Over two weeks ago, post-hike, I wandered into a bookstore in the foothills. I had a long list of books to read. I picked up a collection of shorts stories from Lydia Davis and read it in four days. It changed everything. I have not read a book like that in my whole life.
But most notably, I started writing again. Not a boring blog entry about my latest epiphany on how to live life, but a story. Stories. My dreams became these crazy wild tales that I couldn't help but carry into the early morning and write them down before I forgot it all. I have filled up half of my journal in 13 days. Writing and reading have taken up most of my free time. It has been incredible and completely bizarre.
As with all change, I often agonize on what it all means. I try to fill in the unanswered questions that I've been struggling with and connect the dots to somehow figure out the rest of my life. It's a weakness I have to want to see into the future, peek over the hedges, make lists and plans and get ready for what's next. Except this feels like a return. I found a part of me that has been wandering around, drunk and afraid for a long time. The crazy 18 year old that was sure she was going to be a writer has come back, sobered up, got some sleep and now hydrates herself responsibly.
I wanted to immediately feel like I had wasted time, I was behind, I needed to catch up. But I realized that I've gotten better, in a lot of ways. I always thought unearthing the need to write seriously would bring back all these insecurities I had when I first set out. I do still have wild thoughts that I'm not good enough, will I ever be, who will want to read about my post office anxiety, am I relevant, etc. etc. But on the other hand, I kind of don't care if anyone gets it. I'm used to it. I don't need to beg the world to understand me and tell me I'm brilliant. I love to write. I always have. I think I'm pretty good at it. This time, I'm not asking for permission. Who cares where this is going! Even if I spend the rest of my life reading and writing on the edges of everything else and never really take care of my dangling modifier habit, what a wild ride that would be.
I started this short story in 2006. I gave it a 2016 makeover.
There were two men in my stomach. They were putting up a fight about foreign politics. They could not agree. With everything, their yelling was banging up my insides. I was frightened. I was in bed and pulled the covers over my mouth and nose, but slowly so they wouldn't notice me. I held my breath so they wouldn't notice me. They didn't for a while.
I spent a long time arguing with myself on how to fall asleep. I finally mustered out a whisper: "Could you keep it down, please?" I held my breath and waited for an answer.
The men stopped arguing. Their voices became friendly, quiet squeaks. They decided to have a beer. They picked out handfuls of ale from the sky and placed them in each others cups.
They did not know, but I fell asleep hearing them sing a wonderfully silly song about zebras, laughing and drinking. They are thoughtful friends.
I had dreams about lovely purple large-brimmed hats that night. And the men, they fell asleep eventually, humming.