I am not a detail-minded person. Give me big ideas, grandiose visions, or ostentatious schemes, and I’ll happily participate. The moment you throw a detail my way, “We need to buy a plane ticket to get us to the tip of South America,” I am out.
This avoidance of detail trickles into the realm of my story-telling ability. In short, I can’t. Or I don’t. (The “can’t” or “won’t” depends on whether you view my participation as a possibility that I don’t choose to indulge in, or as a blatant character flaw.)
If we’re brainstorming a possible future event, then I’m a wild woman spouting off incredibly brilliant ideas with the reliability of Old Faithful. But if you ask me to explain a real life scenario that I actually experienced, you’ll end up crying yourself to sleep out of sheer boredom.
An event that takes me thirty seconds to describe takes my roommate Lauren thirty minutes to describe (if she feels the need for brevity). The descriptions are the same if you ignore the basic fact that one includes the dry, cracked bones of a story while the other pumps lifeblood into the rich, breathing flesh of human tragedy and victory. Just depends on your perspective.
I express my impressions. What the world impresses upon me in facts, figures, and reasonable explanations, it impresses upon Lauren in vibrant tapestries of color, emotions, and detail.
I’m not exaggerating.
Interactions usually function like this:
“Hey Bekah, how was your day?”
“What did you do?”
“Worked, studied for a while….”
“I saw on Instagram you met Harry Styles for a romantic dinner on the back of a Beluga whale! That must have been beautiful. Tell me about it.”
“He was nice. We ate.”
I don’t know why people are still friends with me. It might be that I never dominate discussions.
Conversation with Lauren are different:
“And then he,” (sometimes she starts in the middle of a story because she has an ongoing commentary in her brain) “well he was wearing that green t-shirt with the which was ridiculous because it was snowing glaciers and we had already talked about him needing to wear warmer clothes two months ago, two months ago! So he was wearing the green shirt when he asked me what I thought about the students’ projects, which of course is going to be an emotional topic. So of course I expressed every single emotion that has passed through my body when anybody ever has mentioned the words project or student in front of me….”
Lush detail. Illuminating emotions.
Both beyond me.
I told a good story once.
I was fourteen.
My uncle Pete had taken my brothers, my cousin Elin, and me for a five day hiking trip in the Smokies of North Carolina. I was miserable for the entire five days of hiking. Each day, each mile we trekked through solid clouds of mosquitos, each inhale of thin mountain air that scratched agonizingly at the inner walls of my asthmatic lungs kept pace with my mind’s elaborate concoction, lavish with expletives, of a retelling of our misery that might, might make the whole voyage worthwhile.
We had a Williamson family get together two days after our return from hiking. The whole family gathered round as I told of our adventures. I spoke with the confidence born in a girl who seeks revenge for her exposure to mild physical labor. Aunts, uncles, and cousins all laughed, they cried, they admonished my uncle for the cruelty he exposed us to.
I know the saying is that misery loves company, but in my experience I reckon misery loves an audience.
There, in the center of a circle of eager listeners, I peaked. That was the best story I’d ever told and I knew the moment I uttered the final sentence that it would be the best story I would ever tell*.
*The second best story I ever told was the time I told the story of the best story I ever told.
Rebekah (’12) teaches English as a second language at Grand Rapids Community College. She does not drink coffee nor purchase Apple products.