And so, all the words have been written

And so, all the words have been written
                        

The end sneaks up on you and suddenly you’re holding a book in your hands. That moment arrived for me this week as I walked up to my mailbox and retrieved a regular-looking mailer that contained my book proof. I pulled it out carefully and looked at it from all angles. Then I laid it down and cried.

There is nothing easy about writing a book. Most days I would have rather laid down on my bed and slept the day away instead of stringing painful sentences together. Any author will tell you this, especially when the subject matter is personal. We love writing, but we love procrastinating even more. We’re experts on grinding coffee beans and organizing our desks, and if we don’t like organization, we can tell you exactly where that note filled with ideas for chapter six is buried.

This story was excruciatingly painful to write. It was like walking across a bed of coals but you’re in a dream and can’t run or walk and your skin begins to blister from the heat. I wanted my husband’s story told correctly, with words that were hard yet pliant. When you love the subject of your story, the words can crumble as you form them, the cohesive structure you seek maddening and far away, your hands too large to type.

I did my best with his memories, gently shaping them into paragraphs while slipping inside his psyche and the small form of him, his dark eyes at age 4 allowing me to see events as he experienced them. I don’t know whether you’ll like this book or not, but what’s important is that it’s complete.

There are days even now, moments throughout the breadth of a day, that I sift back through the words and think I should change something, make something easier to read and digest. “Did you write about so-and-so in a certain way?” he’ll ask me, late at night. And I’ll look at him with a toothbrush hanging out of my mouth and feel a pang of uncertainty.

There is no tidying of a true storyline, no sanitizing of it for mass consumption. There are slight tweaks to make it readable, palatable, the crafting of surroundings that bring the story to life, but the essence of it must remain. When he began to regale me with his history, beginning on the very first night we met, I cinched together every story in separate tiny pockets of my brain. I lovingly tied a string around each one, knowing I would need to untie them later for culling, winnowing until they were ready for publishing.

His story is filled with loss and violence, abuse and vengeance, small joys and sorrow. It’s filled with choices and decisions many of us would never have to make, could never fathom making. They are and were his alone to make.

I once walked with him down the long thoroughfare that leads from the Pyramid of the Moon to the massive Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan. It’s a hot, windy walk with the eerie whistles of clay jaguars ringing in your ears. I felt the weight of history on me, and we held hands as he showed me part of his past.

If I squinted hard enough, I could see a small boy sprinting to the top of the pyramid holding a box of Popsicles to sell to parched tourists, coins jingling in his pockets, a smile dancing in his eyes, allowing the pain of his circumstance to drop away. I think about that moment today, the series of moments he’s entrusted to me over the years, giving them away bit by bit so I could help him carry them. And I know no matter how they’re received, the words are right.

The Bargain Hunter columnist Melissa Herrera’s first book, “Tono Lives,” is a harrowing first-person account of physical loss, survival and brutal abuse suffered by her husband as he grew up in Mexico. The book is $19.99 and is scheduled to be available on Amazon on July 31.


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