Sometimes, the married part of my past feels like a fictional tale. It’s a story I’ve told so many times that it has become a rote recital.
I visited a friend at his bar tonight, and while speaking of my ex, without thinking, held up my fingers to place virtual quotation marks around his name. It felt natural. Remember “Dagwood”? I took that trip with “Dagwood.”
I would love to laugh this off and move along, but I feel like I’m having trouble processing my past in a healthy manner. It feels as if my mind is a computer that is unable to work with a string of code that represents a whole decade of my life. Of course. That decade does not follow any rational rules. Try to explain the concept of denial to a young child. Hell, I’d like to read a good rationale for taking a long car trip with a person who despises you. When you’re NOT IN the story, it’s a weird fiction. But when you’re IN it…it’s your Bible, your Koran, your Torah; and you must martyr yourself for this Very Important Story.
Maybe your heart is a lonely hunter. or something more poetic. Mine is a pathetic Valentine, written on faded construction paper, delivered by a pathetic Cupid, played by a sloppily-diapered Ernest Borgnine. Or at least it was at one point in time. When was that? Seven years ago? It’s so strange to think about now.
Time passes. Old wounds heal, and we find love again. Life is weird this way.
I went to the library today and browsed the “How to Write a ___” books before it occurred to me: I know how to write. I need to learn to work. Discipline is needed. I need to become my own taskmaster, and stop finding excuses to do anything else but the thing I want to do.
I was reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast this weekend. It’s an old favorite with a lot of juicy stories about artists and writers living in Paris in the twenties. But it also provided a window into how Hemingway worked. He didn’t merely sit in cafes, drink himself into oblivion, and then go home and write. He wrote all day, often in his studio apartment until his creative juices were almost — but not quite — completely spent. Then and only then would he drink himself into oblivion. He claimed the drinking kept him from thinking about the writing that lay ahead. The booze kept him focused on the present.
I’d like to have that kind of focus and discipline. It’s what I need. To sit and write, edit each draft, get the work into a state that feels satisfactory, and then stop myself. Put the writing down and do something else. Maybe not heavy drinking. We all know how that worked out for Hemingway.
It’s the exact opposite of what I do, which is to:
- Think about the writing for many hours while doing anything but write.
- Remind myself that I’m a delusional idiot who doesn’t have what it takes to write a brochure for compression stockings, nevermind a story that people want to hear.
- Finally sit down to write, and then freeze in terror.
Stuck. Where is my Paris? I can’t imagine it’s easy to be a starving artist in Paris these days. Where do the expats go? Is it warm there? Do they have wi-fi?
Please don’t tell me it’s Detroit.
“I’m tired of talking about bravely overcoming deafness and blindness all the time. Stop tapping shit on my palm, and leave me to my day-drinking. Seriously. Fuck right off, Annie Sullivan.”
~Helen Keller, probably.
The Camry is in the shop until tomorrow morning, getting some long-overdue maintenance work done. So I’m stranded in Somerville for the night. I’m taking the opportunity to rest and maybe write a little. I need to get my writing muscles working again. I’ve become the intellectual equivalent of Alfalfa on Little Rascals, so I must pump iron.
Tomorrow, I’ll drive to Max’s place, and we’ll go on a Newport trip. We’ve been checking out the mansions – one or two each weekend for the last two weeks. The architecture is often interesting, but some of the interior design is a bit too busy for me. Also, the children’s nurseries with their stiff, scary dolls sitting awkwardly in tiny chairs set off many dormant creep-out alarm bells in my mind. It’s as if the dolls are whispering to me. Where are the children? Who murdered little Ronald? Why did little Ronald have to die, mother?
So, there’s that. Then a Tom Stoppard play on Sunday, because we are cultured. I took Monday as a personal day, and I did not give a reason, because – hey – it’s personal.The truth is that I’m just planning on being out late in Providence and don’t want to rush home. But if anyone does ask me, I’ll stammer and turn red to make that person feel sorry for asking. Maybe force them to assume I have an embarrassing condition like an ass rash or I need to visit the boobs doctor.
Theory: Every once in a while, your life needs to blow up.
My car may or may not have died tonight. It seems to be alive at the moment, but it may have suffered a serious palpitation or stroke or other serious event that signifies an impending death.
I was almost home. Less than a mile. Zooming along, singing along to my Prince CD.
YOU. I would DIE 4 U.
And the Camry answered. Without a sound or a warning. I stopped at a red light, and felt the brake pressure change. Everything jammed. The dash lit up: Battery light, Oil light, and Check Engine light. Hello, old friends. I’ve never seen you all at the same time.
On my good list: The AAA operators, the guy who came to tow my car to my house, and the state policeman who waited behind my car while I crossed the McGrath Highway to the local Burger King to use the restroom.
PEE. I would DIE 2 P.
Naughty list: The two women working at Burger King who decided to close 20 minutes early, and would not let me in to use the restroom. I wasn’t planning on ever buying a Whopper in this lifetime, but I must now cast bad juju at you and all of your establishments from this day forward. I hope the cattle rise up and trample all over your kingdom, fuckers. Thanks for nothing. May you be spend a lonely evening crying into your work smock, watching a cardboard crown circle a toilet bowl endlessly like a cheap metaphor for whatever dreams you may have had in this sad, finite life.
Not how I wanted my evening to go, but I’m at peace with it. Sometimes life needs to shake you up, challenge you. Whatever happens with the car, I’ll handle it. Life will be challenging, and then I’ll figure it out.
Mike Pence. If you were to make up a name for a governor who was so goddamned no-nonsense, he looked like this hair was tattooed on for the sake of efficiency, you might just land on the name “Mike Pence.”
Mike Pence. A name you can trust, without a bunch of unnecessary vowels and syllables. All-American, like shitty reality shows, shitty sitcoms, and shit beer.
Our country needs a vice president with a name that hits hard, but with a thud like a blunt object. You want businesses to treat gays with the respect that the constitution and the Supreme Court affords them? Well, here’s a stack of bibles for ya, bucko. Enjoy the THUD of GOD. How do you like that? Mike Pence don’t play around, no sir.
We are not a nation of losers looking for handouts. Mike Pence! So all of you slow elderly losers, and smelly unemployed losers, and undateable disabled losers can go blow it out your loser a-holes. OK? OK!
The world seems mad at the moment. It seems as if every coalition formed over the last century is in danger of disintegrating. Up is down. Black is white. The worst of 80s fashion is back, and Donald Trump is a serious presidential candidate. It feels as if we’re all walking around in a shared fugue state, just lumbering forward into a pointless future, pointlessly.
None of this is new. History is rife with tales of calamity. We’re overdue for some major worldwide catastrophe.
At least it won’t be boring. I’m already on the edge of my seat.