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Story Notes:
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Roseanne, basically.
Spoilers: Mostly for the final episode and the conceit within.
Written for: nikitangel, happy birthday. You asked a question and this is one answer, maybe false, maybe true.
This is supposed to be a dream come true, but some days it’s a nightmare.

I don’t really know how it happened. I mean, I do, I was there, and people think I’m stupid because I’ve been poor my whole life, but I’m not. I wrote the damn book and then I got lucky. Real lucky.

Jackie met a woman.

She’s met a lot of women in her life, men too, but this one, she was something special. Not just cause she helped me out. She made my sister light up and treated her real good and that was enough for me.

She worked in publishing. She had contacts in New York City. She knew I’d written a book. Everyone knew. In the days after the funeral, all I did was sit and write and eat. I didn’t bathe. I didn’t sleep. I had to get it out.

It’s been a messy whirlwind, this whole publication thing.

So anyway, Diane – if I’d written it, maybe “Jack and Diane” would play on the jukebox when Jackie saw Diane walk into the bowling alley – asked to read it. I told her no and then I burst into tears and then I didn’t leave my room for twenty-eight hours.

She asked again and I said yes but I didn’t want to know if she hated it. Lie to me, I told her, because that’s one thing I know well.

She read it. And she liked it. And she sent it off to a friend, no promises.

And the friend liked it. And it went kind of crazy from there.

And now I’m published. It’s not what I expected. I had to rewrite a lot, but the big things I got to keep. The first book is out already and I’m even getting fanmail. I guess it touched something in people.

I’d give it all back, the attention, seeing my name on a book on the shelf in the bookstore, even having finished a story, for more time with Dan.

#

The books are done, all published.

My life hasn’t changed that much. Or maybe it has. It’s not like I imagined it would be. It’s not like I imagined winning the lottery would be. The bills didn’t magically disappear, I’m not spending my days at spas or jetting across the country with foreign royalty. I still have the old furniture, though I did buy a nice computer. I still go to work.

I’m almost done with a young adult novel about a fat girl in high school who hates Halloween. I like it.

Maybe someone else will, too.

They sure liked my other books. I can’t stand to look at them some days, because it all rushes at me and my heart goes raw and I can feel the big empty space left behind. I try to fill it, I do, but it’s always there, lurking. Lingering.

I’ve forgotten how he smelled. The first time I realized that I went out and bought his deodorant and his cologne and his shampoo and his soap. I washed my hair and my body and doused myself in the scent of him.

And then I sat in my empty kitchen and listened to the silence he left behind.

#

I’m so hungry for the memory of him. My lips ache and my fingers, my breasts and my cunt. The bed is so big now and no matter how I roll, I never hit what I’m searching for. I sleep in his robe sometimes and his socks are still in the top drawer. His stupid collectors edition of TV Guide and that picture of Julie Newmar too. And the HoHos. I can’t eat them. I can’t.

#

People ask me questions. They mean well, but I hate it.

They make me think about the lies I told, the world I built to lose myself in because I couldn’t deal with losing Dan. I still can’t, but I failed. I couldn’t hide forever in my writing, no matter how much detail I wrote.

The one that hurts the most is this: How could you write a story like that, create something where your family suffers so much?

It makes me want to hit them, or drink until I pass out, or eat a gallon of ice cream.

They say it about different things. Dan’s mother going crazy. Dad cheating on Mom, then dying and his mistress coming to the funeral. Dan’s heart attack. Fighting after because he won’t take care of himself. Mom hurting so much because she doesn’t understand what she wants from sex and dealing with coming out so late in her life. Darlene’s baby almost dying. That one comes up a lot.

They don’t get it. They’re never gonna get it.

I want them to understand.

They ask, if it’s a story, why didn’t you write more happy endings?

Maybe they don’t get it because they’re not writers. Maybe it’s because they’ve never really suffered. Maybe they don’t get it because after everything I failed at this too, telling this story.

Or maybe it’s just that some people get it and some people don’t.

These books? This story? This is the happy ending.

The baby lived, Darlene and David brought it home, and I had my family back together in my home, alive and safe and happy ever after.

It’s a powerful chapter, women circled together in the hospital, the matriarchy holding each other and sharing their strength, their will, their sheer determination. In a world full of images of men and male bonding and friends and the ways fathers help sons, this is important. Generations sharing their love.

That chapter encapsulates years, hard years, painful years when Becky and David tried to conceive and failed and the way Becky came to visit and cried so hard on my shoulder, trying to keep her pain from David because he was hurting enough. Years when Darlene and Mark accidentally got pregnant, fought over whether they were going to keep it, and then the complicated pregnancy and the baby strangling on its own cord before she could even give birth. Darlene, after, her skin so stark white and her hair dyed so dark and the deep bruise shadows under her eyes.

Blaming herself. Thinking it was a punishment for not wanting the baby right away. And Mark, trying so hard to be the guy she needed, even when he didn’t have the wit or the words.

I thought about writing only the good. I did. It would have hurt less than working all the pain of real life into my escape. I even started it that way, letting Dan live, making us happy, giving us peace.

But it was wrong. It was a complete lie. The words soured as I wrote them, my fingers cramped with each letter.

That’s the lesson I learned in this heart ache of mine, the gluttony of my writing, the depth of my escape. I can change the world with my words, I can imagine stories untold and fix what I can.

I can’t make it perfect and my heart breaks still.

End


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