Thought Catalog

All the Stories I Never Wrote

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If I did this story, would this guy kill me?

The other day — actually, it was today. Things have been blurring together for me lately. I don’t know if it’s the weather, the fact that I recently relocated halfway across the country, or my, dare I say, tumultuous dating life as of late, but I keep finding myself staring out of the window through the possibly fake bamboo slats of the blinds and looking at the sky and realizing I’m thinking about nothing. That said, I don’t always think of nothing. Sometimes I think of something.

So, I was thinking about all the stories that I have intended to write, or at least the stories that I sort of thought about writing, or those stories that I had fleetingly glanced at in a kind of this-could-be-a-story-like way, but then I didn’t end up writing. Here, by “stories” I mean “journalism.” The one I was thinking of today was a story about this man who lives in the San Fernando Valley,and I guess the most succinct thing I could say about him is that I have met a lot of bad men in my life, but this man is the worst. Not like, we’re having a drinks at a bar, and I reach out and grab your wrist, and I cackle, “He’s the worst!”, and then knock back another swig of my whatever I’m drinking, like it’s all joke. Like,for real.

See, I didn’t write the story about him because I was afraid he would kill me. Certainly not like, ha-ha, I thought he would “kill” me, and actually in this case not literally kill me, because I spent a fair amount of time thinking about it, If I did this story, would this guy kill me?, and I thought it would be more likely what this man would do if I did a story about him, one that, shall we say, exposed him, would be to hire a couple of his friends to kidnap me and torture me and tell me if I ever wrote the story to completion, they would kill me. Because he sort of had a history of doing stuff like that. I don’t know if they would kill me in the end, but I guess you could say that I’ve been through enough in my life that I’ve come to the conclusion that the human brain — or at least this human brain — is actually more fragile than you might think, and that it would perhaps not bear up well under being kidnapped and tortured. Especially the torture part. I think.

The man had done a very good job of hiding who he was, and he was very rich, and he had some very powerful friends, in politics and all whatnot, and he had a criminal record for doing some of the bad things that he had done, and so the idea of writing that story, showing the world who he was and what he had done, it came to seem like sticking my hand in a fire to see if it would burn. So I didn’t.

I also never wrote a story about a young woman whose father had died tragically and famously, and then five years and five days to the day that her father, who was very handsome and supposed to be a very good person, had been killed, she wound up being involved in a homicide. I went to her hearing after I heard she’d gotten arrested. She was 17 at the time of the incident, and she was 18 when I saw her in the courtroom: pretty and blond and small. When she walked into the courtroom through a side door, her hands were shackled to her hands, and her ankles were shackled to her ankles. She looked across the courtroom to her mother, who had really had enough hard things happen to her already in her life, and there was so much sadness and tragedy and horribleness in between them that it filled up the room.

Afterward, I approached the mother, and said, “I’m with The Blah-Blah-Blah Blah,” and said I wanted to speak with her, or something to that effect, and the mother looked and me with her destroyed face from her screwed up life, and she said, “I don’t think so.” Or, “I don’t know about that.” And then I didn’t have the heart to go any further with it. It was like it was too sad. It would have been like driving my car into a car accident. This makes me a bad journalist or a good person. You can’t be both.

I also have never written a story about how I had PTSD for two years. I think about that one more, lately. I haven’t totally written it off yet. Still, it’s a hard thing to write about. Because you’re asking the thing that got messed up and then got better to write about when it didn’t work, and the thing doesn’t want to do that. Why would it? It doesn’t want to do that anymore than you want to eat a handful of gravel. I try and avoid TMI writing. But sometimes life is like one of those traffic circles in Paris, and you go round and round, and you can’t figure out how the hell you’re going get out. TC mark

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    • http://twitter.com/ZJSimon Zachary Simon

      The first story overshadows the others so much that it frustrates me. Empathy wise, I would hesitate for the sake of my wife and family. Empathy wise I would still feel like a coward. Maybe try a story on empathizing with people already proven to be like this bad man.

    • http://rclaybaugh.wordpress.com/ Ryan Claybaugh

      A story about uncompleted stories. I like it. Nice essay, you're a great writer.

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