One of the many things I love about this piece is the narrator’s voice. Her repetition of certain words, like “freaking” seems to work on several levels. It betrays her age despite her adult situation and more interestingly it seemed to convey to the reader that she had a wordless frustration, as if she is plugging in the word “freaking” for emphasis where she hasn’t quite parsed out her feelings. Can you speak to the voice of the narrator and how it informed her development?
SG: The narrator is very frustrated. No one listens to her. Her voice is really the driving force for this story. She wants people to understand about her life, and she has this sort of half-built philosophy that she is working on. Whenever we get to that philosophical point I think we get desperate to explain it to people. Not only are we trying to work out the kinks, but we are sort of delighted with how everything seems to be lining up and making sense. Not that it will last, or will ever go beyond this half-ass idea. It is like a philosophical sweet spot. It is a lonely place to be, especially when you don’t have the necessary vocabulary to take it to conclusion, or express it fully to others. Our narrator needs us to listen to her. She needs an audience.
In so much of this story the narrator is vacillating between adult and child. The situations she finds herself in seem to be as juvenile as they are adult. For example, smoking at Dirtball Dan’s living room both occupies this adolescent pot fantasy and also simultaneously feels full of dangerously adult potential. I think that specific tension is so core to this piece. This is also true of the surrounding characters. In some moments you can almost feel the narrator wanting to make Dirtball Dan a father-figure, and at other times she thinks of him as an “old tweaker”. Can you speak more about this dichotomy?
SG: Young mothers are told that “now it is time for you to be the adult” or “you have to be the adult, for your baby” or “you are a mom now” with the emphasis on the word mom like a weight of expectation. So being a girl, with the potential of womanhood inherent, but not totally embodied is again, frustrating. Womanhood can’t always be accessed. Maturity doesn’t always come naturally. And even if a young mother, a girl, was to fully embody a responsible womanhood, she’s still looked at like a girl— treated like a girl. Our narrator doesn’t fit fully anywhere. She used to be totally a girl engaging in juvenile acts of sexuality, but motherhood left her body marked and changed. Her sexuality can’t be juvenile anymore. It is laden with anxiety as she is scarred by sacrifice she never had to time question. Dirtball Dan’s house is place of freedom where she can escape, at least for short periods of time, but it is also a place where she is reminded of the difference between herself and others. The other people at Dan’s, Jessie for instance, get to go home empty handed. They don’t have the care of an infant to consider. Our narrator struggles with the vacillating perceptions, but what I love about her is that she isn’t afraid to acknowledge the disparities. She doesn’t force any one perception to rule. She doesn’t cling to the idea of the Dirtball Dan as a father-figure. She flips as needed. I think that is really brave.
Despite claiming that the narrator’s “…totally facing reality here”, she tends to float off into her own fantasies. I love the scope of her fantasy life–the endless discount Pizza Hut pizzas and the high school dance hijinks with Bink. All of her fantasies seemed so grounded in reality for a fourteen year old. How do her fantasies/aspirations inform this character?
SG: It is funny that you think they are grounded in reality. I can see that now that you say that, but when I was in her character it didn’t seem that that way. Our narrator is inquisitive, and imaginative, but not well read. So her dreams are the stuff of her surroundings. I identify with these fantasies so much; although, I’ve always been well read. When life feels so laborious, and bleak even the clerk at the gas station seems to surely have a better existence, one less fraught anyways. Whether this is true doesn’t matter. Sure, you could spend your time fantasizing about being rich, living in another state, living in a bigger city, going to college BUT the ease with which you can slip into this better life as a gas station clerk— this life where you have a small but substantial paycheck, a car that may be crappy but still gets you around, a coat that you bought on clearance but still looks clean and new, and all the soda pop you can drink while you’re working— is much more intoxicating. There is a sliver of hope. It isn’t so far away. There is a kernel of possibility. Our narrator is young, so she feels farther from these possibilities than we feel her to be. We listen and think, but you could have that, easily. You arevery close to that, come on now. Just pick something and do it. You can get there no problem. You will find a nice guy. You could get a job. You could get some help. You could move out. And these things are so true from our perspective where time is more compact. But our narrator is looking out from the perspective of a girl where even the most pedestrian of accomplishments seems like an unattainable dream.
What are you working on now?
SG: Right now I am finishing the first draft of my third novel. It has the working title of DOPE. It started as a very long short story about a sectional sofa, taking place in Arizona and Iowa. DOPE is the most plot driven work I’ve ever done. I flip between the two main characters each time I write. They are fantastic and horrible people to get be every morning. I’m so glad that I will get to spend more time with them as I’m rewriting. I miss the characters from some of myother work terribly. They left a huge hole in my life. My first book DOING CRYSTAL has been very kindly rejected by so many publishers we quit sending it out. Too sad. Too dark. Send us the next book she writes. Etc. My agent said that my next book, YOUNG WHITE WOMEN, was even sadder so there was no point sending that one out. I believe DOPE will be the saddest and darkest book of all three, but my characters are out of control. What am I supposed to do? I have to let them live.
Sara Gerot lives, and writes in Iowa. She is writing her third novel DOPE. Her work has been published in Black Clock, Bookslut,HTML Giant, Pank, Thought Catalog and A Bad Penny Review.