That girl or guy you should have …
You should have what?
You really think you should have married her?
Or should you at least have made it official, acknowledged how you really felt?
Yeah, that. Surely at least that.
Life is fine for most of us. We build a life, get on with it.
But you can’t help asking
The girl in “A Deeper Level” isn’t even one specific girl.
In real life, to list just a few, there was:
The perfect girl I had that painful years-long crush on, who made a decent amount of overtures, but we were from wildly different social strata.
The girl I’m glad who, it turned out, I didn’t get pregnant. Her life seems fine now but what were we thinking?
The girl in college who I unfairly dumped just because it got too scary and way too real too fast.
The girl who apologized twenty-five years later.
The girl who ghosted me at exactly the wrong point and I was afraid of relationships for a long, long time.
The girl who … yeah, wow, she was married. Alrighty then.
The girl who, yeah, I’ll never forget that lovely long weekend in bed but it would never have worked out much beyond that.
The girl who was a little too young for me.
The girl who was a little too old for me.
The girl who really liked me and would have been fun enough, but where was the challenge?
The girl who was my best friend and she knew the real me and, yeah, she would have straightened me out eventually - I really believe it - but, at that point in my life, my messed up side was winning and … yeah. These days my marriage has had its ups and downs, but I’m still with it. She seems pretty happy in hers. We leave each other birthday greetings on Facebook.
Who am I trying to kid?
“A Deeper Level” is about that last girl.
The other girls are in other stories, or will be.
You’re all still in my head if not my heart, ladies.
Through high school and my teen years, I was two distinct people.
My Dungeons & Dragons, straight A nerd side.
And my too cool to care chemical enthusiast street kid side.
It was Metallica and Guns n’ Roses for my public party persona and then I’d stumble home and hide in my room and write mopey poetry to The Smiths and The Cure.
The Guns n’ Roses side got me in a lot of trouble - and got most of the girls on the list.
The GnR side won out for far too long.
And I still sometimes do battle with my inner Axl Rose.
The chill side - aiming to be more a steadily working Dylan or Bono these days than a mopey Morrissey - eventually emerged victorious, however, because I’m not dead and I’m not in jail and while it can sometimes take a damned long time, it doesn’t take me fourteen frickin’ years to write a god damned book.
I wrote “A Deeper Level” in no more than a night or two while working third shift in a group home for disabled people - my job was basically to stay awake, and writing helped that.
I wrote it during a time of reflection when I was realizing I could give up my more destructive side, and I’m deeply grateful to the story for helping me with that. Hopefully readers find something in it too.
The story sold to an anthology - it was the lead story, in fact - and it’s a tale that I’m particularly proud of.
I put this in my Green River Crime Stories collection, but I’ll be honest; it’s not heavily crime nor is it heavily horror. I categorize it as crime because every street kid I hung out with was a little bit thuggy - you had to be - and it’s horror because what happens toward the end of the story is pretty horrible.
But either way, it’s among my favorites of my own work because the story itself is about as true as it gets.
On many levels.
And, for me, you can’t do better than that - mining that deeper truth.
In fiction or in real life.