Story, "Faith Keeps the Heart Focused," at The Q&A Queerzine
|Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash|
I have an epistolary story, "Faith Keeps the Heart Focused," at the Q&A Queerzine. It came out of my interest in the 1918 pandemic, and I began writing this story in the spring of 2018, long before COVID-19. I happened upon a letter in an archive written by a nurse to her friend, another nurse, and thought it would be an interesting angle to document an unrealized romantic relationship between two women. The epistolary form, or letters, are interesting for queer people because they are physical, concrete declarations to another person, whether romantic or platonic, and yet for fear for most of the twentieth century of being outed, queer people could never actually use the form except with heavily coded language or allusions, almost negating the absoluteness of the form.
As a queer person, I still find myself speaking in code, in allusions. There're the top words, the literal meaning of what I'm saying, and there's the allusion, the understory. Are you picking up what I'm putting down? What I'm really saying? I often wonder if straight people speak the same way, or whether the word is always the word is always the word. Just like their letters, if they still write them.
Anyway, I'm excited that this story has a home.
From: Margaret O____,
September 1924, Washington, DC, NE To: Rebecca G___, St. Louis, Mo Dear Rebecca, I am hoping you are the nurse who I worked with at the Officers’ barracks at Camp Humphreys, Virginia, early October 1918. I do not know if you remember me, although I don’t know how any of us can forget those weeks! Anyway, this is the address I took with me back to Washington, and I always thought, if I survived, I would write you and see whether you made it also. I thank the Lord I was spared, although I feel awful for all those soldiers, women, and children who got the Flu. I hope you were lucky also. I think of our time fondly (although I suppose that is awful to say), and I hope that you are well. Sincerely, Your friend Margaret (Maggie) P.S., I had red hair and the freckles on my back. You said my freckles looked like spilt cinnamon.