Brutal days: full-on busy season, and we’ve just swapped warehouses in the midst of it. 15, 16 hour days. Sand fleas, dropped beams, lost keys. Thank god for music.
If you give up on absolutely everything outside work; if you just work til you drop- eventually you surface into sunlight, you look around, and by god you finally fucking got it done. We’ve almost completely settled into the new place, should be more or less operational again. We have lost scarcely a workday, while tripling our footage!
Tomorrow he leaves for a conference in Africa, I’m manning the monster while he’s away. Which is fine except that ....
I think too much. My trouble, when there’s not a chance at the border of the workday to write, is that inevitably I turn all David-at-the-dentist- “is this forever? Ah, I’m wasting my life!”
Because when I don’t write, I start to panic that I’m giving up, giving in.
But there isn’t any way out of this but through. If I can just turn off my brain for a while and fucking grind. Things will slow down again in August or so. A person can do anything for half a year. And of course, I'll find the time to work on stories. I'll make the time. I always do.
And I shouldn’t worry. It’s a cowardly thing, anyway, worrying.
Now I’m worrying I worry too much.
Andrew slips into bed next to me. “They’ve got another one on the way-”
I can hear the smile in his voice, I curl up against him. “Oh yeah? They must love having a family, that’s great.”
“You think you’re ready for kids, beem beem?” he says, teasing me; he knows I’m not quite ready yet.
If we started a family, unless I was making enough from my books to justify writing at least part time, my little obsession would go out the door. There just wouldn’t be enough time.
Oh, my sweet love: I want to give you a family, I do, but my heart’s blood goes cold at the idea of giving up. I don’t know who I’d be, what I’d be, if I gave up. I don’t think I have it in me to give up.
But at what cost this selfish, stupid obsession? It’s a folly of course. It isn’t even real. He is real. The warehouse is real.
I think about college athletes. The ones who didn’t make pro, but who tasted it just the same. You can’t ever forget that taste.
And yet... even if I can’t be an artist, I can live my life as a work of art. I could do that much.
My Andrew does. He does this like breathing. This boundless generosity in him; this lust for life he has.
But me, at work, somehow I allow myself to feel so beholden to tasks; I hardly remember to breathe. It’s just grind, grind, grind. End of the workday: shower, we make dinner, fall into bed. And that’s it. A whole day, gone. Weeks, months. Y----s. Oh, it’s the scariest thing.
What a brat I am, to want more, when really we are so lucky, so safe, so healthy. Etc, etc.
But this fifteen year old girl in me. When will she die?
A warm, sunny morning: she’s teaching V & I how to do the kettlebell snatch. “You jerk it like this, the kettlebell, right up in front of your chest like you’re painting-yahh!”
“Form will protect you,” she says. I’m thinking about this the rest of the day.
You have no right to the fruits of your actions, only your actions themselves.
This is the form. Meditation, softness. Gratitude. The form protects you.
Still, what a shitty week. Blagh.
I love these things, the details of him: how my husband’s beard presses to a point against his pillow, my husband whose seeming ethnicity seems to shift wherever we travel. He is German-Italian, but manages to look Hispanic, Turkish, Moorish, any number of things. His skin has changed over the years we’ve been together, a beautiful smooth leather, creasing slowly where he smiles, where he frowns.
You know the expressions you habitually make carve tiny marks against your skull? That’s how they do those facial reconstructions, they can tell your favorite expressions from marks in the bone.
I imagine the marks like worm tracks under the skin…
Five years ago, when we were in Ukraine everyone thought I was from there. Odessa. They’d speak to me quickly, conspiratorially; I couldn’t respond, and then they saw my flash of American teeth.
Once a man came out of a crowd and poked at my stomach, yelling at me. The same sentence over and over again. He was angry he couldn’t make me understand. Some transgression I’d made- or maybe he thought I was someone else- I wonder about it still.
Five years ago.
Interesting the theory of Eternalism, that all moments in time- all those days, each one a burrow, a tiny worm’s track- are equally real. Each one, future and past.
We are alive so briefly, think of it, sure, all our days might as well be simultaneous.
I close my eyes to remember, really remember that day in the market. I can almost go back.
Then I open them. 6 am. Coffee and pages before another long, vanishing day at the warehouse.
The bright colors of the market gone five years, that man is perhaps dead, Maria & Yevgeny are divorced and the pomegranates are all eaten.
"The past is never dead. It's not even past." -William Faulkner
P.S. It is funny, in writing this to you- ‘novel’s release day’; that seems somehow a little like ‘novel’s birthday,’ doesn’t it? I’d never thought of this before, but I suppose it’s true. No matter how long you work on a project, it is never truly born until it's published.
Happy birthday, Evening’s Land.
You're not mine anymore. Off you go.
Pauline West's first novel, EVENING’S LAND, is a Library Journal Self-e Selection, winner of the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Award and recipient of the Carol Marie Smith Memorial Scholarship for the NOEPE Center of Literary Arts.
Pauline West's books on Goodreads
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