The Quiet Gene

The Weedy Life

(iPhone photo #58 in my 2012 365+1 project)

My resolution for today will have to be to write more. On that note, I’m going to share what I shared with my writing group this evening. I’m calling it a prose montage. It’s the same form I called flash memoir the last time I wrote one, though, so you can call it whatever you like. It’s a story. It’s a poem. It’s an essay.

The Quiet Gene

I.

The more you try to talk, the more I ignore you. Every human preference has the name of something sinister, and you will call me passive aggressive while I call you obnoxious. Because you are intense, and I am shy. Because you think I am doing nothing when I sit here thinking, and I think you are wasting time, talking so much when there is nothing to say.

You are a human trowel coming after my weedy parts. Go ahead then. Strike me here where I rest. I am not so weak that I will not pop up again from the roots, that I will not continue undeterred my slow winding around your bad nerves.

I have wondered for forty years what they threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge, but I have not wondered why Bobbie Gentry does not want to tell me where she is.

It is easiest to kill the things we love best. The young roses need special care. The dandelions do not. We have loved Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse to their deaths, but Bobbie Gentry does not want our love. Bobbie Gentry is a blackberry vine sprouting up volunteer in a cotton field. Bobbie Gentry is quietly hidden and alive.

II.

No one talks to me when I put the earbuds in. No one respects your right to silence, but everyone respects your right to music. If you want a quiet day, put the earbuds in, and leave the iPod off.

III.

My great-grandmother writes a letter in which she describes her grandmother as a quiet woman. I read it to my mother who says, “She sounds like my granddaughter.” There is a gene for everything, and even hundreds of years ago, a woman with my mitochondrial DNA sat thinking about something else while the people around her swapped stories. If she was anything like her granddaughter, my great-great-great grandmother, she outlived everyone except the one child who wrote down, “She was kind to everyone, but she did not talk very much.”

IV.

I tell you I do not want to be at this party, and you say I should have said so, and I say I did say so. You say, you did not say it like you meant it. I think but do not say, I said it like I meant it. What I did not do was to say it like you would have said it if you meant it.

V.

My grandmother made biscuits before dawn every morning of her life. She set them out hot on the table just as others were crawling out of bed and walked back to the kitchen alone. We do not know if or when she ate.

I played “Ode to Billie Joe” in my grandmother’s house while she sat on the back porch shelling peas alone. I stood on the bed with a hairbrush for a microphone, and for an audience of no one, pretended to be Bobbie Gentry.

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