This is the story of a girl about to embark on a journey across the country. The beautiful sunny day of the photograph is misleading, for in a few hours the whole city will be rubble and flames. It is the start of World War III, and she has just received information that the place she has been staying is no longer safe: it will be bombed in the morning, and she has to get out now. She has nothing but an old van she found abandoned on the side of the road and the twenty cans of Chef Boyardee ravioli sitting in the backseat. She prays that she will be able to find another safe place to stay – if there are any safe places left.
That isn’t the real story behind this picture. I took this picture at the end of the summer before coming to college as a freshman of one of my best friends from high school and her van (cleverly named Van-essa). We were sitting around talking about how our lives were going to change, the things we would leave behind and the new things that would take their place. My friend decided that she wanted to walk around her neighborhood, taking pictures of all the things she was going to miss when she left to go to college. There are pictures of her sitting in her favorite trees, standing next to signs, and walking on the sidewalk. It was a day full of nostalgia, and I remember it as the day it really hit me that I was leaving home to go to a place where I didn’t know anyone and I would have a lot more responsibilities, and I would never be as close to my high school friends or anything related to my home ever again. The photographs that I took for my friend would always help her remember where she came from, but they would never be able to really bring it back to her the way it was that day.
Although Perec’s memoir is much more masterfully done, what I am trying to do with these two stories is to imitate the structure of W. In an introductory note to W, Perec explains why he uses the two alternating texts: “[the two stories] are inextricably bound up with each other…as though it was only their coming together, the distant light they cast on each other, that could make apparent what is never quite said in one, never quite said in the other, but said only in their fragile overlapping.” The real memories that Perec shares in his memoir give the details of his living situation and different events that happen in his life, but it is only through the simultaneous telling of the story of W that the reader can get a sense of the emotions that went with the childhood. This is what I tried to do in my two stories, although the connection between the two is obvious. The two stories complement each other, and through the fake story at the beginning I can tell you how it felt to leave home, like leaving one safe place and helplessly hoping to find another.