My fiction resides in dreams, memories, the thoughts that cycle through my head trying to find a way of escape. I remember dreams as if they have happened to me, memories as if I have conjured them in some half-sleep state. I believe things happen in some indefinable reality but acknowledge that I may never be able to capture them. We all are seeking emotional truth, but even that can feel false. I use broad strokes, fill in the details, construct something that has a form, but how do I imbue it with meaning? Is it that one moment I am writing around, trying to find the right angle to reveal its significance to me? Or do I hold onto the significance of the dream/memory, waiting for the opportunity to unleash it?
My fiction lives in the space between what has happened, what may have happened, what I wish had happened, and something I am terrified of happening. For Long Gone, I wrote around several subjects, winding down into a dream/memory that has stayed with me for over fifteen years. When it “happened” I felt its significance, but could not tell you its meaning or the meaning it might have for me years later.
The moment between the narrator, her sister, the fawn and the car: that happened. In this case, as in many cases, the narrator is some approximation of me, some fragmented aspect of personality, bundle of experiences. But there were several realities that day. Mine, holding onto my sister, fearful of losing her to the man who would become her husband. My sister moving away from me and toward him. That car, with two people I did not know, moving, then stopped, then moving again. And the fawn, just learning to live, forced back into the brush to die.
I did not know at the time what could separate a sister from a sister: a husband, a child, a sickness, an unwillingness to accept a new reality. I did not know, then, that those things could also bring you back together, build a self you didn’t know you had, a relationship you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
That said, I chose to tell Long Gone in this particular way, because it is something I could construct, not something I experienced. While I may have seen the fawn and the car and heard my sister scream as if it could save something, anything, in that moment, I did not experience the sense of removal the narrator feels in this story. I had an idea of distance, of futility, and what that could mean in a relationship.
My past professional experience with addiction and mental illness, coupled with the awareness of my own psychological struggles, have informed my writing in a way that seeps into my fiction. My characters experience loss and fear acutely. They are obsessive or manic, damaged or disconnected. In Long Gone, the narrator is disassociated from her own experience in a way that feels she will never again be a participant in her own life. I recognize this feeling. I know the feeling of the word “gone.” But I have come back from that reality to a different reality, one that allows for connection: of the self to others, of dreams to memories, of the past to the present to the yet and never to be.
Mary Krienke grew up in the Midwest and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. She received her MFA from Columbia University’s Fiction Program and has been previously published by Midwestern Gothic, Two Hawks Quarterly, Joyland, and Underground Voices, with work forthcoming in Palooka. Now an associate literary agent at Sterling Lord Literistic, she is currently writing her first novel.