A stylized drawing of a hand writing with a fountain pen.

“Not a Tragedy” by Mariana Martinez

Mariana Martinez is a fourth-year student in English and psychology. She loves stories in every shape and form and profoundly believes in the power of words. “Not a Tragedy” originates both from her personal and academic views on the writing process. There is always a power imbalance in a story, which is something Mariana has always been aware of, and a big part of why she began to write. Still, life is not always black and white, so her piece reflects on past mistakes to find a better path within the gray area that we live in.

Not a Tragedy

As a child, I aspired to be a muse, to be the subject of such affection, of such adoration that I would be immortalized in the creation of another. I dreamed of being seen, of being loved, of being. Soon, I understood what I was wishing for: my story, told by an outsider until it ceased to be mine, until I became a mere projection of what he saw, or worse, of what he wanted to see. I would spend eternity stared at, discussed, interpreted — and utterly powerless. In the cage of his poetry, I would dance, but never to my beat; I would speak, but none of the words would be mine; I would feel, but only as much as I was permitted. Under such conditions, how could my story be anything but a tragedy? No. I refused.

In fact, I rebelled.

To break free from the ink chains, I would become the narrator, the crafter of the tale. I renounced my part as the beloved, but I gained control. The world was a blank page on which I wrote unending stories of the ones close to my heart. Inspired by their strength, their beauty and their ambition, my emotions flowed freely through my pen. I wrote of what was, what is, and what could have been: a warrior, a thief, a healer, a dragon, a monster, a queen. I wrote reflections of what my soul saw in each of them — of a world that I could see clearly, but in which I never appeared.

Lulled by my own voice, it was too late before I realized that those who gave meaning to my tales were no longer beside me. The reasons for their absences escaped me and the space they left was too tragic to fathom. Instead, I kept creating, immortalizing my loved ones with ink, writing versions of reality where they had stayed. The past was the haven that sheltered me from the present, and the infinite “what ifs” I weaved onto the page shielded me from the future that was looming.

With time, I ran out of words. I went back to read my stories, both to relive my happiest hours and to be comforted by the writing that had fueled me for so long. What I found unsettled me. The writing in my first work was frantic and awkward, the product of a novice who substitutes skill with eagerness. It had no plot and no intent, but there was beauty in its rawness. The pieces that followed were indubitably better. One could say that I was at the level of the greats, of the writers whose asphyxiating love had caged rather than freed — the men that I had rebelled against. I sank into the realization: I was no better than them, reneging my loved ones to the place I had run away from. No wonder they had left.

My irrelevance also disturbed me as I read page after page. The pen in my hand was enough, I had reasoned. Even if I went unnoticed, my truths would carry on. I had called it selflessness when it was self-righteousness; I had called it goodness when it was cowardice.

Facing a reality where I am the only character terrifies me, I have no alternative. I go on. The world that now appears before me is not as gruesome as I suspected, and as I begin to write once more, I have found sweetness even in the bitterest of words. I still have amends to make both with myself and others, but the story I now write about myself is anything but a tragedy.

You can follow Mariana on Instagram @matiana.mg.

This piece is part of the in medias res Jan. 2021 “Reflection” Issue. You can read the full issue under the tag “Jan. 2021.”

Image: Hand schrijvend met een kroontjespen (1836–1912) by Isaac Weissenbruch (Public Domain)