by Meg Pokrass
Beth had glitter makeup that someone gave her. I wondered who. It was still sealed, she'd never opened it, and it was in a small box of unused makeup—stacked with other belongings. I knew she would want me to have it now, so I brushed it over my cheeks and eyelids. It made me look alive, and I smiled at my face in the mirror. It was still my face—a face that was born looking spoiled.
"Don't ever talk to me about boys or meat," Beth said on her last birthday.
"You mean men?" I asked.
Beth forgot we were grown up a lot. Nothing mattered as much as the fact that she couldn't find any size twos and I was trying to help on the internet. When we were little, her hair smelled like teriyaki chicken. I remember telling her as though it were the highest compliment. She pulled my arm so hard I never wanted chicken again.
"How would you like to be fried?" she had said. She was a vegetarian, a vegan, and eventually bones and skin.
The doctor said it was not because of her diet, it was her brain making her body die, and then it finally did its job. One stupid nurse said that to my mother, about her brain being in charge. Mom turned to the chair dad would have sat in, and said, "see?"
Structurally, "Vegan" derives its strength from odd somewhat random images pieced together like an emotional, psychological puzzle of grief, survival, and guilt. It is a collage of imaginary moments, based on my own true memories of loss. Associative logic and flawed logic directed the writing, and helped to build a sense of tragic urgency. The plot is not a standard plot in any way: it is internal and psychological, in other words, the character tries to make sense of a terrible loss and takes the reader on this journey and THAT is the plot.
When writing my first draft, I used Sanford Meisner's direction (Meisner was a famous acting teacher and actor) which is "Acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances".
I use Meisner's theory of creativity unconsciously every time I write. Having all my training in theater (I was an actor from age 8 to age 26) prepared me for the creative layering of imaginary worlds through detail, and through sensory information.
I did have a life experience similar to this piece, that of worrying about a close same-sex person, an important role model, and eventually losing her. Mental illness is the thing that tears these sisters apart from an early age. I drew emotional memory from my own similar experience in every second of writing this piece - the complexity of same sex siblings, female relationships, mental illness and loss...and of course, the inevitable survival guilt.
Meg Pokrass‘s story Leaving Hope Ranch in 971 Menu was chosen for Wigleaf‘s Top 50, 2009. Lost and Found, in elimae, was chosen in May 2009 by Storyglossia for Short Story Month showcase. Her many stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gigantic, Annalemma, and 3AM, among others. Meg serves as a staff editor for SmokeLong Quarterly, and is currently mentoring with Dzanc’s Creative Writing Sessions. Her blog, with prompts and writing exercises can be found here: megpokrass.com