Today is the third anniversary of my novel in progress, Brenda Corrigan Went Downtown. I began the writing on February 1, 2009, prompted by a walk on the trail near my home and finding it devoid of the usual rambunctious Sunday afternoon activity. Having lived through 9/11 in Washington, DC, I felt a sense of foreboding.
As does Brenda, when she comes upon:
. . . a nearby field where dogs usually romped off-leash, bounding after Frisbees, barking wildly, ecstatic to run free, then saw it was empty. Where was everybody? She felt disoriented now. Where were the walkers, the bikers who usually swarmed over the trail on a Sunday? Had something terrible happened? A terrorist attack?
Then she remembered. The Super Bowl. The whole world was nestled on couches, watching warm-ups and wrap-ups, stuffing itself with nachos and salsa. And here she was, alone . . . .
I’d been noodling an idea for a novel for a few years. I thought it would be interesting to imagine the life of someone who had been subjected to childhood abuse. Calamitous childhoods are so much more common than we like to think, but often are well hidden. Most people vigorously put an unpleasant past behind them, never realizing how much energy this fruitless task consumes. For the truth will find its way to freedom— through pores, temper, an inability to cope with life’s vicissitudes, post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Brenda is a determined woman. She has overcome her roots, she believes, the facts of her foundation. She would not consider herself one of the walking wounded, that she is owed something. If she were to think about the past at all, it would be with a sense of victory. She lives in the present, enjoying her days to the fullest among family and friends, partaking of all that life has to offer.
Until she is struck down with unimaginable force. Then the past holds sway. Her hard will bends to dreams and nightmares, memories, and she is steered away from recovery.