I wait until the house is empty because I don’t want anyone to hear what I’m going to say. I sit at the dining room table and open the address book to the letter A. It takes me a few minutes to dial the first number even though I’ve want to finish the book before my dad gets home.
I don’t recognize the first name, but I ask for it when a voice answers the phone. “This is she,” the woman says.
I tell her my name and realize that she is going to think I am crazy. But I can’t stop myself. “Your name is in my mother’s address book.”
There is a pause. I think about hanging up. It is 1989. There is no caller ID. “Yes, I know your mom,” she says. “How is she?”
“Um…” I say. “Well…”
“Is something wrong?”
It is like I’m listening to my own voice come through the phone. “I didn’t know how else to let people know,” I say. “She. She passed away. Last week.”
I repeat this conversation for every name that answers the phone all the way through Z. Sometimes I know the person I talk to. Many times I do not. Each time I think I’m going to hear what I want to hear even though I don’t know what that is.
When I write fiction, I don’t know what I’m trying to say. I don’t have a message. I never think–Such and such issue is really important to me and I want to explore blahty-blah. When I finish a novel, I flip through the pages and wonder, why did I write this? What was the point? What am I looking for from people?
Do you have to be able to answer these questions to write well?