A week ago today follows Sunday’s typical bell-curved mood: up for the first half, then sagging as the day winds down. I have too many significant conversations. Encouragement about money ends up undermining confidence. I am up too late on the phone. Persuading each other tomorrow will be fine doesn’t work when you close off the moral good of early bedtime. How ingrained is that elementary school invocation to get to bed!
Monday starts like a sprint on an exhale. Too rushed to write in the morning, running to the bus, moderate difficulty at work that goes on nine instead of eight hours. Midday an email comes. I submitted a story to a blog/magazine and the editors have decided. Rejection is always the best bet, and on submission I invested no more emotion than applying for a job. So I say. But I can’t look at the email. No risk of breakdown or outburst, but more an acknowledgement I would rather not have my worldly guesses confirmed right now. I ride a shuttle to the bus, and inside the world of Toyota Sienna off-white with All Things Considered rumbling under road noise, my suspicions are confirmed.
Rejection is implied in most of what we do, but with maturity we take it less seriously. Work coming back for adjustment or correction is daily blah by now. Rejection is the risk of putting things out there, and, really, it’s a small one: what are you out? But this is the first story I’ve submitted in at least three years. So much everything has happened surely it’s at least as good as stories I had published then. Right? This doubt upsets the inner child–that and not enough sleep, not enough to eat, the subsonic existential grumble that’s louder on Monday.
That night I get friendly texts and emails, and through the week they trickle in. It could be a sign of growth I publicly acknowledge I had a minor letdown instead of holding it close and silent.
Tuesday I scribble a note that I think reads: Mon blog abt AM sour, doubt, ex, writing, who am I fooling. Don’t worry: you’re not reading that blog.
Aside from Monday’s pothole, the week is low-key. I write some mornings but more in the evenings after dinner and playing with the cat. Yoga resumes Thursday, imparting honest physical exhaustion disproportionate to standing at angles. It feels slower, but I have a great Wednesday…or was that last week.
Friday I take my laptop with me and after work go to the downtown library to write. Twenty years ago at my very first job, I would go down the elevators to the Tandy Center basement where a tunnel led to the main Fort Worth library. I spent lunches there writing short stories on my Tandy 200 laptop, or reading the paperbacks or magazines, determined to Write and Become A Writer. I remember that time now, writing this, without engagement, like I remember carbon’s atomic number (6). That’s no small progress too.
The Seattle Library is an architectural marvel, a civic centerpiece, and well-used. Up on the ninth floor, the windows are wrapped in sun-shielding mesh that now keeps out clouds. Dark men in stocking caps and overstuffed duffels sit at tables reading thick books–really reading them. My table looks out over the city’s rapid fall to the water, modest buildings hugging the hills, cars and buses snaking slow right turns uphill and ferries aiming their easy bulk to landing. The laptop wakes and I write. It gets good by the time the PA echoes with news the library will be closing at six, with a countdown of services suspended beforehand. (It fixates on restrooms and print jobs.) Is this too long? Too slow? Will the whole thing be an overlabored exercise like everything else I have done? I don’t have those questions. I pause at points, go back and tighten, but it’s okay. Outside and below, the headlights are brighter against the fading light.
Five minutes before six, the elevator down and out is crammed with shuffling, bedraggled, slightly stale men. They look like I did in graduate school, having plowed through a book all day. All of us troop through the steel-white atrium and out through a massive revolving door, where the street accepts us into ignorance. Some of the men shout and joke with each other. Where do they go? They seem capable and ready.
I walk uptown, past the bright and bustling center, up into Belltown’s quiet for dinner. Among the cafes and taverns, their slender women and paunchy mechanics lolling outside with their cigarettes, I spend another half-hour at they keyboard. I see how writers can do this: a beer to keep the waitress away, the room friendly and warm, the street busy outside. Nothing has started and I have already accomplished something.
Going home I realize I don’t have to rush. What a gift this is. From Monday to Friday has been a journey; though most took place on Monday, it’s still nice to get here. It was a warm day and people are out in light jackets walking their dogs. Traffic purrs. Texts from night owls across three time zones trickle in: howzza writing? Happy weekend.
Years ago this was the neighborhood of my first Seattle job, and I remember that as I do my Tandy job–without falling into it. Memory connects back to more distant Fridays, nights with Matt in his room, out in the driveway, down the street behind the elementary school. We are in high school talking about waves.
TV and radio waves are everywhere, passing through everything, right now. Most of them go up out of the sky, into space, flying outwards forever. If you had a spaceship that was fast enough you could fly ahead of them, then sit floating in the dark listening to The Shadow and George and Gracie for the first time again.
For some reason, Matt has his saxophone. (Memory and dream can blur.) He plays a note: a short, full boop. We freeze, listening. No dogs bark. There is some wind and a distant train. The note reverberates for a moment and then it’s suburban Friday night again.
I bet that note goes on like TV and radio, like any light. It loses energy but keeps going, endlessly, forever. That note is vibrating all the way to the atmosphere’s edge. Could its frequency drop so low it could keep on vibrating out into space? Just going and going, on forever, that note going even after the Sun is gone. Wow!
We look up at the vast vault of stars. We are kids and float on the rapture of questions. It is all amazing. Matt raises the horn and plays another note: boop.
Maybe those notes are still going, endlessly outwards, now so low and quiet only the planets can hear. Maybe the waves we make are additive and go somewhere, the better ones canceling out the others. No one can say. Each of us takes risks sending out notes. Some of them go nowhere, leaving us with our duffels in the library. I don’t think there is too much room for blame. It’s hard to know what your struggle is when you’re already struggling. It’s when things get better, when the momentum first starts to happen, that the doubt is worst.
Here’s to Friday, and libraries of everything that tell us where we are. See you Monday.