To my retroactive disappointment, the journals I keep—I fill about one marble composition book a year—are an undifferentiated, undated jumble of fiction drafts, semifictionalized self-reflections, actual diary entries, to-do lists, lesson plans, notes for articles I’m writing, and strange doodles often in the form of heavily inked trapezoidal grids. I wish that the notebooks more frequently included scenes like this, in which I simply recorded, without much commentary or elaboration, what I remembered right after a conversation with my younger sister sometime in 2011, when she would have been thirteen and I twenty-five. Too often when I write personally I simply record states of mind, which have been frustratingly static and melodramatic over the years and often seem to be stylized in a way that I find unconvincing, even to myself. This page presents a clearer picture of what life was like at the time—quizzing my sister about her religious beliefs, asking her about TV shows and who Bruno Mars was. I was encouraging her to be open-minded about religion, even as a devout nonbeliever myself, probably out of some quasiparental instinct. She described an idiosyncratic cosmography: no to God, yes to guardian angels. Apparently she wanted to be a doctor at the time. (She ended up going to art school, a family tradition.) I was living in New York, home for the weekend, visiting my parents in New Jersey. The next decade took me to Montana, Virginia, and Boston before I circled back to Brooklyn just in time for the pandemic. I saw my sister in Philadelphia recently. She was driving the car, and we talked about what was on her mind now. Gay bars, the Supreme Court. I did not ask about angels.
Andrew Martin is the author of the novel Early Work and the story collection Cool for America.
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