Friday, September 5, 2014

Walking Alone

I have a new story up at Strange Horizons: "Four Steps to the Perfect Smoky Eye" is about "girls and the men who claim to protect them" (in the words of @sarahbbrand, who summed it up better than I could!)

It is strongly rooted in my own experience.  In a way, all stories are, but this one has some pretty literal moments.

I've spent ages labouring over this post, trying to describe the experience of growing up in St. Catharines, in the years when Paul Bernardo was hunting girls my age.  Trying to describe a taxonomy of fear.

There was the killer, but there were also boyfriends who got demanding, classmates who got pushy, teachers who got handsy.  There were men in the library who made casual conversation and then wanted to know where I lived.  There was that friend who got drunk and held a knife to my face that time.  There was that guy in our class who murdered his girlfriend.

And there were our fathers, some of whom offered protection in some traditional ways (rides to school, threats to keep boyfriends in line) but in exchange, demanded control of our wardrobes, reading habits, friend choices, sexualities, our going to sleep and our waking up.

We had to learn, for ourselves, which dangers were real, and which were spectres designed to keep us powerless.  We had to look to the women in our lives to see how they were navigating this world.  Some of their answers didn't satisfy us.  Some of them compromised happily, some less so.  Sometimes it felt like all we could do, as girls and women, was choose which dangers to suffer.

I chose the dangers of freedom over the dangers of control.  I don't know if I was right.  I know what it felt like for me, and a lot of that went into this story.

And I know I have never regretted it.

3 comments:

Mihai A. said...

Thank you very much for your story, I've enjoyed it a lot! There are so many undercurrents running beneath it, so many tensed moments that creep quietly within the reader, so many times when I wanted to skip to the end in order to be assured that the characters were fine in the end. It also woke some memories of my high-school years, although those are all good. Being in a high-school in Romania of the 90s had some reminiscences of the Communist regime (which was bad), but also it didn't involve bullying, violence or demeaning others (which was good).
Thank you again!

clairification said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it--thanks for taking the time to comment!

Robyn said...

Nice! I loved the local/period details.