Let’s parse it.
Did: depends on tense (time) of verb. If past, then “did.”
That: item referred to, could also be an event.
Really: ah, now we’re into it. Short answer, no. Not really. As in the fly on the wall would not have seen it. But yes, really, as in it’s really part of the story. Take it out, and the thing has a hole.
Happen: See really.
Essays are works of art. Do people do what is described in my essays? Yes, somewhere, at some time, perhaps in the future, perhaps after the oxygen is used up and we are breathing nitrogen, but yes, people do. Especially if it fits the rhythm and rhyme scheme and has internal consistency.
Is there a blend of the actual, the possible, the plausible, and the not really? Yes, definitely. A storyteller named Raelinda Wode in and around Boston told “true stories that haven’t quite happened yet.” I knew exactly what she meant. As a songwriter, I possess a floating “I.” It’s the “I” who is speaking that particular story. Does that person borrow from my life? Do I borrow from hers? Yes, we share. I thought Raelinda was very clever, because most people would think it a charming twist of words; most writers would know that’s exactly how it is.
So, don’t panic. I don’t have a spouse. I have a person who needs to be referred to in one recognizable word that the reader will not get all hung up on en route to the point of the sentence. Am I really cleaning out her grandparents’ house? Well, I have, and I did, but right now, I’m typing. You see?
Reality is slippery. We like to think that because our language has past, present, and future, that reality does, too. But in fact the story we tell that we call reality only exists because we are speaking it. The reality we think the words are describing never really happened. Once you write about it, it’s something other than what it was when it happened. It’s words on paper. It’s a poem, an essay, a novel, a song lyric. It’s a story.
Because I am writing an essay, some readers may assume, perhaps rightfully, that I am talking about me and therefore am reporting facts. That’s where this essay comes in. To let you know not to take it as gospel, but to hold it lightly, to visit with me a while and see if you liked spending time. See if it did anything for you or moved you in any way. But don’t think it’s entirely about me. It is about somebody, maybe even you.
One more thing, and this is about politics, so if you only want to read an essay about essay, skip this. I’ve started using the word spouse, because I miss having the option of using a whole vocabulary that you can only use if you are the marrying kind and heterosexual, something I just can’t seem to get lined up. One, then the other, but not both. Until now, sort of. They passed the law, but the fight is not over. We cannot yet marry here in Vacationland. We have to wait 90 days for the law to go into effect and then only if the opponents of homosexuality (choice of words deliberate) fail to introduce what is called a “people’s veto” and try to get a majority to strike down the law in an election.
But I don’t want to wait to use the word. We had a very sweet conversation around the dinner table, my beloved and I, pulled out several dictionaries (one trait about her that totally fires my charcoal), and chose a word we would use to refer to each other when the right to marry became a reality for us. It was something: Two changeable, independent, moody Sagittarians getting misty-eyed over the possibility of getting hitched up in legal matrimony, just like any other fools in love. It was that moment when we admitted out loud that, yeah, this is for-evah, and we don’t have to hide behind “well we couldn’t if we wanted to, so we don’t have to have the conversation.”
So sue me for being imprecise, tag me for lying, hang me up for stretching the “truth.” I just wanted to let y’all know that we ain’t got hitched yet, there will be a party, and, yes, it really happened.