Conversable

by jkatejohnston

19 November 2016

Dear Max,

Enzo and I went on an overnight school field trip. It wasn’t that bad this time—hardly hellish at all and often fun.

On the second day, the class went on a long walk and eventually got strung out over some distance, so the feeling of being in a big group went away, and I ended up walking mostly with Dahlia and Amelia.

They were so conversable—easy, good talk, funny, surprising. And we’re interested in the same things: writing, reading, food. We talked about day dreams and night dreams. I felt as if I could say anything in the world except a lie, and they’d understand it from top to bottom and all the feeling behind it.

I didn’t have any means of taking notes, and, as usual, I remember a lot of what I said and very little of what anybody else said.

I told them that the night before, when I couldn’t sleep, I’d had a long daydream (that is, a night time daydream) about Enzo, Pete and me coming back to Fort Ross to go camping, and at night we were attacked by a bad guy, and I told Enzo, “I am the mother. You must do as I say. Take Pete and run and get help. I will stay and fight.” And I fought the bad guy while Pete and Enzo stayed together, scrambling through brush and bushes in the dark. They made it to the road and got help, but it was too late, I was dead, and everyone was really sad and really impressed.

Amelia said, “I didn’t know grownups had day dreams like that.” I felt the glow of being understood and approved. She said she has daydreams about saving her little brothers, but she always lives and then she’s famous.

We talked about how daydreams and night dreams can be funny stories afterward, but they’re serious while you’re inside them. Like Amelia dreamed that some of the characters from Frozen were in her bathroom, and they were zombies, and even though it was ridiculous to describe, it was one of the scariest dreams she ever had. (Frozen, for those lucky few who’ve escaped this information, is the Disney animated movie that set in motion a tidal wave of princess power rah-rah insanity that is still breaking, years after the movie came out.)

We talked about writing. Amelia said that she can write a whole story in her head, but when she puts it down on paper it doesn’t come out right at all. We talked about different projects she’s working on. At one point she said, “I don’t know if you knew that I was a writer.”

“I think I’d heard that that was kind of your thing.”

“It isn’t kind of my thing. It is my thing.” (Those words I remember exactly.)

*

Reading this over, I see how partial and unsatisfactory it is. I can’t remember anything that Dahlia said, but she was fully part of everything we talked about. What Amelia said about the story in your head and how it comes out on paper—that’s true of non-fiction too.

I do remember Dahlia’s ideal sandwich: white bread, Brie, black figs.

*

I told Enzo I was writing in my diary about the field trip and asked if there were any details I should include. He thought for longer than I expected and then told me the number of canons, the direction each was aimed, the names of some of the buildings and his estimate of their dimensions.

Maybe the word details was a mistake.

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