by Kevin Carrel Footer
I listen to other peoples’ stories and they become mine. It is as if I were compiling an encyclopedia of stories. I settle into a seat at the corner café, open a newspaper or begin a conversation with a stranger. Their stories – whether I want them to or not – become a part of me.
The taxi driver, the cabaret dancer, the bus driver, the painfully soft-spoken journalist, the waiter – all seem to have been put in my path to add their piece to this enormous compendium of stories that I am filling day by day.
I am in no rush. Being an endless book, there is no deadline for the manuscript. That is fortunate as the stories come of their own accord, brought by countless, ever-changing emissaries: wizened, fresh-faced, sly and frank, wanderers and stay-at-homers – all sorts.
Story is the building block of life: everything we do revolves around the making of stories, our own and those of other people. Why do we go on living if not to see our story to its proper close?
Of course, what we readily recognize as stories are those that have a beginning and an end: a book, a movie, the life of someone who is dead. These arbitrary bookmarks comfort us and bring order into the chaos. But the Big Story – the Late-Breaking News, as it were – is the wildly inconclusive edge on which we all ride.
The centerpiece and measure of everything is one human life. It is the indivisible unit of story: the single life. Even the biggest stories of war and peace are just the sum of individual stories thrown together. Every story can be reduced to a single protagonist, a single point of view. Reduced to this essence, the story becomes it’s most powerful. You can break down any story to one life, but no further. At the very least, one human being has to take part – even if only as an observer — for it to become story.
This love of story can be delightfully treacherous and amoral. It can lead you into a criminal’s story as soon as to a saint’s. But life itself, in its constant throwing up of new twists and turns, is largely amoral; we may strive all our life to make the world a better place, but odds are that the crush of good and evil will prevail over any attempt to bring the story to a simple end.
Human beings ooze story. We cannot lift a finger without adding a new line to our own. When you look into someone’s eyes, take down a book, raise a weapon or make that phone call, you are adding another line to your story. The act can be momentous or insignificant, but it is nonetheless duly registered in the plot.
As long as we are, there will be stories to tell. Story is our shadow until we die. And then it is all that remains.