Like many people who write, I spend a lot of time in my own head. It’s pleasant in there. The skies are blue; the barometric pressure, steady; the edges, rounded; the unsavory facts encased in bubble wrap and unable to hurt anyone.
It’s nice, in my head.
And as can be expected by someone with a limited loyalty insofar as reality is concerned, I make stuff up.
And sometimes, people who should know better mistake my stories for truth.
Years ago, I wrote a piece as part of a writing exercise. Certain elements were to be present: danger, colorful dialogue, humor, resolution.
There was never mention made that it must be true.
So I made it up. I used an actual vacation I had taken, made up some names, created both situation and dialogue. It was published online and quickly forgotten.
Or so I thought.
Months later, at a party, I am approached by a woman whose name I had used in that story.
“You remember that, Pearl? You remember that night? Everyone, this is Pearl. She’s the one I was telling you about.”
I shift my beer from one hand to another, look around the room. Linda is a dramatic and insecure person prone to both hysteria and self-aggrandizement. She wears me out.
“What night are you talking about?”
“You know! The story! Remember that?” While I run my eyes over the rest of the room, looking for a way out of this conversation, she lays out everything I had written, quotes it extensively. A crowd gathers as she relates the fictional tale as something she personally experienced, adds details not in the original story implying that she saved me from a dangerous situation and that I, being young and foolish at the time of said story, owed her a debt.
Linda laughingly finishes up by saying, “Really, Pearl, you need to be more careful.”
Mary appears at my elbow. “None of that happened, did it?” she whispers.
“Not a word of it!” I hiss. “What in the world is she talking about?”
Mary laughs. “This is what you get for writing a story using her name. What’d you use her name for anyway?”
I shake my head. “It was just a name, just a location. Now she thinks it’s real!”
“You going to call her on it? She’s made herself out to be a hero!”
And you know, I thought about it. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. As annoying and needy as Linda is, I couldn’t take away a story that made her a hero.
Like I said, it’s pleasant in my head. Even when what’s in there is fueled entirely by the imagination.