Tuesday, July 16, 2019

"One True Sentence"

Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. 

Recently, I have been rereading Ernest Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast," a memoire about the author's life and times in Paris during the interwar period.

Among the many things talked about in the book, Hemingway gives us insight into what his writing process was like when he was living in the City of Light.

The quote above refers to a mantra Hemingway would say to himself whenever he was trying to write but was stuck. He would tell himself, essentially, not to get caught up in the thought of how daunting writing a novel, or writing in general, could be, but instead to focus, at least initially, on writing that "one true sentence."

So finally, I would write one true sentence, and then go from there.

I've always been fascinated by Hemingway's idea of "one true sentence," and the small piece below, which is biographical, is inspired by it. Enjoy.


I remember one time fighting this kid Craig for what he did with my hat.

I was on the middle school bus after school and one of my friends had snatched my red Philadelphia Phillies hat off my head and had tossed it to another friend of mine. The two were playing keep-away, which was fine until the hat landed in the hands of some kids I didn’t know. When these kids refused to give my hat back to me, the mood changed.

After all, the hat they were tossing around wasn’t any normal hat. That hat was the hat that kid Bo wore. Bo was a kid who used to ride his bike around my old neighborhood, Forest Hills, bullying people. He was a tough kid and he always wore this red Philadelphia Phillies cap. When I moved away from Forest Hills to a place called Great Neck, in Long Island, I decided I was going to reinvent myself as a tough guy -- I was going to be like Bo. So during the summer before middle school, I bought a red Philadelphia Phillies hat, the same one Bo had.

And now here that hat was, being tossed around the school bus by people I didn’t know. The cap flew back and forth over the rows of seats until it landed in the hands of Craig.

Craig was someone I only knew by name. He was scrawny and very innocent looking, the type of kid that still wore sweatpants to school, which was totally not cool back then. I didn’t know Craig, which was why the tension became palpable when he became the next recipient of my flung-around hat.

“Give it to me,” I said, looking Craig in the eye. He was sitting in the seat right behind mine. He returned my gaze, but threw the hat to someone else, nevertheless.

“You’re dead,” I said before turning my attention to the person who had just caught my hat. “When we get off this bus, you’re fucking dead.”

I don’t know if Craig knew I was serious on the bus, but he certainly did when I got off at his stop and started to push him. “Come on, you little shit,” I said. “You’re cool enough to throw my hat around, come on...” But he didn’t want to fight me.

I remember feeling tough as I pushed Craig, with a few schoolmates looking on. I felt like I was Bo now, and I was going to make a name for myself. I remember yelling at Craig and him just walking on, walking on toward his house, not wanting any problems. At one point, I pushed him very hard from behind, the way some people had done to me in Forest Hills when they had been giving me problems.

Eventually, I grabbed Craig in a headlock and we wrestled on someone’s lawn. I landed a punch on his head and it probably hurt my hand more than it had hurt him. But, in my opinion, I had proved myself. I was still too young to know that such behavior was not cool. I was 11 years old and I was  showing that I wouldn’t be fucked with, which was much more important at the time than any possible repercussions that might have come from my behavior.

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