Sometime this summer a section of a city block near my apartment was demolished. I can’t recall when it happened. All I know is that, for weeks, maybe even months, I’ve been walking past this hole of dirt blocked off with Under Construction signs, not paying it any mind. Things change often around here. It’s the city; it’s never static.
But while walking home the other day, I realized something. I can’t, for the life of me, remember what used to be in that spot. It’s literally around the corner from my street. I pass it almost every morning. What stood there before?
I have no idea.
I stood on the corner, looking at the spot. Trying to picture the building or buildings that had been there.
My memory was blank. I don’t know what that place was before—and I’ve lived here for more than six years.
This is how writing a novel can feel. This novel I’m in the midst of writing had once been something else—there was this whole thing about a girl and her father, a fixation on drug dealers, something about a cliff . . . I’m not remembering it right. I’d built it a certain way, when I thought that was the novel I was going to write. Then I demolished it, and the novel became this other novel. A new character entered and shook everything up. Magical realism descended and swallowed the whole thing. My narrator got flattened in the process and climbed out unrecognizable—another girl. I can barely see what the book was before; can’t remember. The new novel has taken over as if it’s always been this way. But it hasn’t. It wasn’t. Yet it’s impossible to see backward now. Strange.