Where I Write...
It is not romantic, where I write.
It is sad and small and pathetic and cramped.
I am squeezed into the spaces between commercial breaks or couch cushions or stop lights. I am shifted into the calms before the temper-tantrum storms. I am a single mother. I sew while they play and I write while they sleep and I'll sleep when I'm dead. If I can.
My first novel is still in a box in my mother's basement. It was line after incomprehensible line of scribbles and squiggles in neat rows on notebook paper. There were at least six pages, front and back, last time she pulled the worn pages out of storage to show me. She'd smooth the wrinkled sheets and pick at the frayed edges torn from their spirals and smile softly, confiding that she'd always saved them so that she'd be able to pull them out when I was a famous writer some day, so that she'd be able to say she owned my first manuscript.
And the weight of that is enough to pull me under most days, even now, as my ball point pen scritches on the back of a napkin from the Subway around the corner. I'm 32 minutes into my lunch break, curled up and huddled against the cold stone of the War Memorial that overlooks University Park. I watch people scurry around on their errands abstractly... scritch..scritch... scritch.
I was a student of writing for so long that I'm not sure I know how to be anything else most days; calmly parroting out the ideas of others, constantly looking over my shoulder, patiently waiting to be called out as a fraud. But there is the pulse inside me that says "write". It drums inside my skull, like holiday music in an Old Navy. It beats screaming tattoos on the backs of my eyeballs when I am hungover of a Sunday from staring too long at the out-of-focus mirrored bottom of the bottle of so much cheap wine. I can feel it thrum through my veins. It leaks out of the cracked and magled cuticles of the fingernails I nibble when I should not...when the words won't come.
There is no worse feeling than your entire body telling you to write and yet holding you back from it all at once. At cross purposes. Again.
I write in notebooks and moleskins and napkin-backs and paper placemats from Italian restaurants embossed with the boot of Italy on it... I treasure the All-Weather Field Book Mr. Handsome once gifted me. I rub the smooth, treated pages absently and dogear them back and forth, back and forth, nervously worrying over The Munchkins or my bank account or my lack of a five year plan. I think back to the summer I graduated college, all of the friends packing up, moving to big cities, small towns, new zip codes, new jobs writing, editing, doing journalistic things, following photographic pursuits and I burned with jealousy and a small red rage and a balloon of hope all at once on the day I held the pregnancy test from numb fingers, watching my now ex-husband slide down the expanse of the wall outside the bathroom in my tiny-big apartment looking lost. And then I blinked and we were married. Then Parents. Then Parents again. Then Not-parents while I gulped and dry-heaved on the couch, not wanting to be touched, not wanting to wake from the numbness for days. And then, miraculously, Parents again...even though that year's joys will forever be eclipsed by the blur that was Not Enough and Moving Out and I Lied on the Altar and struggling, each day, each morning just to remember to breathe, open your eyes, pick up the baby, feed the baby, feed the children, dress the children, function if not eat; survive if not quite live.
And this sad little piece echoes so perfectly me right now. Stumbling along, in fits and starts, not sure where it's headed other than forward. The destination not seeming so important right now as the forward motion it takes to get pointed in the right direction.
I write in the in-between spaces. In the empty spaces. Trying desperately to fill them.