I didn't write 20 lines yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that.
It's stupid how this actually bothers me. Like there aren't actual tragedies to be worried about and responding to in meaningful ways.
So I guess — I have no idea what's possessing me, or where I'm getting this energy — I'm going to try to make up the lines here, now, but I don't want to deal with the hassle of counting so I'm just going to write. Which is the point, really, right?
It's snowing. Again. Meanwhile, my dad sent me a video of the largest flock of ibises I've ever seen not giving AF as he walked toward them and then made his way into and amongst them. I sent him a video of all the snow that's fallen already since I tried to shovel it all away only like an hour ago. I need to book a flight. Big white birds that DGAF and Dad and sunshine and my tree are all calling.
I'll be honest — for about twenty minutes, I considered walking away from this writing thing and I looked into career opps with the CIA. Listings are here. Why the CIA? I have no idea. Seriously, it makes no sense to me at all why that's a thing I would look into in the chaos of this "what am I doing with my life" moment. I think I ended up there after Googling: "how to run for local government" and realizing I have zero interest in running for local government because that's just not me. If for no other reason but that it takes me like twenty years to finally realize that aha! moment when I can say: Oh! Yeah, that's what I should've said! I'm still trying to figure out what I should've said that day in pre-school when Cowboy sneezed all over me.
So then I think I was like, Oh, but, hey! I could sit at a computer and analyze the crap out of stuff all day long! And I really do miss living in the DC area, and then I told myself that maybe working in government is bigger than working with or for any single administration, right? So then I saw I actually have the min. qualifications for a few different jobs and then I probably closed my laptop and went and made soup and grumbled about how I'm old and shoveling snow is liable to give me a heart attack in my middle age but then decided who cares anyway and wouldn't that be a fitting way to go and so shoveled a path for the dog to go pee and then came back inside and forgot all about all of that until just now.
I mean, I also spent like three hours tumbling down the Grimm wiki rabbit hole because I was pretty thrilled with the ending of season 4 and then when she returned in season 5 I was like, What? Really? No! Whatever, though. She's much better as a bot than she ever was as a human, right? Except she's not a bot. They should've just written her to be a bot, and then revealed that she's always been a bot and that that's why she always seemed like a bot.
Yeah, so, how else have I distracted myself?
I repotted some plants. I bought plant stands. I've been decluttering, one day at a time. I moved my desktop from one room to another and tried it there for like two hours before I moved it back. I moved the couch. I put it back. I got real curtain rods and installed them and rehung my curtains instead of using those tension rod things.
Let's see, I also went to AntiGravity for the first time in maybe over a year? It was good. I thought I'd cry because I always cry at AntiGravity when I've got all kinds of pent-up tension trying to get out, but I didn't. Which was surprising. I'm not overthinking it though. I just re-booked my classes for next week. Also, I tried "Cocooning" for the first time and it was rad. I fell asleep. It's the best sleep I've had in as long as I can remember — since my last deep-tissue massage, maybe two or three years ago, after which I came home, took a hot bath, went to bed, and passed out for like a weekend.
All of this is because I really don't know: what is the point of living, of claiming to be a writer, if I'm not, actually, writing? The problem is: WTF do I write about now? There was a time, right?, when a writer could write about the fucking flowers and be like, Hey, I wrote a story! About flowers! And it matters because I wrote it! But you know what? It doesn't matter and it never did! And nobody cares! And nobody should! And shouldn't writing be about shit that matters?
But maybe, also, no.
Here's a story about flowers that I wrote. It used to be online at Titular. I miss Titular, and those days, and Jimmy, and everything but anyway, here it is:
The young think themselves longer lasting than they are. Who are we to tell them otherwise? Grandma Rose, who has been here longer than anyone, wants always to tell them otherwise. Her petals have fallen and her stem stoops, but she bids them close, and, “During the time of the pollinators,” she says, “I was the most sought after blossom in any garden in all the land.” The baby’s breath surrounding her huddle in and try to share their warmth while she goes on, but she falls asleep, her tiny head back and to the side. I shush the children to sleep, and the others follow their lead. Only my husband and I are awake. He has not spoken since the florist removed us from his backyard. Too much effort to uproot us, the florist snipped us with his shears and bunched us with a handful of tulips and the last of the daffodils — our kind, other dying narcissus like us — and fluffed us in with a family of some kind of ferns. In the cold dark, my husband weeps. The sound gives the children nightmares. They tremble, whimper in their slumber. The others — daisies and irises and lilies — bend as far away from him as their plastic buckets will allow. “I can’t take much more of this,” I whisper. “Why won’t you talk to me?” Silence. Silence all night long. In the morning, Grandma Rose lies beneath us like a carpet of blood-red tears, stained with the cold mist that give-us-this-day-our-daily-shower wakes us.
After the children have been calmed, made to understand that Grandma Rose’s falling apart is natural, reassured that it will happen to them too, one day, but not anytime soon, I try again: “Why won’t you talk to me?” All around us the children recite riddles, play memory games, make up rhymes and ask a million questions a minute. My husband gathers his petals closer around his face, burying me out, and turns away. “I miss the moon,” I say, “the way it lights up the cold dark night. I’m tired of cold dark nights. I feel like I’m going crazy. Do you miss it, too?” I ask. Not even so much as a nod. I give up, for now. The children want a story, are tired of making up their own. They are still frightened of Grandma Rose’s remains and refuse to look her way. The baby’s breath sigh. They have little patience for the rest of us. They are filler, after all. I look to the orchids, hanging from small wooden baskets above, in a separate glass case where it is much warmer. “Why won’t you let the children play basketball with your big bulbous pockets?” I want to ask, but don’t. The orchids are in their own world, have their own preoccupations to attend. So I tell the children the only story I’m willing to share, and it begins with, “I thought I might die, it was so cold,” and ends with, “That’s how I got this tear here, and why the edges of my petals are frayed. We are warriors. We may be signs of spring, but that’s the thing with spring — it’s still partly winter, and it can be a long way till summer.”
“What’s summer?” the children want to know.
"Oh, children,” I say, suddenly tired. “Those are stories for another day.” That night, my husband’s leaves caress the ticklish spot on my stem, but still he does not speak. In the morning, the children, two orchids, and an iris are gone, and Grandma Rose’s remains have been removed.
Another cold dark moonless night. “I remember how we met,” I say. “We met under the sun on a hot April afternoon when the shadow of the flower shop began its slow drift in the other direction. “We were married when a small white butterfly flitted first on you, dusted its wings all over with your yellow, then dipped down on me, wings flapping, showering me with his pollen.
“I remember the wasps.
“I remember the robin.
“I remember blue jays and morning doves and wrens.
“I remember white clouds I thought I could wade through like water.
My husband leans in close, spreads open his petals, and whispers, “Look.”
Nestled inside is a tiny ladybug, either sleeping or dead.
I just searched my Dropbox for this story, because I thought it would be terrible. And maybe it is. (Seriously. Because I really am conflicted. What is a writer to write about, today, now? I mean it. What is the point?) But it's also me, doing what I tend to do in my writing, which is: working through all of my own issues with death and dying, trying to find beauty or some reason to go on in the midst of so much destruction and chaos and loss. Here's another thing I wrote about flowers:
My house is filled with flowers. The walls are bare. These things are true and sad. A painter used to live here. Lives here still but it is complicated. Tonight I am alone but for the flowers she left for me to discover in the kitchen, the living room, office, bathroom. The years we were together she thought I did not like flowers. I am unsure why she ever came to this conclusion. In this month after our breakup we have discovered startling information about each other. We are like new people. Tonight the painter is in Philadelphia. Tomorrow she will be in New Jersey. There will be a show. Tonight I am at my desk where I will write for the first time in many months while listening to music. I will drink seltzer water and check my phone. I will smoke cigarettes in the rain. Unable to sleep, I will try to read. I will sit uncomfortably while my fingers remember what it feels like to touch these keys. I will trim my nails because it is difficult to type when they are too long. When I do not write, my nails grow long. My nails are a reminder of difficult times. My fingers worry over their own disuse. My hands do not know what to do. My wrists feel tight. My forearms rest heavy. My elbows are bony knobs on this desk. My shoulders hunch. My neck hurts. My throat hurts. My eyes hurt. I read these words and continue to write. I go on writing because what else is there to do but think about these flowers, the painter who put them here, and what used to be our walls.
This was published in Requited Journal, but I just looked and couldn't find it in their archives. That's the thing with online pubs. Journals fold, or editors leave, or new journals come along and claim old journals' names, and everywhere all the time archives disappear, and then you're like: Is it still a publication? Did I actually publish this or was it all a dream? If the story or poem or essay or whatever was actually any good, should I try to rework it?
After Cat Person, when I remembered how I was taught, as a very young writer, that "good short stories" aren't about college-aged girls "because college girls aren't interesting" or "complicated enough to carry the weight of a good short story," I went back into my old files and looked for a story I wrote called "Three's Your Limit," about a girl named Vicki. It was first published online at Word Riot. It's not online anymore. But I reread it. It's too long, overly tedious at times, a bit precious in other places, and yet, it's about a college-aged young woman who is tired of all the shit and she's angry at the world and everyone around her, and she chooses all the wrong people to be in her life, and then someone good comes along, and she botches it because everything else has always been botched and she doesn't know anything but a life of botch, and the story ends with her lying in a puddle of peppermint schnapps-scented vomit, with one roller skate wheel spinning in her face, and the 9-1-1 operator on the other end of the line repeatedly asking, "What is your emergency?" and she's unable to answer because isn't it all, always, an emergency and yet at the same time isn't her own emergency so pathetically unimportant in the grand scheme of real emergencies that Jesus, what a fraud!, and who cares anyway.
Listen. College girls are interesting. Their lives are complicated enough to carry the weight of a "good short story," whatever that means.
Like this even needs saying.
If we've learned nothing this past week, I hope we've learned that high school-aged children are demanding our attention, in control of their own narratives and this nation's, and they will be heard.
Maybe the real reason I'm not walking away from this writing thing is because, actually, it's the teaching part of it that I can't walk away from. I keep wanting to help my students find their many voices, to help them find the ways to tell all their stories. I read them. I listen. I don't stop.