Saturday, July 4, 2009


I wrote down my dreams this morning. I reached for the pad of lined paper and the pen laying beside it before my eyes were really open, my fingers clutched the plastic tube while the body tried to catch up with the brain. As I wrote a long sentence about houses and car garages and loading plastic bags of groceries and my sister refusing to stop clipping her nails, I kept leaving out important letters in simple words and everything was slurred and jumbled, looking like the penmanship of a lunatic. The thing that stuck out, the one letter that seemed more defined than all the other ones was the letter “m.”
Meg is my mother’s name. “M” is the letter I tried over and over to perfect as a teenager, when I had access to a car all week and my parents were at work and the day was much too sunny and blue and full of promise to sit in a classroom and pretend to listen to those that had let their passion fall like the crispy leaves of fall. And in the haze of dreams, where little songbirds flew in and out and stood on the ledge of a circular hole in the house for sale, I watched my hand move across the page. I watched with the eyes of a silent observer while I made the exact “m” my mother uses to sign all her checks, the name that I tried so hard to forge and now, through time and accumulated habits, have seemed to have spontaneously imitated and absorbed.

When I was 13 and looking through a bookstore in Laguna Beach, I found a book with a hot pink cover: “How to Find the Right Mate, Lover or Friend Through Handwriting.” I bought it and studied the copied writing samples of John Lennon and Adolph Hitler. What always remains with me is the anecdote the author uses to justify the importance of handwriting to understand what’s happening in the brain. According to the author, there was a small study that observed Vietnam vets that had learned to write with their feet after losing their hands in war. The study found that their writing samples (written with their feet) were nearly identical to their old handwriting when they still had hands. The author argued that the hands are merely a tool, a vehicle that expresses what’s in the mind and emotions. The devil’s advocate in me wondered how come the veterans, who had clearly been through a traumatic event, would be unchanged enough to keep writing in the same style, but today I know that habits can go that deep. It could take more than bombs and missing fingers to release recurrent patterns.

My mother is deep inside me. Her sorrows are mine. Her insecurities, her strangeness. Whatever part of her brain that expresses itself with those curved “m’s” is also deep within me. What wasn’t quite perfect as a teenager has solidified recently. And each time my hand grabs a pen and I write “movement” or “motion” or “mayonnaise,” I see the evidence.

How much of her is in me? Does the killer sleep in my bed, just as Joseph Raymond thought? How much do I wish to destroy? It scares me to think of myself this way and I can see my dad laughing… “you’re going to be just like her,” he would always say, and I would take it as a curse. A grim prophecy of the not too distant future. The dough is ready, all I need to do is sit back and wait for the years to pass through like water. I could become her, fill her shoes, assume her role in this world without much thought or struggle, I could become her reflection. And yet, even though her “m’s” look like mine, three years ago I began the half-conscious/half-unconscious habit of writing “5’s” in a new way. I would watch my hand as it moved in a new way, creating a new shape. I watched as my “b’s” and “n’s” transformed in another form of imitation.
This machine can absorb and release. I can watch the evidence in a dream tale materializing on a blank page.

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