Jul 3, 2004

Staring through an empty water glass

Friends who should have called, haven’t. I owe too much money to too many people. My parents are mad at me. My knuckles are skinned from punching the metal door of my boss’ office after hours. And I can’t write.

The spaces are growing longer between writing and when I do write, what I write comes like a little dirt shaken loose by pounding my head into a wall. It’s been weeks since any writing came easily, weeks since I felt that fire move in my typing fingertips.

I find myself staring through an empty water glass. For no particular reason, I remember waking up in Fargo behind a car wash, smelling of sweat and shaking of cold. The gas station’s coffee curdled in my stomach and clerk looked lonely, lost and bleary.

I squint, and watch these words spider down the screen. Everything seems contrived. It all seems flat. I can’t hear the way these word sound anymore. I think maybe the words on this page are laughing at me, sentences snickering at my pain, chortling at my effort.

This isn’t about compliments or affirmation. The compliments say they’re enjoying it, say write more, say fantastic. But I’m not listening. I’m not reading my sentences over aloud to my dim kitchen, feeling the word rolls off my tongue, watching bugs batter the light bulb and knowing that these words, these words right here, are true.

“Did you see her light up when you started talking?” said my friend. “Did you see her follow every word?” he said.

“Yeah,” I say, tired, staring through the water glass. “It doesn’t mean anything.”

I think this is when people quit writing. When others are praising their words saying things like “top of the game” but they can only hear their keyboards making reverberations dull on the inside of their skulls. I think this is when people decide just to live for a while, to watch a movie and go to bed. To read an old novel again. Get a girlfriend or get a career or buy a bottle.

I don’t know how to do that though. Like a disappointed disciple I’m despairing that the kingdom will ever come, but I have nowhere, really nowhere, else to go.

So, I’m writing out deadlines on the calendar. I’m pushing back.

In the morning I heard the neighbors preaching about our sins being covered in the blood of Jee-zusss (Amen!) and I opened the door of apt. c rear to let in the morning light and the sounds of black gospel preaching. I’d heard what he was saying before, word for word it was lifted from every tangle of four Roman roads, but I listened to the sonorous roll, to the ends of sentences and the lift of words. I heard the amens crowding in and watched his paragraphs sleight from judgment day to today and listened to the name of God’s extended syllables. I remembered how much I love language, returning anew to these reverberations of mine, to the stories, to the colors of the words I want to write.

The church ladies are waiting gossiping in front of the green lotto machine for my shift to begin because, they say, I only sell lucky numbers.