I am sick of Hamlet (I wrote to a friend, another novelist). I want to write about a woman who abandons her car in the middle of the Arizona desert and walks along the road wearing heels and a tight sleeveless blue dress and big sunglasses as she smokes a cigarette and in her handbag with the cigarettes and lighter there's something else, something dangerous--not necessarily a gun--and there's someone waiting for her to show up in the car somewhere, maybe Phoenix or maybe elsewhere, but she's not going to ever show up even though there's nothing wrong with the car; she's tired of driving and she doesn't want to meet whoever is waiting for her (it's some man, of course); she's just going to walk and she doesn't want anyone to stop and offer her a ride though men will stop and offer her rides, of course, because she's pretty and she's wearing that blue dress which is silvery gray when the sun hits it just right, the shimmering sway of her walk visible for a mile down the highway.
It took me almost a year to realize that the woman I was writing my friend about is my aunt Mona, and that what I wanted was to tell the story of Mona being courted by the man who became her first husband, Roberto. The Arizona desert is not part of Mona's story, nor I think is the abandoned car at the side of the highway. Aunt Mona is no longer available to confirm or deny the specifics of the tale, but I'm certain she was never in Arizona and more importantly that she never owned a tight shiny dress of blue silk that turned silver in the sun. I remember my aunt wearing white cotton blouses that buttoned up the front to high forbidding collars, and full skirts in drab grays, probably always of wool no matter the weather. She was a thin, nervous woman but she never perspired even on the hottest days of the year. I am making that up; I only saw Aunt Mona during the fall and winter, during the holiday season. In the summer she may have worn a bikini and shone with sweat, sitting on the back steps of that hideous two-story rental house, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer from cans. It's possible, for there is of course a great deal I don't know about most of the people I know. The Mona I remember forever wore her hair yanked back hard into a severe and unflattering ponytail. She did smoke cigarettes. That's something I'm sure I remember. Other details will be more of a problem, for I am no longer young, Mona is gone and my memory has never been very accurate. My imagination has always had a stronger grip on me than has any fidelity to facts, and I am prone to believe amusing and colorful stories that never actually happened. For example, ever since I wrote that letter to my friend about a possible story (I was writing a book about misreadings of Shakespeare at the time), I've begun to believe that Aunt Mona actually did abandon a car on an Arizona roadside and was, back in 1950 or so, quite the looker in her fashionable clothes. This imagined Mona O'Hurleighy has so caught my attention that she is forever standing between me and the embittered, thrice-divorced Mona O'Hurleighy I actually knew. I will press on anyway.