I learned a hard lesson when I was in seventh grade and a teacher caught me passing notes with my friend, Samantha. Sammy and I had devised a code and we communicated without words. We drew pictures. I admit that I still occasionally do this today. I pass out thank you cards with a hand drawn picture of a tank and a sheep on it. (Tank ewe) There’s a piece of my thirteen year old self that still thinks that drawn pictures are clever.
Unfortunately, Sammy and I were decidedly not clever in Mrs. Murdock’s English class when Sammy dropped my note and Mrs. Murdock picked it up, read it and immediately left the room.
I loved Mrs. Murdock and until that moment, I had thought she liked me, so as soon as class was over I approached her, apologized and asked for my note back.
“It was so cute, I had to share it,” she told me, looking at me with innocent eyes while lying through her teeth.
Sammy and I spent the lunch hour debating on whether or not Mrs. Murdock had been able to break our code. We convinced ourselves that she hadn’t and we had no reason to fear. But looking back I know we were wrong because a few hours later, Leslie, a girl from our class and the subject of our note, disappeared and never returned. I don’t know if what I had written/drawn was the reason Leslie was expelled from school and later sent to juvie hall, but I was grateful that I wasn’t beaten to a pulp by Leslie or her friends seeking retribution. (A fear that Sammy and I carried around for a number of weeks.)
We were stupid to think Mrs. Murdock hadn’t been able to read our code and even stupider to write something down without thinking through the consequences. (Although I’m sure Leslie deserved whatever punishment the Arlington School district dished out.)
Art and our children are our only means of immortality. If we create nothing, nothing is what’s left after we’re gone. If we create something meaningful, it will last and people will be talking about it for much longer than a lunch hour. Maybe our children and our grandchildren will be talking about it, and therefore us, after we’re no longer around to defend or explain ourselves and what we had made.
Which makes me wonder—what will E.L James’s children or grandchildren have to say about her books? Because, once something has been written down, it can’t be taken back. There aren’t enough erasers in the world to wipe out that grey and is that really how she wants to be remembered? I’m sure James is a decent person and in her hopefully long and wealthy life, she’ll accomplish many things, but the truth is, in the (rear) end, unless she does something amazingly spectacular, she’s going to be remembered and immortalized by Fifty Shades of Grey.