JCS Press

A Partner of JCS Theater Company

My Daughter Maggie's Eyes Were Green

by Terrance Kelly

I can't write. It's not that I can't, I mean, you're seeing it right now while I hit the computer keys here but what I mean is that I can't really write like the stories I read in books and the ones they call the literary heroes. Those people who wrote books that are now all on bookshelves and in libraries. Those are the people who could write and I know that they, kinda like me, sat in a chair like this one, it kinda creaks but I keep it, and they had on shoes and clothes or some of them were even naked, who knows, as drunk as many of them were, but, yeah, they sat down and wrote and pounded away at the keys like I'm doing now with the tips of their fingers, like the ends of who they were came right out of the little hands they got but I don't think what they were doing when they wrote and what I'm doing sitting here were the same thing. Like I said, I can't write the stories like they did. I can't speak tales woven out of who they are onto the page.

I feel sad for them sometimes, though, especially now, me sitting here pounding away and typing but I'm also looking across the room at my two big bookcases I got over there. I'm looking at what I'm writing here, sure, but I can also see those books. The bindings of them, and it's like I'm imagining what it musta been like for them to write those books. Musta been a lot like what I'm doing now, right? Sitting here in my dirty socks that I been wearing because the washing machine broke and getting ready for winter. It just turned winter, really. People are telling me it's fall but I never really thought fall meant nothing more than winter saying it's back again. I guess for an old man like me things are just colder than usual, that's all.

This isn't a suicide note. I just want that to be clear because I thought it might start to seem like that. No, I think if I wanted to end things by my own hand with a rope or a gun I woulda done that a long time ago as a younger man. I did always think killing yourself might be one of those things you did in old age when the heart starts to fail and the world as you knew it began lecturing you in ways you hadn't ever gotten used to but what I found was the worse shit got and the older I did get the more I realized that suicide was a young man's game. Maybe some of the people who wrote those books over there on the wall would disagree, and I know for sure some of them would. That does make me sad, though. You read a book and it brings you such joy but all the while it's like in the other room the person who wrote that book has got a gun in their mouth or already pulled the trigger. It's like you're looking down into the soul of something and that soul got taken away out of the earth by their own hand. Like a secret you been handed that blooms in you, but the secret-teller had to hang themselves.

I used to think I could write a great story and that the world might think so too but the more I tried to write when I was a younger man the more I realized it was just more likely that I'd be just a normal kinda person like you and me. The kinda person that just has a place to live and tries to eat well and has issues that come up and faces them with a type of courage and morality that you hope for in a man. Lately I been seeing why it really is that a man like me shouldn't really think so much about becoming like one of them on the bookcase. Like one of those writers who could really tell a story in a way that'd just make you wonder what the difference was between passion and... What's the difference really, right? Doesn't much matter now, and, again, I don't want you thinking this is a note for after I'm gone because that's not really what the intention was when I set out. It may have been something I thought about as a younger man but it's not at all what I got here in this noggin anymore.

I guess the real writers never gave much thought to whether or not they were gonna be remembered. Doesn't seem that way anyway. They just sat there and typed and what came out was like those stones they find in all different languages from ancient times. Those stones of people who were trying to discover what it meant for the stars to be up there and why the dirt was just so fucking smudgy the way it gets on your hands. I remember little Maggie playing in the dirt as a girl with the spot on her face the doctors told us was fine and really turned out to make her be unable to walk when she got to a certain age. I was out on the sidewalk years and years ago trying to adjust her leg braces and someone thought I was assaulting her or something, I mean, I guess the guy who approached was just confused and then he saw how handicapped Maggie was and he almost started crying. He saw me there with my daughter and her legs strapped in the plastic on her shins, the way she lived, the struggle she felt everyday and the pain I had in my eyes, too. I knew the man saw it. We connected there on the street and he reached out and held my shoulder and all that he could say was that he loved me and then he turned away and walked off in a very rushed way.

The day Maggie died she asked me what it meant for someone to be alive. Her there on the gurney in the hospital it was like we were talking and the area surrounding her was full of little tiny fireflies all bunched together or like the air was turning into a cloud. It was like she started to glow lying there asking me about what it meant to be and I didn't know at the time she was gonna die but when I think back to that day I come up with all different things that I supposedly said to her. I use that word because I really can't remember at all what I said when she asked about being and I seem to dream up and believe depending on what day it is all kinds of different ways I responded.

I know I can't write and that's why it's about time I can't do much of anything anymore and it's about time for that to be final. It's not like when it was when I was a younger man. It's not really like it ever was now and it's more like those books over there are calling to me, reaching out their hands to me, and I wanna take them. I wanna grab one of them.

You can't have your life.