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Atlas of the Human Heartby Ariel Gore
They say that back back back, before I was born, people actually believed the stories they told themselves. This may be true, but no one can prove it.
I'll tell you where I came from: northern California. A peninsula surrounded by the sea. Water and more water. The second illegitimate daughter of intuition and paranoia. Tide pool hermit crab, fierce and private. Vulnerable belly. Destined for lifelong homelessness, squatting, outgrowing shells, searching for new ones, hitchhiking with anemones. Of the ocean, but terrestrial.
I was still an infant when my bio-dad realized he was cracking up. Maybe it was just the time, he told himself. He'd been trying to edit the Merry Pranksters' bus trip video, but there was nothing in it worth saving. My sister's birth had coincided neatly with the "hippie funeral" in Golden Gate Park. And now Hendrix and Joplin. The Manson trial just heating up. Genocide and rumors of genocide. Everything that wasn't dead seemed crazy. Or maybe it was the place. The Monterey Peninsula with its high levels of seismic activity and thick fog of memories. The time and the place. There's always hoping, anyway. So my bio-dad packed us up--two kids and common law-wife-and we spent long months chasing sanity from California to Devon, England; Devon, England, to central London; central London to Amsterdam; Amsterdam to Montparnasse; Montparnasse to the French countryside, where my bio-dad decided that my mother was an Iranian spy and locked us all in a little stone house until I learned to walk and talk and my sister learned to count in French and my bio-dad gave up on his runaway sanity and my mother gave up on him and we escaped, flew home to California.
That's what I'm told, anyway. And the pretty green and blue entrance and exit visas stamped in my baby passport would tend to substantiate the story.
Stories. Patterns from scraps. This one's a work of fiction, meaning it's about 76 percent true. Or it's a memoir, meaning it's about 76 percent false. Maybe it should have been a Choose Your Own Adventurebook:
You're Little Red Riding-Hood. You can't see the forest through the trees (no one can). You have some cookies and you have some wine. You're wearing your red velvet cape. Of course you are. It's your favorite. You wear it everywhere you go. You're walking and you're singing and you're thinking of your grandmother when suddenly . . . What's it going to be? A wolf? A missed connection? An unexpected massacre? Maybe it'll be your own madness jumping out in front of you on that dusty trail. Or god. Maybe it'll be that damned old woman, sneaky-wise with her famous red apple--the one you know you should refuse. It's knowledge or it's poison. But you can't help it, can you? (You're still immortal at this point.) You reach for it. And what happens next? From here, it's all possibilities...
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