My skeletons in your closet. Probably a good book title. But last night and early this morning, I was reading #MeToo posts attached to the name of lauded Latino novelist Junot Diaz. Women came out on Twitter, pointing out his unusual misogynistic behavior — some, in public instances — even though earlier this year, Diaz himself wrote a dazzling New York Times piece narrating his own experiences of abuse. I shouldn’t be writing this. That word is too heavy on my frail, privileged shoulders. But when my co-species are coming out from the shadows of their hurt, I will raise my fist and declare to myself, even though only I can hear, “I support you.”
Truth to be told, I have never heard of Diaz’s works until I googled them this morning (thank you, Wikipedia. My apologies; I skimmed through the plots and immediately exclaimed, Ah. These are the books teachers make students read in their senior years. Those complicated, melodramatic books of abuse, lies, break-ups, and death. I may have read similar stories in our Filipino subject back in the days and I often wondered why we had to read those emotionally-rich dark narratives. Okay, art. But were our hearts ready to receive those eye-opening truths, even though they were woven out of fiction?
Being a writer is a privilege: a servant-hood where one becomes the humble teller of tales. Of course, in order to convey the fullest experience to the audience, one must have genius. And that genius leads to a crown of fame.
I am no genius, just a joyful lover of letters and rhythm whose works were inspired by the bounce of limericks and lullabies. I first wrote a song at age 9. I write for a living, but I wish to fully understand the immense influence of words and the feelings that come in between.
There is a lot, I must say, and most of those feelings get misunderstood in words. Maybe it’s the choice. Maybe it’s the tone. I don’t know; people don’t read the same way.
In Little Women, Jo March stopped writing “sensational” stories when her friend (and later on, husband) Professor Friedrich Bhaer unfurled a newspaper-hat which he, an absent-minded gentleman, forgot to take off. Upon seeing its contents, a short story written for amusement, he looked at Jo, silently knowing she writes, and said with a straight face,
“There is a demand for whisky, but I think you and I do not care to sell it. If the respectable people knew what harm they did, they would not feel that the living was honest”
That part struck me. What should I write, then? Here in my hands was a world without limits. Obstinate. Stubborn. Unyielding. I could make up things as far as my imagination goes: dragons and devils and angels and monsters. I can write a train wreck and kill millions of people. I can make up an empire ruled by ghosts. I can make my enemies wither in torture. Anyone can be anything. Anything can be anyone. It was power as great as a god’s. I get to be a creator of my own universe.
But what should I write?
In my early twenties, I wrote a song that I could only describe as angry. I read Serial Experiments Lain and its OST sunk deep within my chest. I shared it to a friend while sat in our favorite corner at Dunkin’ Donuts. She said it was good.
Five years later, I fished the song out of the pages of an unread book, took a final glance at the lyrics, and tore it to pieces. It was my only copy.
Writers write a part of themselves, if not all. Those scenes are not entirely made-up. We get angry, depressed, broken, shattered. We also lie and cuss and hurt people. Those truths get woven in those lines. Those feelings get to you, our readers. We put our skeletons in your closet and we share our burdens with you.
At one point, you may even have to carry them.
They could be triggers.
They could be a match that lights up a new feeling.
Some of those feelings make you high. Some hits you like a hammer on the head. Some, a slap in the face. And that is my burden. It is my responsibility to be truthful to my craft. To stay truthful to myself. To fight with my demons and not run from them. To not make an excuse that darkness and misogyny is art.
My art, I have decided, need not harm anyone. Feelings are good. Bruises are not.
Stories leave an aftertaste; the good ones, they stay forever. But, if I am leaving you a skeleton, I want it to be gold. I want it to shine. And I want it to be smiling so that every time you’d open your closet, you’d smile back too.
Maybe not a skeleton, then. I’m leaving you with an emoji ball.