FICTION
Cultivation
Michael R. Hassler

Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash

So what do you do if you wake up and realize that the gently marinated and care fully crafted and harmoniously preserved memory of the you in your mind’s mirror first formed over twenty years ago, the you that was your most perfected self and doing the best impression of you that you have ever done, the you that you heretofore looked back on wistfully that existed before the stock market crashes and the psychotic ex and the security pat-downs and the parent-teacher meetings and the terrorism and the internet (parental controls, password changes, and screen pop-ups ‘oh my!’)…and you realize that it is a really a fun-house version of you, a version of you that cracks and shatters and falls into a lot of little pieces, a version of you that is destroyed by remembering an episode of a television show that you watched last night depicting a version of you that is satirical at best and hypocritical at the very least.

If you are me what you do is you google Wikipedia and find out who wrote that particular episode; if you are me what you do then is figure out how many of the other episodes this writer wrote (and/or directed) so that you can see how much of your life this writer stole; if you are me you marvel at the fact that this person’s name is the exact combination of your daughter’s name and your god-daughter’s name and you think to yourself “wait that can’t possibly be a coincidence” and then you think to yourself “of course it is, don’t be silly”; if you are me you then remember that you have a LinkedIn connection with that same last name and you wonder if maybe the book you wrote (that you sent to them as a review copy) fell into this writer’s hands because the two of them are maybe related and that’s how your life was stolen [‘cause every writer steals – it’s what we do]; if you are me then you are way in your head about all of this.

Because that image of me is the basis of my just-completed memoir, formed from my first journal written almost twenty-five years ago.  That image of myself, ‘comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable’, was what I was doing at that time as a highly religious and highly spiritual person.  That image of myself I don’t want to see twisted into a parody, twisted into satire – I don’t want to believe that I was making the comfortable more comfortable, that I was afflicting myself on the afflicted.  I don’t want that image to go away.

The me, then, was leading a young adult network for one of the largest Unitarian Universalist churches in the country.  It was the largest young adult network of its kind, grown over a couple of years, from a size of twenty to a size of one hundred.  The hallmark of its activities, the gathering point and the maintenance point, was the noon ‘check-in’ that happened every Sunday before we headed out to lunch.  Eerily parodied and satirized to a fare-thee-well in that binge-watchable ten-episode television show, nothing like what I remembered and visualized when I wrote my memoir.

But writing a memoir entails diving deep into the past, re-living the historical past and finding the historical truth.  It involves opening oneself up to the past and bringing it back to oneself in the now.  So maybe I’m a little too exposed, a little too open to the possibles and imaginings and what-ifs.

So, if you’re me, you go tell your wife about all this.  If you are me, you are replied to with a ‘huh’ and a relapse into marital silence on a lazy weekend morning.  If you are me, you contemplate re-watching episode 6: The secret of the Sinister Ceremony.  

But what you end up doing, if you are me, is writing a mini-essay about it.


Michael R. Hassler has written a million words of journaling (from 1993-2007), and the recently published essay chapbook My Race Problem, and a forthcoming memoir; his books are available at So & So Books of Raleigh, NC and Pauper's in Clayton, NC. His piece, “I find myself at 7:00”, won second prize in the nonfiction category of the 2015 Carteret Writers contest, won third prize in the non-fiction category of the 2015 Porter Fleming Literary Competition and first appeared online in the spring of 2015. His work has appeared in Eclectica Magazine and Easy Street.