This evening, while Sister dozed pregnantly on Grandpa’s old sofa and BIL looked for an Adobe download code, I made the first pass at a trip itinerary.
It got off to a jumpy start, when I found out that college homecoming is two weekends earlier than I expected. I seem to remember it always falling sometime around my birthday. This year, it’s the last weekend in September.
Which means, on the one hand, I can go to Caitrin’s wedding. Which means, on the other hand, I’ll have to hot-foot it across the north. It’s 48 hours from Vancouver to Annapolis. For a moment, I thought about taking it all in one gonzo streak, knocking the drive out in an 80mph blast of bennies and exhaust.
But I really wanted to see Montana.
The idea of breaking it up into four 15-hour days doesn’t feel that much better, in all honesty. My sciatic nerve raises mulish protest at the thought.
This isn’t really how I wanted it to go. I realize now that part of my hope for this campaign was to shuck off the constraints of time. The prerogative of a gypsy is to dispense with watch-wearing.
(And no, I’ve not taken the initiative in calling myself “gypsy.” You can thank Vincent for that one.)
In fact, time has been asserting its dominance all along.
I’m the damned slowest writer in the world, I think. An hour or more of conversation flies by, and so does the additional hour (or more) of transcription, compared to the blinding paralysis involved in forging these words into…I suppose there’s no other word for it…an essay.
(A fractional biography? A transmutative memoir?)
Christine was telling me at church last weekend that bear mace is a good idea, but it comes in a cumbersomely tall cylinder; I should also get the hand-held type.
She held up her own and showed me how to wield it: arm extended, not cramped against the rib cage with the can cocked back, as instinct might dictate.
“Don’t wait for them to get close to you, before you spray,” she said. “Hold your arm out; as soon as you see the intent, spray.”
She said I should buy it at a police store, where they can train you a little in using it.
“Yes,” I said ruefully. “I’m a freezer, when I’m scared.”
“So am I,” she said.
I hear the porous screech of cicadas in my ears. (I’m not kidding.) I feel concrete pouring into my neck, and hardening. A medieval corkscrew thing bores into my left temple; if you were there, you’d see me trying to swat it away, rubbing out the bruise it left.
After a few minutes, I can also feel my butt going squishy underneath me. I look down at my legs, and find them looking like those logs of salmon mousse photographed in 1950s cookbooks.
And still, not a damned thing of my own is on the page.
(I’ve noticed…and maybe you have, too…that writerly frustration makes me swear like a fusty professorial hack.
…Well, I feel like one.)
I love surfing. That is to say, the times I’ve managed to surf, I have loved it. But 92% of the time I’ve ever spent with a surfboard has been struggling to steady the board under me. By the time I manage to stand up, I’m plowing sand.
If you think I curse a lot here, you should hear me at the Del Mar shore break. I try to stay away from small children, so as not to scar them with the nose of my board or with the vulgarities I chant like a mantra.
But I remember—how I do remember—the feeling of doing it right. You can feel the bubbles tickling the soles of your feet from under the fiberglass.
I wake up fearing, unwilling to leave the bed. But God, or something in me, prepared for that. Because something woke me up much earlier than usual; I spend my fearful procrastination watching the sun rise over the oak trees that fringe the horse ranch behind Drew and Jenna’s house. When I finally wade into the day, it is cheerfully only 7am.
“Plenty of time,” the clock trills with obnoxious optimism.
I hide in the making of a cup of tea, taking vitamins, checking email and Facebook and Instagram, any channel that might make a demand on my attention. I consider making cookies…a primal urge channeled straight from my lizard brain, harkening clumsily back to the days when this same fear ate me down to 90 pounds or so. I spend an eternity deciding what music will prime the pump. I wish there was some actual paid work to do, but there’s not. I got it all done yesterday.
And it’s only 7.15. Still too early to call the day a waste.
I might, of course, stall until I can tap the desperation of the eleventh hour. It does work, sometimes.
But the trouble with that is then you only have an hour to write.
I know that I know what it feels like, when I’m doing it right.
Even in doing it right, there’s better, and there’s worse.
But I can be content with worse, if I can only do it faster.
It’s damn frustrating.
I’m so tired, even now. And I wanted to write this and post it, right now. But I can’t imagine putting it up…it won’t bear scrutiny.
It needs to age.
And I need to sleep.
I’ve got to get faster. I’ve got to get a little more careless.
Or the interviews are going to stack up.
The whole trip will be a sham.
I’ll just be a wanderer.