rewind the projector to the moment when it all changed? I think back to my first day at the bookstore 20 plus years ago. M was there in the breakroom and he said “I think you’re going to like it here.” A few months later we wound up driving a cake to a store celebration for two coworkers who had recently gotten married. It made sense for us to go together and being charged with going to the bakery to get the cake felt like a privilege. The party couldn’t really start without us.

I sat in the back of the car making sure it stayed upright on the seat, careful not to let it slide around and smudge the icing. M drove and I spoke to him of my life, my history up to that point. The party was fun and the newly married couples were happy to be basking in our good wishes and showers of joy. Afterwards M and I walked around trying to figure out what rides to ride at the amusement park and he asked to hold my hand. I remember reaching out for his and noticing how our fingers entwined.

It’s a story I’ve told hundreds of time. The paper in my mind is soft and worn from years of unfolding. But if I hadn’t agreed to go with him, if I hadn’t held his hand in mine, would I be here today?

Without that moment there’s no T for sure, but also the absence of others who mean the world to me. I probably wouldn’t know MM/R/H. There would be no S, no MD, no MH, no a— which means no blog. Would I have gone back to school; would I still be a photographer, baker, writer… Or would I be living the life of a pharmacist’s wife in Pittsburgh, convinced that I wanted to be a veterinarian?

I recently listened to an interview on the Otherppl podcast with Hanya Yanagihara,* author of A Little Life. One of her replies to Brad’s question was slow and deliberate. I am sure she was speaking straight to me. She said that in starting to write a novel you have to say “No” to all the other possibilities and pick one, commit to it, and go with it. The part that really hit home was when she talked about a mourning period for the potential of what might have been. This was a revelation and a  lesson I took to heart: saying goodbye but simultaneously holding on to the Yes. In life as in the creation of fiction there are these seminal moments that others are hinged upon. I am convinced that it is a quiet act of courage to let the other possibilities go, to let them fall like cherry blossoms to the ground. In my braver moments I walk forward, holding on to the hand that is reaching out for mine.

* Have a listen: therppl.com/hanya-yanagihara-interview/



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