The chapter on which I am working right now has a lot of holes dealing, as it does, with the lives of enslaved women. As I write around the holes, offering educated suggestions for what might fill them, I feel the tug of fiction. Imagining these options, their lives, I want to flesh out scenes for which I do have documentation, enter into a voice for the women, allow them to express some emotion or opinion on the circumstances of the scene.Those are places that, as a historian, I have no right to venture. As a novelist, I could.
Alas, that is not this book; and perhaps this book will inspire someone to write that novel (as long as they write it well).
Still, I see a woman adjust her headwrap and call to a small boy to take a long walk. I see her lift him on the road, angry that he asks, angry that she must take him on this walk, angry that she must make this walk over and over and over. I see her lift that boy because this is the last time she will hold him, the last kindness she can give him, the last time he may ever know a touch that assumes he is human. I see her hide what she knows as she pushes him toward the other children. I hear her lie to him that she will be right back. I see her peek through a window to make sure he is distracted, then slip back along the road, steeled between memory and forgetting.