One of the things I did during the editing of Nicole Rosevear's story for City of Weird was suggest that she change the title. Come to think of it, I did this for a few of the pieces in the book. In Nicole's case the reason was that I was afraid the original title would give away some of the ending or where the story was headed. Because to mention the original title here would do just that, I won't, but Nicole has so many beautiful turns of phrase in her piece that it was easy for her to go through and choose something else.
"This Many Lost Things" is a story about loss in its many, many forms. Here's from the opening:
If Janie had a superpower, it would be losing things. Socks, jewelry, her cell phone. Four dogs, her father, six jobs, a fiancé, a fetus. Queen of the lost.
And a little farther along:
On weekends, Janie climbs. She drives to the center of the state and scrambles her way to the tops of scree slopes, every careful step releasing miniature rockslides in her wake; drives into the Gorge and views waterfalls from above, from the source, from before they can possibly know what they will become in another mile of wet and rocky tumbling. She climbs Tabor and Rocky Butte, but the West Hills loom taller in the not-so-far distance. From Council Crest, Hood taunts her with its crisp, bright angles. She has never touched glacier.
Nicole explores the theme of climbing as deeply and as metaphorically as she does the theme of loss in "This Many Lost Things." Janie climbs hills and mountains, furniture in her apartment. She goes to the tops of buildings to survey the world and try to find her lost things. Reality blurs, but not in the way it does when you're reading a ghost story or a monster tale. "This Many Lost Things" is really a story that falls a bit outside the theme of City of Weird, because the "otherworldly" element isn't so much something fanstastical or science-fictiony as something surreal and poetical (is that a real word? I'm going with it.). But I fell in love with the beauty and the quiet heartbreak in the piece, so I had to have it.
Sometimes Janie finds her own lost things on her climbs, although never ones she’s looked for. She turns a corner and finds the third argument she had with her fiancé, before they had moved in together, before either of them had considered that one day he might be her fiancé, climbs a flight of uneven stone stairs and rediscovers, word for word, a conversation with her father when she was twelve and they were on a vacation in Arizona. She finds her mother’s “You can grow up to be whatever you want to be, Janiebird” and the meth-riddled smile of a long-gone ex.
Her most recent ex, the fiancé, the almost-father to her almost-mother, used to come with her on her climbs. She understood that her silence on the climbs, her intensity of ascent, disturbed him. Janie is not a meanderer through nature, doesn’t hold hands on bridges and revel in the waterfall spray misting her face, doesn’t pack picnics. She did not talk about the child they would have had, never unpacked the box of heirloom clothes her fiancé’s mother sent not long before it became clear there was no longer going to be anyone to wear them.
Sometimes she can still feel the ghosts of the little butterfly flutters in her belly, the somersaults and loop-de-loops of another living thing sharing her body. Little fish swimming along, heartbeat under her heartbeat, until it wasn’t anymore. Just another lost thing.
One of the things that is really intriguing to me in this story is the deft way Nicole juxtaposes this world of surreal poetry with the harshness of reality. No matter how far Janie climbs, no matter how deeply we're nestled into the lull of Nicole's language, she's ready to pull us back with a dose of something deeply real.
Nicole teaches composition and creative writing at Clackamas Community College and is a member of the Clackamas Literary Review’s editorial team. She's a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars and has had work published in North American Review, Bennington Review, and VoiceCatcher.
To check out more of Nicole's work, read her story "One Small Thing Right" in the lovely journal Voicecatcher here.
She'll be reading "This Many Lost Things" at our winter- and Christmas-themed City of Weird event for the Plonk reading series, at Corkscrew Wine Bar on Wednesday, December 7.
Thanks to Morguefile member Schick for the Mount Hood photograph.