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BackStories - When, or is it Where, or is it What?

by Mary Ann Hushlak
Backstory – where to begin?  Behind us, most certainly. Yet in terms of when, when to start from? Yesterday, last week, a month ago, a year ago, several years ago, most of a life?  Or from a particular event?  A particular something?  Or a very specific place? Even as we say the word, our heads raise and tilt ever so slightly backwards.
In fiction, backstory is about how a character gets to be like that, or does that, whatever the that of the story is. In real life, it’s more how each of us can be fathomed, can be understood, can be contextualized, can be tracked, how our bodily reactions and inner thoughts penetrate our actions, our gestures, our tone -  right now, in this moment.   
Backstory is of course about time, time past, what is behind us and what we carry with us. Remnants, vestiges of habits, rituals, mementos as much as memories, crucial moments, scars, wounds, phobias and history. All of the remnants, through time and, also, through space. Like a territory. Like a hinterland. Our territory.  Our hinterland.
At the same time, backstory is about what can’t be safely assumed.  If it can be taken as given, well, that’s just general life then.  Not the specific markers of what I do (or might do) or who I am, an individual; what we each do (or might do) and are, as individuals.  In society, yes. In cultures, of course. Nevertheless, the defining quality of a backstory is that it’s unique.  And what’s more it is never complete, set or finished. Not fixed, stuck, static or passive but glimpsed in motion. Jostling, in flux, becoming, a kind of plasticity, always a potentiality, always unfinalized with an array of voices interacting in different ways at different times. 
What a world backstory is – versions and inversions of time and spatiality,  things, memories and all in constant motion.  In BackStories we invert the face to face.  Instead of the face as our mainstay source with a bit of peeking sideways and  beyond into the hinterland, the turning around brings background into the foreground.  Or strands of it.
Two women.
A bar stool.  A park bench. An apartment.
Past and present, viewed from behind. 

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