The Husband Stitch – Responding to Machado

It is difficult not to channel Carmen Maria Machado after reading her.

For a while I have not written. Before the Diwali break I decided not to write for the twenty days, and not to feel guilty about it. I do not regret this decision, but getting back into the habit of writing is difficult. I let myself read and watch Game of Thrones, and sleep too late and wake up too late, and loved every bit of it. But then college started and I missed this thing I love to do, and Carmen Maria Machado held my hand understandingly and said, “Here, write like this”, and I channelled her calmly and wrote.

You must read The Husband Stitch quietly, in your head, mumbling half the words to yourself, and then you must read it out loud, to a roommate or an entire class, or a beautiful imagined person who sits cross-legged and alternates his glance between your mouth and his wrist. And now you have two stories, not one.

Maybe it is because I am woman (and how scary that word is, because I should be taller and my back straighter and my bust larger, and my hair, darker than black), but I did get what she was saying. And maybe there is a male equivalent to ribbons, but no one has written of whatever that would be, and so we shan’t talk about it yet.

I get it.

I understand her when she says, “It is not a secret; it is just mine”. I cannot explain this, and it needn’t be explained.

But one tries to explain it, the first time. After it ended, I remember just holding my phone to my face, feeling like I had read something that reminded me of nothing, and yet it was so familiar, so ordinary – it is like a smell that you remember as a child, that will suddenly accost you, years later, mid-sentence, when you find yourself surrounded by it.

And then we talked about the piece in class, and I said something without really thinking about what I was trying to say, and it suddenly all made sense. This material of mystery that the story (or stories) seem to be so intricately woven from, are unwound gently when you open your mouth to talk about it.

In the time I spent happily channelling Machado, I was also aware of what I was writing about, not just how I was writing. When you read The Husband Stitch, you acknowledge the fact that the stories are in the past, but you also can’t help feeling like it wouldn’t have made a difference if she had been telling them in the present. The style, the rhythms, the comfort with which she writes, allow for certain types of stories – the kind that one often wants to write about, but is scared that the story is too every-day, and yet you know, somewhere, that you want to write about it nevertheless, for some reason. Maybe everything is just about telling stories.

We sat in class, debating, and raising our voices about what the end meant, and what could have happened, and maybe she re-attached her head after she closes the story, and maybe she knew, or maybe she didn’t, but it doesn’t matter. The way I see it, the story is about telling stories, about how storytelling and the lives we live within our stories are the only real ones.

And when the ribbon is untied and her head falls off, it seemed to me the most eloquent bow that was ever taken after a performance.

Read the piece here — http://www.granta.com/New-Writing/The-Husband-Stitch

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