Almost ten years ago, or perhaps exactly ten years ago, while in college, I submitted the only short story—so far— that the world has read to a writing contest amongst students. I found it and I'm sharing it here (it's in Spanish):
The story behind the story, as far as I remember it:
One of my closest friends at the time, also my crush for many years, heard about this contest and exhorted me to participate. Already painfully insecure about my ability, it took me a few nights of thinking before, in a moment of clarity I still feel proud about, I decided that why the hell not, I'd try to write something to submit. I only had about a week to go, so I put it off for a few more days, while ruminating a good premise.
Back then I was reading José Saramago heavily, and I had noticed that most of his novels started with a "what if" question that had to do with reality breaking in some way (what if everyone went blind, what if everybody voted blank, what if the iberic peninsula detached from Europe, what if a character outlived its creator, what if Jesus wrote a gospel of his own, what if a man met his doppelgänger), so I asked my own question, not-so-subtly aping Saramago: what if everyone in my hometown (Tegucigalpa), lost their voice?
It was an uncanny question, not extremely good as a premise, but it evinced something that today I'm surprised to re-discover has haunted me always: the difficulty of communication, how what and who we are—to the world— hinges in our ability to communicate. What is left unsaid or undone isn't real, no matter what's going on in one's mind, and a person who doesn't say or do anything is barely existing. As a kid of about 18 years, I set out to explore that in the medium of a story.
There's some interesting narrative devices I copied from Saramago and Julio Cortázar: alternating between first person and omniscient third, breaking the fourth wall, trying to use alliteration, spoonerisms and rhyme to give some passages some music, Kundera-like reflections by narrator or main character. There's also quite a few vices: long sentences, diction was too erudite for its own good, getting in the way of the story; allusions to artsy stuff for the sake of showing off (my dad's favorite movie isn't pierrot le fou, nor is it mine. It's probably a Will Ferrel movie.). What's more interesting though, is to realize that, at some point, I was brave enough to take a concept, however weak, run with it and show it to people.
I wasn't completely brave, however: I believe I was among the winners of the contest, but I was too chicken to show up and read my story, missing the chance to hear what the other participants had written (one of my dearest friends also participated, and I never got to hear his story—he and I were tied in the first place, I think, or maybe he got first and I got second, or maybe the other way around). Ten years later, I still shy away from community activities, which is probably in disservice to the craft.
A few days after the award ceremony I ignored, I went to the organizer's office for the prizes: a USB stick and a mug, branded with the college's insignia, a self-help book I enlisted to lift my bed—along with a textbook on business management—and help with my heartburn, and a book of collected poetry by Federico García Lorca, which I remember trying to read a few times, but being too perplexed by Lorca's intense imagery—it wasn't until this year that I began to accept I would never intellectually understand some of his lines, and to appreciate the trance that he creates on the reader.
In the intervening years, I must've revisited this short story only twice: to email it to girls I'd just met and tried to impress. I haven't finished a short story since, and it wasn't until last year that I came back to writing at all.
Maybe I'm trying to impress you this time, internet, or myself, but mostly it's just hella nostalgia. Please, feel free to laugh at the naïve snobbery that plagues that short story, I'm rescuing it from an old Dropbox folder so it lives on for another decade, aging like okay wine; maybe in ten more years when I re-read it I'll be even more bemused by how far I've come as a writer. Today, however, I don't think I've come far enough, and I take that as a challenge.