How Soon is Now?
After having breakfast with my parents yesterday, Mom and I stepped into the pharmacy next door. I needed a toothbrush and toothpaste. Mine were still stuffed in the Ziploc baggie I took to New York last weekend in lieu of my toiletry bag.
I was strolling through the greeting cards, when my mom joined me. I already had a handful gathered in the crook of my elbow. Snickering, she handed one over. “Should I buy this for you now or later?” On the front was a wide-eyed cat. Inside the card read “That awkward moment when you realize your mom was right about everything.”
“Umm, too soon, Mom. Too soon.”
I have a feeling I’ll be seeing that card again, and I might not be the only one who gets it.
Now “everything” might be a little superlative, but I’ve had many moments hearing the same words come out of my mouth that my parents, and my many teachers/mentors, once uttered to me…as I rolled my eyes. I shiver every time this cryptic déjà vu makes an appearance.
It’s the universe having a giant laugh.
I woke up at 3 am yesterday morning to catch my 6 am flight to Houston. This usually is in the realm of normal occurrence, but being so tired this past week has led to weird dreams and painful start times as a result.
Why is it the more tired you are sometimes, the worse you sleep?
I woke up one morning startled. I dreamt Russ and I had been mugged. We were walking together in a park on a beautiful day. It wasn’t dusk yet, but the sun was casting sharp and dramatic shadows as it headed west. We passed a small group of kids hanging out around a park bench. One caught my eye. He watched us walk past for too long.
Abruptly he ran in front of us and stopped short. He pulled a small, rusty revolver out of his pocket. His hand shaking, he pointed the gun at Russ. Looking him dead in the eye, he said flatly, “Give me your money.” Russ stood there in disbelief. No one moved. His friends had gone quiet by the park bench. I thought to myself, “He’s never done this before. He’s nervous.” I watched his hand still shaking, finger poised on the trigger.
I threw my bag at him.
I said, “Here. Take it.”
He caught it with both of his hands. He looked down in disbelief before turning his gaze back to us. Like a deer spooked by a bicycle whizzing past, he turned on his heel and took off. They all did.
I wanted to throw-up.
I told Russ about my dream. I said, “And you know what? After I got over my sense of relief, I was super pissed with myself because I had everything in my bag—all of my credit cards, $100 in cash, and all of my identification cards. I never carry everything. I never carry cash. I had meant to pare my bag down like I always do, but didn’t. They got everything.”
This made Russ laugh because he knows how diligent I am about carrying the minimum around the city. Usually my bag consists of one credit card and an ID. Sometimes I have a metro card as well, but that’s it. I leave as much of my string safe, back at the barn, as possible.
The flight to Houston was packed. Having purchased my ticket from Orbitz, I was relegated to a middle seat.
It was still better than any seat on Spirit Air.
The guy in the aisle seat was already fast asleep when I arrived at our row. I had to prod him awake. When he opened his eyes, they were glassy and crisscrossed red. I thought to myself, Well, shit. I’ll have whatever he’s having, please.
He sat back down and immediately went back to sleep before I had my seat belt buckled. It didn’t take long for his thickness to slowly pour over the armrest into my seat. Holding my coffee cup in one hand, I folded into myself a little more. When sitting in the little square of an airplane seat, I have often pondered how weird it is to be stuck so close to a complete stranger.
The only thing weirder is when one of their body parts touches yours, even an innocuous one, even unintentionally.
A few minutes after takeoff, I dozed off myself. I dreamt my coffee cup fell to the floor and spilled everywhere. I woke with a jump. My seat was wet. Looking down I saw my coffee cup lying on the carpet next to my other neighbor’s feet. Luckily, it more than half empty when I dropped it. I was glad I wore camo sweats instead of my jeans.
The man slept for the entire three hours without pause. Tired of shrinking myself into a tight hug, I stuck the point of my elbow into his fleshy arm. He registered the draw without acknowledgment. His arm retreated closer to its keeper.
More room negotiated, I still couldn’t find sleep for the rest of the flight. I finished On Writing by Stephen King and watched crappy TV without ear buds for the remaining hour. This is time’s biggest joke on humankind—passing too quickly when you’re having fun, and too slowly when you’re not.
“Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”
—Stephen King, On Writing
If that isn’t an accurate metaphor for my life, I don’t know what is.
I’m still just shoveling shit.
I’ve moved on to reading one of my favorites, Cormac McCarthy. The book is Suttree. What separates Cormac, in my opinion, is his use of language. His novels are hundreds of pages of beautiful words and sentences, strung together like a smooth pearl necklace.
It blows my mind every time.
Reading Cormac, and reading authors’ books about their own writing and process, such as Stephen King and Anne Lamott, really brings home how hard the craft is. I knew this already, but there is a difference between realizing it intellectually and feeling the burn in your own work.
Lately, it’s all been shit. I am brushing up against the edge of my perfectionism. It has the uncanny ability to leave me feeling naked, exposed, and all wrong, like my words are nothing more than random body parts assembled incorrectly.
What in God’s name is that??
I’m still shoveling the shit though.
My writing is about the journey, stretching limits and reaching beyond borders, and being okay with the fact it will sometimes suck—that I will sometimes suck— despite my efforts, and knowing I have a long way to go, and I may never get there.
Wherever “there” is.
Fucking déjà vu.
S.K.: I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”
Fear and perfection.
Two sides of the same coin.
I prod my pointy elbow into its fleshy side.