When I was editor of the literary magazine at school Stacy submitted a story about a girl who stabs another girl with an icicle in the ladies’ room, then puts it under hot water in the sink and, voila, no more murder weapon. In one way it was original, because she’d come up with the idea herself, but in another way it wasn’t, because a lot of other people had thought of the same idea before her. We accepted it because, like everything else she did, it was very well done, and also simply because she was Stacy, and no one would dream of rejecting Stacy. Eventually, however, she withdrew it, maybe because she realized it was hackneyed, or maybe because she didn’t want to publish a story that showed she’d given serious thought to stabbing a girl in the ladies’ room.
But I’ve never been able to get that icicle out of my mind – it was such a perfect objective correlative for Stacy herself, long and slim and utterly cool, if not downright cold. Since she was our star swimmer, the image of her as an icicle slicing through the water was nothing short of irresistible.
The piece she submitted in its place was much better and also centered around water. It was the stark, limpid story of a boy who comes to to find himself floating in a life vest in the middle of the ocean, overwhelmed by the enormity of the starry, nighttime sky as he gradually recollects the sea voyage, storm and shipwreck that have stranded him there, with the final, strangely comforting realization that he’s going to die, completely alone with no one else in sight. With the exception of a few minor discordant clanks from colliding mixed metaphors, it’s remarkably straightforward, free of the plot twists and sentimental histrionics the rest of us were so fond of. What comes through most powerfully is the total isolation of the boy, uprooted, unmoored and ultimately doomed by disaster. It was a surprising thing to be the product of a girl so popular and accomplished, but perhaps less so when you thought about it – it couldn’t have been easy to be so clearly superior, head and shoulders above her peers both athletically and socially, the one person who never lost a race or pined for a classmate, marooned among us, chafing to get out into the wider world and truly test herself.
She graduated a year early, went to a really good college, and what she accomplished in the wider world was noteworthy enough, if not exactly what any of us, Stacy included, would have predicted. But that’s another story…