To read an excerpt from the book, please click on the following link:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

To Reconstruct a Person

I've come to see that trying to write about a person who is no longer here, about a baby girl who never got a chance to live, is like spinning a 3-D image of a human being out of spiderweb silk, out of thread and spun glass. You can never be sure that you will get everything accurately, or even close.  I will try. I look into Asha's eyes in the photographs I have of her, and promise her that I will try.  I ask her to bring forward the people who knew and loved and adored her, and that I am given the kindness, compassion, and sensitivity to listen to their words.  So much falls into place with this book every week, it seems: another piece that I need comes to me.

What do I know of Asha?  She always had a smile on her face except for one night at the checkstand; this was long before I knew she was pregnant.  She seemed a little distant, or sad--maybe tired.  All the other times, she was happy, talking to people.  Once day my food stamp card did not work, or so the sourpuss cashier said (there were some sourpusses there that did not like the fact that I had an EBT card).  Asha was bagging, I think, and took over to help--she put my purchase through expertly in a couple of minutes, with a smile.  There were other, brief interactions:  she said hello to me once, outside, as she was arranging produce in rows (grapefruits, I think).  The last interaction with her, the one I remember most, is of her pregnant, the day I bought the candle from her that I would hold at her memorial service.

The few photographs of her online tell me small stories: there is one with her husband after his accident; he looks tired, in a wheelchair.  There is her wedding photo in the case file of the murder trial: a reminder of what must have been one of the happiest days of her life.  It was a good reminder for the judge--I wonder if he put those in there for himself to look at.

Where does all that happiness go when tragedy strikes?  Tragedy struck her marriage; I can't help but think of how she must have felt, leaving her husband under such circumstances, finding herself pregnant after something terrible had happened to her, and deciding, with great courage, to keep the baby.  In the case files for the trial, people reported that she heard the baby's heartbeat and fell in love with her child, then and there.

I feel I must speak to the people who knew her and try to know this woman outside the shadow of the evil that took her away.  Yes, she and Anina will always have this shadow cast on their lives.  Yet she existed, she lived, she loved people, there were things she liked in particular that I want to know about: what she liked to eat, what she liked to wear, what music she enjoyed, even what her flaws were, for we all have these--not to judge, but to show her as human.  I want to know if there are recordings of her as a musician, as a singer.  She was NOT some "mistress" nor was she "just a cashier"--she was a living, breathing person.  Those two things, which the press concentrated on, do not do justice to what really happened to her, or who she truly was.  Not once did either of our local presses do a story on Asha herself, who she was, what she wanted out of life.  I feel that people need to know these stories because the world needs to know what was lost when these crimes happen.

This, by the way, is the mark of at least a good project as a writer: when it seizes you and won't let you go until the very last word is written down.