Friday, February 24, 2012

Imaginary Friends


“Talk to my lawyer.”

You first heard that expression delivered with operatic scorn in some old, even-then predictable black-and-white movie, a second feature from which you soaked every last dreg, as though slurping the remains of an ice cream soda.  This was, after all, a second goddamn feature.  You were aware from the opening scene that the story was already building downward momentum on its Sisyphean tumble down the hill, but this was your Saturday afternoon time at the movies.  This was story, good or bad.  You were taking it all in, even this awful dreadful coda.

The speaker in the scene was being accused of some crime that was just short of heinous, yet still of some consequence.  You were scarcely into double digits age wise.  Any accusations against you were minor issues you could well handle.  You did not need a lawyer.  You did not nourish ambitions of becoming a super criminal.  Instead, your young mind yearned to be involved in things complex enough to have a lawyer around, just in case.

You were not quite taken up with the notion that you could have an involvement with story that went beyond the double feature at the Ritz or El Rey in Los Angeles, or the more prosaic Roxy or Ditmas in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and the reading, the constant reading as though it could provide you with a single discovery that would transport you to the life you sought where there was adventure and the sensible requirement of having a lawyer on retainer.

Your relations with your parents, sister, and teachers were for the most part without contention.  Only on the rarest occasion were you confronted with evidences of a trespass against parental dictum or common weal. When there were such times, you suffered no surprise at the allegation that you’d committed a tort.

Only once did you say, “Talk to my lawyer.”  You had no particular fondness much less any respect for the teacher to whom you said it.  The stunned look on her face when you did say it, the communal gasp from your classmates, followed by the gales of laughter, seemed to settle the matter.  Smart-ass kid from California.  Maybe he did have a lawyer.

“Talk to my lawyer” was a grand assurance that someone was there to protect your position, much the way your parents and sister were there as assurances of a family unit.  “Talk to my lawyer,” meant you had leeway to experiment, to expand within your imagination.  Spoken to Mrs. Welsted, the teacher on whose watch you were exposed to music, “Talk to my lawyer,” meant you had an edge.

Thus out into a world where some of your peers had an imaginary friend.  You had an imaginary lawyer.
How comforting you would think it to have kept that special edge and that special lawyer to whom, when the outside world grew murky, you could refer real and imagined opponents.  Perhaps this would have led you to another imaginary character you prefer not to bring out, your imaginary Sherlock Holmes.

How comforting to be bright, logical, able to sift the real clues from the bogus to the point where you presented unimpeachable logic which was also impeccable in its accuracy.  You had no such ability although you were aware that the closer you came in behavior to your imaginary Sherlock Holmes, the more intolerable you would become.

From here, it is a medium-sized leap to the matter of defensiveness, which you rail against in your own behavior, the behavior of your characters, the behavior of your friends, and of your students.

One thing was clear to you:  you’d put roadblocks between you and your writing to the point where there are pages of your earlier journals in which you complain about not having the time to get any writing done.

Although there were any number of sources where you could have found the solution, the best one in your opinion was your own awareness.  Priority.  No verb in that sentence.  Not unless you make it have one.  You have writing that needs doing, start on it first.  The energy spent being defensive about not having enough time could have provided any number of half-hour sessions.

Defensiveness in general is often a similar waste of energy that could be put to better use.

Perhaps this is where your imaginary lawyer has gone to work.


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