Exhaustion and I are old lovers. We’re comfortable with each other in intimate ways. I got off work last night at midnight, couldn’t sleep for a couple of hours, got up at six and hit the road again. It was one of those weird days when I had to be somewhere to do something in the daylight, and as the day wore on, I felt the lover’s touch of my old friend on my body, and wondered how much longer I could push it. I didn’t have a choice up until about five, and then I pushed it for four hours more, just to prove that I could, and now, here I am, nearly midnight, and I’m writing.
Elbow has a theory that a friend of hers died of shame. It took the better part of fifty years, mind you, but she is convinced an old family disaster pushed this woman into reliving her past until it finally ate her alive. It’s important, I think, to have someone from another generation in your life, but at the same time it be someone who is immediate and close, so that you might sit in a porch swing and listen to a life’s story told by someone who has a similar cultural reference but at the same time one that is totally alien. Almost twenty years are between us, Elbow and I, but at the same time we live in the same world where writing is not only important, but vital to life.
You have to know at least one other writer before you can really write. And if you know more than one, it’s gets better. Discussing a sentence placed just so, or thusly, or being able to express the very idea that a sentence might have wandered, or be needed elsewhere, and meanwhile the poor sentence is awaiting its sentence; will it be relocated, truncated, executed, or edited? It awaits the final punctuation anxiously.
There hasn’t been any caffeine in my bloodstream since the sun came up, and I’m chasing the full moon across the sky right now. I was awake at the last midnight, and I’ll be up for this one, too, I think, yes, I can feel it, even if my vision is beginning to go on me. Four hours sleep, Mike, is not enough for what you’ve done today. So says my body, but the mind is still awake, is it? How much sense is this going to make tomorrow when I wake up, grab some coffee and edit this thing again, like I do every time I open up a document, like checking the dog’s ears for ticks. ( did you just put an “e” on the end of the word “document”? Damn, Mr. Quayle, I think you did, you know, if it weren’t for spell check most of what you write would resemble a tornado in an alphabet soup factory)
Cancer is such a weird disease. Today I found some I’ve always really disliked has gone through prostate cancer and came out alive. It’s odd feeling being glad the man is alive because I’ve visited much worse on him, fictionally at least, and that too is one of the benefits of being a writer; the people you don’t like wind up trapped beneath a burning car with a locomotive bearing down on them while zombies are attacking during a earthquake. But cancer isn’t anything I’ve ever written into anyone’s life.
In a generation just before Elbow’s getting cancer itself was rather shameful, and if someone died and the obituary didn’t list a cause of death no one asked because it meant they died of cancer. If you’re younger than me, and that sounds really strange, trust me, these are the people who once told me about Hoops Snakes, and they were dead serious about, really, as serious as cancer.
I’m not making light of the subject. It’s a disease that has maimed and tormented and killed among those I love and to me, it’s personal…How did we get here? Oh, I remember, someone told me today, this day of exhaustion about a former enemy who has survived cancer, but anyway, another bit of weirdness is the son of the guy who told me all this had lunch with us, and I haven’t seen this kid since he was seven, which was ten years ago. Still with me? Am I? Anyway, he didn’t remember me. He’s nearly grown now, a lot like his father, but I’m someone who hasn’t existed until today.
I saw a ’31 Ford for sale today, and I wondered how it survived so long, through so many hard times, and at what point did it become more than just a piece of junk and become something worth saving? It’s odd how we name cars and trucks after the tribes of natives that once populated this land, and we’ll go over the deep end trying to save a car or a truck, and we’ll name one after a race of people we exterminated a century ago.
We went by the place that I’ll always remember as the apartment I really started writing, alone in the dark, listening to people on the street three floors below, and once upon a time, I walked into a woman’s life with a pot of coffee, a kind word, and then I disappeared again. She’s likely still wondering what the hell was that all about, but at that moment, I think that was what she needed, and it was truly great coffee, mind you, Blue Nile. The lawyer she and her husband used to end their marriage died of cancer. It would take way too much time to explain how I know that.
Exhaustion and I, are going to bed together now, after I shower, of course, because when I shower that means I get a few moments where all I have to do is feel hot water covering my body, and surrender to the tiredness that I have earned. The dogs have missed me, and I want to count the number of dogs I hear sleeping, and that alone, is enough this day.