letting the days go by.

13 April 2008

writers writing about what they write about when they write.

oh you wouldn’t want an angel watching over /surprise, surprise they wouldn’t wannna watch / another uninnocent, elegant fall into the unmagnificent lives of adults. - The National, "Mistaken for Strangers"

it's been a long time since i've felt Just Happy but i do now. i think that simple happiness is something that has tended to elude the both of us, but right now i don't feel bored or itchy or important or anything. it's a relief. - my best friend from high school, message to me, April 8th.

I'll tell you the tangible parts of this first, in hopes of making some semblance of sense. I had a good weekend; an indulgent, over-priced dinner at the lone T.G.I. Friday's in Vienna, solely for the nostalgia of good old American Restaurantism, hallucinating that we were actually on 41st and Yale, that I could walk out to my Oldsmobile and drive the three miles home with my iPod roaring and Marlboro smoke drifting out the window. Annie and I partook of the unspeakably awesome Natural History Museum, a steal at 3.50 Euros, with dinosaur bones and epic architecture and 100 year old taxidermied animals, including a walrus, and let me tell you, walruses are really fucking big. Drinks on Thursday and Saturday, little smoky cafes where we talked about death and our siblings and god knows what else. Saw The Third Man today, after taking the tour on Friday, seeing all the locations where they filmed. And then I came home, digging around online and uncovering a wealth of "publisher's blogs," detailing the perils of the business of books, the boring work-world of words, and felt shattering doubt come storming through the window like a crazy, malicious wind.

Because, really, what am I doing. What the hell do I think I'm doing.

Do you know about my State project? Well, let me tell you. It's the dumbest idea I've ever had, up there with novel-length Harry Potter fanfiction, with running three campus organizations at one time, with that time I tried to do Atkin's and nearly crashed my car driving home from Booker T due to lack of blood sugar. The gist is this: 50 pieces of sudden fiction, truncated stories no longer than 4-5 pages, one per state, ala Sufjan Stevens (I know, I'm a hack). Yesterday I finished California, and, after recycling a pair of exercises from workshops past, I've nudged this little monster of mine to 17 pieces, clocking in at 55 pages, 1.5 spaced, 12 pt. font. Fascinating stuff, I know, but this bastard of mine is the first real "project" I've ever undertaken - something with a set beginning and end, something that lets me read Wikipedia all day and push myself to experiment, something that makes me feel like I'm doing something real and actual and worthwhile. I received a 2.5 grand school-funded grant to go on a road-trip across the American West this summer with another Hamilton student, to hypothetically help me finish this thing. It's going to be my thesis, when that time comes. And it's ridiculous.

And I feel the nightmares coming on, feel everything my best friend is telling me not to feel - itchy, bored, and important - so I dive into the bathroom for a hopefully chemically-soothing cigarette, looking out the window at the building across the street. Most of the time, the building's windows are dark, but every now and again I get a peek in someone's nursery or living room. Tonight, the library was lit up - a room of shelves, all those volumes, and all I want, all I think I want, is one of them to have my name on it, to sit collecting dust somewhere. If I'm lucky, someone will underline some phrases I wrote, dog-ear a few pages, scribble a note in the margins. And this is the same kind of panic, happy at times with the sheer hugeness of my hopes, impossible with the enormity of possibilities, that makes my palms sweaty when I go to Gardner's Used Bookstore in Tulsa, when I went to Strand in New York - all those books. All these people. It just starts a string of questions I can't finish: What? Why? How?

But tonight, I'm wearing my Feel Better Sweater, and I'm smoking, when I hear the most tremendous sneeze that echoes all down the street - this is sneezing at the level of my Dad, an explosion of allergies, epic and cranium-shaking. And I poke my head out of the window and look down at the sidewalk 4 floors below, but there's just a leashless dog and his hip chick of an owner. And then I look up, and there's a man standing on the balcony of the top floor of the building across the street, and he waves, and I wave, and then he sneezes again and goes inside.

So I just started laughing.

I sometimes think that my sense of humor might be the only thing rallying me through the days when I sleep too long, the afternoons when I'm glued to the computer, the nights spent alone. So I have that to be grateful for - and being away from Campus Bureaucracy, away from Tulsa Claustrophobia. It just swings so much. But the saying goes: This too shall pass, which I've always liked, because it means Hold Your Breath and Savor It, or Don't Worry, Tomorrow Is On Its Way Already.

But this is what I do when I ought to be reading things in German. So much for bilingualism, no?

Much better now, courtesy of a Nutella-and-banana sandwich and a day spent with the little 'uns at the Vienna school, in the lovely 18th district where there are sidewalks and trees and it feels like a neighborhood (my district just feels like a district). I made up 3 new verses to Head Shoulder Knees and Toes, and while some of the kids make me want to yelp and run away, it just makes the nicer ones all the much nicer. After Crazy Class - 30 something 2nd graders, a screaming teacher, one of those mandatory I'm-going-to-whine-like-a-dog-until-you-call-on-me-students - I have Nice Quiet class, where there was a birthday today, so all the children sat around the cake and said their wishes for tiny Paul, who looked about 7 though he was turning 10. Then they cut up the cake, and I was just wandering around the classroom, trying to stay out of the way, learning new words in German, when there's a tiny tug on my shirt hem and tiny Paul is asking me if I'd like a piece of cake. It was about the most adorable thing in the world.

So I'm not nuts, not yet, at least. Registered for my Senior Year classes and it's going to be baller - Lit Theory, PRISON WRITING (with Doran Larson OH SWOON), Murder Madness and Mayhem Russian Literature, and an independent study. Also got my housing in order and I'm in a suite, thank god. And, finally, I'm doing my laundry at someone else's dorm because this is getting a little gross (BUT KARLI AND ARIEL ARE SENDING ME OLD NAVY JEANS AND THAT IS WHAT I CALL TRUE BLUE.) The end.


Barbara said...

There are a lot of failed writers in the world. They are the ones who never really tried.

G. said...

I have a feel-better sweater, too. It's a giant cashmere buttercup-yellow men's sweater, bought on deep discount at Filene's Basement. I wear it whenever I'm sick or cold.

We need to catch up badly when you're stateside again re: writing. Because it sounds like we're exactly in the same boat. Ahoy, matey!