image: Stepwell (India) : Andrea Kirby
I sit at the side of the well of myself, finding my throat suddenly dry with a comic I've been drawing about identity. Earlier this week, my Grandfather was unexpectedly hospitalized from a stroke that destroyed his speech and spatial centers. He was highly sedated after it happened. He passed away yesterday without regaining the ability. The idea of him, voiceless and afraid, sits in the middle of the well, affecting the contents. He is someone whose identity I regret to have known primarily through the stories of others.
I struggle with knowing this. The story I've chosen to write for myself is often at odds with the plotline that my family expects in terms of gender, sexuality, familial responsibility, religion, and success. I'm quite happy with my character development, but I still get blindsided at times when I realize that I either haven't articulated those paragraphs in my life well enough for my family to acknowledge them, or, possibly, that my family simply ignores them for the sake of their own story. A large part behind writing this comic has been an attempt to claim my own story in hard lines and ink, to make it valid and real and unavoidable by making it written, to be heard by speaking in my own voice.
The fear of suffering a sudden and similar devastation as my Grandfather - the idea that who I am might be heard only through another's voice, that memory might be fiction, that the idea of me might exist solely as the stories of others: inaccurate, "idealized," and flawed - bothers me in a deep way. My Grandfather stares at me from across the well. I must get back to work.