In writing a story about accidents and trauma, I had the challenge of insinuating these themes into all areas of the narrative. I had to. Victims don’t have a choice. The memories of events are there for them everyday, in every waking moment, even disturbing the somnolent ones–encoded in the insignificant details of life. I sought to embed these elements into my characters, both central and supporting, but somehow let ’em leak out. There are leaks in Crystal From The Hills, my tale of an itinerant drug addict and trauma victim wandering the milieu of Oakland after falling down its idyllic hills. An accident. Chris Leavitt never meant to hurt anyone. He doesn’t mean to trigger the phobic response of those who understandably associate the sounds of ringtones and doorbells with disaster. He doesn’t intend to stir a chill in those who crave truth but are surrounded by secrets and liars. Accidents happen. That’s what people once said to Chris, trying to make him feel better. Feeling better: it never made him better. Observe a few revealing fragments:
“Have you spoken to your mother recently?”
“No,” Chris answered, suddenly robotic.
“She understands more than you think.”
“I don’t want to talk to her.”
Aunt Jenny held a napkin to her mouth, suggesting an emergent revulsion. She quickly eyed Magdalena, who was hovering about the table, not quite waiting upon them; seemingly undecided as to her role. Jenny nodded, uttered hints about forthcoming stacks of clothing including all that Chris had brought with him. Between them they communicated a solution: an ironing board. Old clothes of his ought to be unearthed from the guest room closet, she also directed.
The angelic, chiming sound of the doorbell stirred them all out of this quiet, embarrassed arranging. Magdalena shot a glance in the direction of the front door, as though the sound were one that triggered old, traumatizing memories. Fleetingly, Chris noticed her wide-eyed bearing and speculated that it was borne of full-moon nights when doors were knocked upon, delivering bad news, illness and violent death—or accidental death—of prodigal loved ones. Aunt Jenny, startled, gaped expectantly at her obedient servant.
“I wonder who that could be,” she said, surprised. Magdalena marched dutifully and solemnly to the door, whispering in Spanish some ominous imprecations. Aunt Jenny turned her puzzled, yet vaguely inquiring expression towards Chris. Shrugging, he suspended his fork over his half-eaten omelet, and indulged a nameless foreboding. He looked down upon his food, upon the raped shreds of congealed egg and frayed greens. What an accident this all resembles, he thought.