A Not Not-True Tale About a Very Short, Simple Morning

(A shortened version of this post appears in my book Narrative Madness, available at narrativemadness.com or on Amazon.)

I have just decided to write the non-fiction story of my short and simple morning so far. Since “fiction” is a story that is not true, “non-fiction” means it is not not-true. Cancel the negatives, and I am happy to say that the account I am about to give is true. The tale is easy to tell because it has only been half an hour since I woke up.

Well, more like forty four minutes. I said “half an hour” to emphasize the simplicity of my task, but I want to be accurate (I should add that at the time of this revision, fifty five minutes have passed [at this point of the third revision, two hours and twelve minutes during the third revision {and more than two years for this revision for my book Narrative Madness!}]). These facts are provable since I am using Google Docs and WordPress, which record the time of each revision. I haven’t even started telling the story of my morning, yet it is difficult to be accurate. I will do my best.

The story of my morning so far: I woke up and thought, “Carolina is coming soon. I need to straighten up the house. Why, oh why, do we have to clean the apartment before the house cleaner gets here?” As I got out of bed, I saw that it was raining lightly but steadily. I pulled on some blue corduroy pants, a white t-shirt and white socks and went to the kitchen to make some coffee in a Spanish cafetera. While I was waiting for the coffee to percolate, I put away a few dishes on the drying rack: the frying pan, the sauce pan, the wooden bowl and some silverware.

While straightening up papers and books on the little table in the living room, I began thinking about how we simplify even the most simple stories . I imagined the story I would write about my short, simple morning so far. I began to select events I would write about: getting up, making coffee, straightening up the little table, turning on the computer, writing. Since it didn’t seem like the description would take very long, I turned on my computer, opened a new google document, and started writing. Now I really need to get the house ready for Carolina, so please excuse me.

I’m back. That story, though mostly true, is a tremendous simplification and, in some cases, a downright fabrication. First of all, I don’t remember what woke me up. Maybe something in a dream reminded me that Carolina was coming. In any case, I have certainly changed the wording of my thoughts, which might have gone something like, “Carolina! Crap! (Grumble grumble) — clean up — (grumble grumble) — not fair.”

The “not fair” was directed to the other person sleeping peacefully in the bed. I had decided to leave him out of the story. Bringing him up, I would have to out myself. Since homosexuality did not seem relevant to a story about how we simplify our stories, I did not mention my boyfriend of seven years (although I did hint about him in the “we” of “Why do we have to clean up . . .”) Now that I think about it, leaving him out is a classic example of how we simplify our narrative persona when writing, especially when writing academically.

Also, I didn’t want to present myself as a bitter person. I generally like to show myself as easy going, a person who greets the morning thinking, “A new day! A new adventure!” I used to be very grumpy in the mornings and would wake up singing, “Oh, how I hate to get up in the morning! Oh, how I hate to get out of bed!” I have tried to rewrite the story of my personality in the morning, and so, I had a vested interest in leaving this twinge of resentment out. In any case, Omar wasn’t involved in my morning – I mean, he hadn’t done anything, except just lie there very attractivelyso I left him out.

To fully understand my little story, however, you would have to understand me, and to understand me, you would have to know my whole history from birth until the moment of writing, to understand that, you would need to know the history of everyone in my story, to understand them, you would need to know their family histories, to understand family history, you would need to know the history of everyone’s country, to understand our countries . . . Let’s just accept the fact the characterization of myself is a vast oversimplification. (Sorry, I really need to straighten up before Carolina gets here. Let me set down the computer for a moment.)

My story contains inaccuracies. I probably didn’t even wonder why we have to clean before the cleaner arrives, although I have thought that many times. The detail seemed appropriate for a story about straightening up for the house cleaner. My tale jumps over a great many facts. How did I get out of bed: by sitting up or rolling to the side? Which foot hit the floor first? Did I see that it was raining before or after I got out of bed? In the original version, I didn’t even mention putting on clothes, but in a later revision it seemed like an important detail, so I added, “I got dressed.” Later, I replaced that line with a list of the clothing. I didn’t mention putting any underwear on (maybe I was shy) and I am not sure of the order that I put on my clothes. Even though I started writing only two hours and twenty four minutes ago (as of this revision), I am not sure of the exact order and detail of events.

I mentioned the bed, but I didn’t talk about the pillows or covers. I didn’t talk about the dresser that I got the clothes out of. I didn’t mention the other furniture in the room or the pictures on the wall. Which of these items are “relevant”? The decision to leave them out is highly subjective. To give the truest story, I would describe every detail of every item in my house along with its background and personal significance and the history of each person connected with that object. Since these details are not essential to the simple story about writing about my simple morning, I will leave them out.

So let me be clear that I am choosing what to describe based on what I want to say, the point I want to make. I have an agenda, which is to make the story as simple and true as possible. Unfortunately, the more simple I try to be, the less truthful. The more truthful, the less simple. The more thorough, the less accurate. At least I am honest about that.

(Excuse me, Carolina just arrived. I have to answer the door. Crap, I haven’t taken out the garbage yet and I have to put away the things in the hall.)

I didn’t mention going to the bathroom to pee (authors often leave out this important action). If I went to the bathroom, I must have washed my hands and probably checked myself out in the mirror. I definitely wouldn’t have mentioned farting, picking a zit or squeezing my dick. I brushed off making coffee with a single phrase. I didn’t describe unscrewing the cafetera, dumping out the grounds into the compost, washing each part, adding water and coffee, screwing everything pack together, putting the coffee maker on the burner and turning on the burner. (Even this description is a simplification of the process.) I don’t really remember which dishes I put away, although I know what I cooked last night, so I can guess. The first song that played wasn’t “Early Mornin’ Rain.” It was actually “The Blizzard” by Jim Reeves, but that didn’t seem appropriate for my story, so I chose a song which exemplified a “Rainy Morning.”

This is the only certain element of the story: straightening up for Carolina, I decided to pick up the computer and begin writing instead. This is unarguably non-fiction. I could prove it in a court of law. I have a record here on Google docs of when I opened the document.

As I am amending it for accuracy, other events have happened. Omar got up and walked into the living room (naked) and said, “Hi.” I smiled back but kept writing, trying to stay on top of the events, so I could record them as accurately as possible. He went to the bathroom and blew his nose (this already at least five minutes in the past), then he came over and kissed me, but I was too busy typing to acknowlege the kiss. Then he went back into the bedroom and I went back to straightening up the house.

As quickly as I write, I cannot keep up with events. Writing is much slower that living. As short and simple as the morning seemed, my description is an oversimplification, full of inaccuracies and downright lies. Who knew such a short, simple morning would be so hard to describe? (Oh my God, Carolina could be here any time!)

He was back in bed! I said, “Don’t you think you should straighten up a bit before Carolina gets here?” He answered, “You should straighten up.” I replied, “You should straighten up and fly right.” He said, “You’re funny.” And I said– Well, it gets a little cute from here, and that’s not the impression I want to give my readers, any more than I want to give the impression that we have a resentful relationship.

I need to make one other qualification to the not not-true story of my morning. I did not tell Omar, at first, what I was trying to do, that I was going to record the events of the morning and the things he said, because that would affect his behavior. The act of recording my morning had caused me to behave differently, and I didn’t want it to change his actions. For example, he might not have walked around naked if he had known I would write about it on my blog. Then, I thought, isn’t keeping this fact from him a manipulation of truth and events? Realizing this, I told him what I was doing, but asked him to act normally.

“Act normally!” Omar laughed, as he got out of bed and put on some clothing. “Normally? You, act normally?” Omar put on his Tigger ears from Disneyland and said, “Okay then we just go about our day normally, just like any other day, as if none of this was being recorded?”

Well, that is not exactly what he said, but when I asked him to repeat it, even he could not reproduce what he said word for word. The quote is still close enough to the truth to be called non-fiction. I could prove in a court of law that everything (or almost everything) I have written here is fact, non-fiction, a not not-true story.

And it is comforting to know that we can tell the truth, isn’t it?

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