Bill Petrocelli

An Introduction to Gina

Gina — 2011

Here’s what I think.

We’ve all been wounded by war. Some of the wounds come from big, brutal wars, but others are from smaller blood-lettings that don’t make the front pages. Sometimes the injury arrives in a personal way – in a one-on-one encounter that invades your body, your life, and your soul. But it’s always there somewhere. And if you really want to understand a person, you have to find that wound.

That’s true of me. And it’s true of the person lying next to me – who, I should note, is a first-time visitor to my bed. There are sleep noises coming from that other pillow, which are comforting to hear from someone who has had a close brush with death. Peace and sleep are what we both need at the moment. But at some point we’ll have to share our experiences and try to make sense of them. What happens then depends upon whether our memories – our war-wounds – provide us any understanding or whether they’ll just grate on each other and move us further apart.

I have another thought, but this one I’m not as sure about.

I think reality only exists in our life stories. I’m a character in your story, and you’re a character in mine. And both of us intrude upon the stories of hundreds, thousands – maybe millions – of others. Trying to isolate our own story is a mistake, because everything that makes life worth living occurs at the place where our stories intersect. People in my profession just add to the confusion. Downstairs from where I’m lying at the moment are thousands of books on the shelves of the bookstore, waiting for you to walk in and pick one up – and maybe find characters who will invite themselves into your life.

These are some of thoughts running through your head when you wake up at 4:00 in the morning and can’t go back to sleep. I’ve been lying here for a while. The wind has been battering the trees against the front window of the apartment. Now the foghorns are starting their wail, telling me that the morning fog is beginning to roll down the hills of San Francisco and head our way. My worries about the bookstore downstairs have a sharper edge at this time of night. I think about who might be walking by at that moment, wrapped up in darkness, maybe looking in the window and feeling threatened by something he sees. It’s a fragile business in a fragile world.

And it’s at times like this, when you can’t sleep, that you might as well start telling stories.