How I write a story: start with a scene remembered from the past, ask what it means, get an idea. Describe the scene, set down the idea, let the scene develop in dialog. For example, a scene from my past which, now that I am home, seems typical of the world I've left behind: a meeting with my wife after several months of separation. Probably this would be a meeting of reconciliation. I ask myself now how I was calculating probability.
My impression being back home is that everyone here is the victim of a confidence trick. The trick is being sold on the belief that by voluntarily choosing your relation to society you are free in society. Where I was before the opposite belief was more common, that freedom was to be found in leaving your relation to society behind.
The confidence trick lies in the false belief that constructing a relation to society is like other forms of construction, is something like a work of art. While attention is diverted to the beauty of the construction, it is not noticed that unlike the work of art which once created leaves you free to get on with creating a new work or go about your business without doing anything in particular, creating a relation to society imposes society's demand you continue in that relation.
The possible reconciliation with my wife would be on these terms: would she dump her ambitions, her alliance with rich men, her career as a singer in a band, and return to me? She'd slip back eventually to her regular role in society, of course, as we Americans, choosing type and styles slip back into freedom to recalculate role type and style. But she'd be in that role a player, a sceptic and a hypocrite, identifying herself not with society but with her escapes from it. Whereas we are true believers in our roles, and obscure from ourselves the magic sleight of hand going on in our periods in which we reassign and rededicate ourselves to society.
Though I was born into this society of magician's assistants making offers to each other to stage their lives, for some reason the trick didn't work. I was more interested in what happened behind the curtain, before and after the performance, than the performance itself. I found myself more at home with people dismantling the performance, alone in the responsibility to do something with what remained, an individual act, than re-creating a performance at the price of social conformity.
That's the idea and the scene. Here's the dialog:
- You look good.
- You too. You look better.
- Better than you, or better than I did before? So I looked bad before? You want me to take you back, I suppose.
- If you've nothing better to do.
- I don't know if I still like you. Do you still like me?
- I know you.
- That's not what I asked.
- I've always liked you.
- You could change your mind. And it's not true. Sometimes you hate me.
- A few minutes here and there. They don't matter.
- They matter to me. I don't like the way you talk to me.
- You can handle it.
- What if I don't want to? Too bad for you, right?
- I'll convince you.
- How? What do you have I can't get more of from other people?
- Well then.
- So it's decided. We're back together.
- Yes. Tricked me again.