I thought that would be a more precise title than “I hate writing,” which is not true. I cannot say, either, that “I love writing!,” in the same way another person might say, “I love ice cream!”
On vacation, I brought my iBook, to work some more on my “On Lice” essay and attempt to finish it for a journal’s August 1st deadline. In the hotel room and at poolside, I wrote the connecting pieces and conclusion, and submitted it with a few hours to spare.
Yesterday I brought Grace and her friends to a birthday party in Wellesley, Massachusetts. I brought my iBook along, thinking that I’d sit somewhere and drink coffee and read the newspaper online while I waited for them.
There was no WiFi in Peet’s.
I tried to insert myself in someone else’s network. On the AirPort pull-down menu, I chose “VillageChurch” as a possibility, and then attempted obvious passwords like Jesus, G0d, M4ry, Chr1st, and Church. (My password is not hard to crack — why should theirs be?) Nothing.
I looked around a bit desperately at the other patrons. Could I catch someone’s eye and wordlessly signal to him that I wanted to piggyback onto his account? No one looked at me. I did, however, notice the same excessively thin and tattooed middle-aged woman whom I had seen only two days before at the Newton Farmers’ Market, and I considered getting another tattoo, and then I stopped. “Jane, don’t go there.”
I wished I could e-mail friend James Black or talk to him. I’ve been reading his posts on writing and not writing and having imaginary conversations with him. Suddenly, it seemed urgent to have a real one, and we were disconnected. I had no book or magazine to read. I could have walked down the avenue and shopped, but I don’t like to shop.
“Damn,” I thought. “I have to write.”
Sighing, I opened the file for an essay, called “Dead and Gone,” that I hadn’t worked on since my retreat in July. I read the last two paragraphs, noticed how unpromising they seemed, and wrote a next sentence.
Then I stopped and tried to break in again to the VillageChurch network.
“I really don’t want to write this,” I thought. “It’s probably going to suck.” My internal voice is normally rather matter-of-fact, and it was in this instance, too.
So, I wrote two paragraphs, and then realized there seemed to be a huge gap in the story, so I inserted the cursor between the two and wrote a long passage in which I tried to elaborate the romantic fantasies I was having about my (now dead) college professor, when I had a crush on him. Honestly, only one of them do I vividly remember; some of it I had to make up. (Is it dishonest to fictionalize the memory of a fantasy? This is a real question.)
Here’s something I wrote yesterday, that I don’t actually recall dreaming about then. (This is, though, a little daydream I have had in my adult life):
During a lecture, as stood with his back to us and wrote on the board, I imagined being the only student in the room. Between us would be a lit tunnel of air, and the periphery of the room would be dark. On mouse feet, I would walk up to him as he wrote a long line of white, jagged letters on slate. He would not hear me, not sense me, and not turn. I would put my arms around him and press the front of my clothed body against the back of his: my pelvis against his ass, my breasts below his shoulder blades, my cheek on his spine. My hands would feel his ribs and flesh and heat through a sweater. His right hand and forearm would come down hard on mine and hold us there.
Last night, I was telling husband Jimmy about how much I didn’t want to write, how I was resisting it, how I tried unsuccessfully to find WiFi in Peet’s, and he asked me what I had discovered in my hour of reluctant writing. I thought and thought and thought.
“Well, so many of my fantasies ended at a beginning. We would come together, and then it faded. Like a fairy tale or a movie.”
“Or a Jane Austen novel?” he suggested.
“Okay. In any form it was romantic, not real. Like I couldn’t imagine the reality after we embraced or kissed. Or didn’t want to.” I thought about this failure, this reluctance.
We sat there for a while.
“Well, that would be something, to try to write about that. What would happen after the fade-out?” I don’t remember who said this, me or Jimmy. We discussed a few plot possibilities. (And, hey, this ain’t no plot! This was my life, my actual 19-year-old life.)
This morning at 5:20 a.m. all the new hard-wired fire and carbon monoxide alarms in the house started chirping and barking. We all woke up. Jimmy solved the problem. The four of them went back to sleep. Once I’m up, I’m up.
So here I am, drinking coffee and writing: this post, and the essay that partly sucks and partly doesn’t.
I have no idea which of my hotel roommates — Jimmy, Lydia, or Grace — took the above photo of me, and I don’t recall it being taken. I found this after I uploaded the vacation pictures into iPhoto.