Courier, 10-point, black ink on onion skin. Holding the sheet up to the light, not only is the paper remarkably unyellowed, but its watermark is clear; it is a quality bond.
The page is dated July 1983, just one of several that slip out of a stack of documents and writing, lifted from the bottom of a drawer, moved from residence to residence, from state to state, from youth to middle age.
You are told there are signs of suffering.
Reading: Paragraphs commence mid tirade in some fit of pique or despair or ritual agitation, something that flares and fizzles and flares again like a recurring illness or more simply, bad habits.
Reading: Undisciplined transitions display their self-absorption; questions and answers fire fast with the one-two punch but never a knock-out; reading instead – a barrage, a flurry, a street brawl in a back alley without an audience, but bloody enough.
Reading: Before sentencing to a long term; before mortgaging the heart to marriage but after donating its chambers to unworthy opponents; before motherhood warms you with incandescence and assails you with exhaustion; before two decades devoted to taking each rung as expected and fueled by curiosity, by momentum, by approval, by necessity, and then collapse.
Reading: Words of advice swollen by anger, motored by it, indulging in it, relieved by its release; reading the earliest awareness of the impossible cage of debt, the background skirmish of budgets banged out on a shitty brown Selectric, the stranglehold of arithmetic.
Reading: Winner takes all in the form of a mother; competition that cuts off air; reading – a historical trail of excuses.
How can you love a thing and neglect it? Why aren’t you writing? You call yourself a writer. Some days you’re brazen enough to call yourself a writer. When you give yourself to its mechanics you feel better, but you don’t. You don’t give yourself to it. You give yourself to the mechanics of computers and requirements and office politics and the right suits and the adult life with adult responsibilities and all those damn bills.
Where is your discipline? You finished school. You did well. You were praised. Big fucking deal. Where is your creativity? Where is your output? What do you have to show for that “potential” you kept hearing about? You don’t sleep anyway, so why aren’t you writing?
Where is your clarity? What are you now other than one more efficient cog in a generally inefficient wheel? Is that what you want? So many others in the same machine. It’s all ego. You don’t even bother to pretend otherwise. You know you’re not like them but you try. You keep trying. But not the writing. You start, you put it away, you start again, you put it away again. Figure it out, my girl! Fucking write something! Build something! You want a legacy? Is that it? You want beauty? Something of your own? Then write it. Write something. Try and keep trying. Stop envying those who dare to try. You used to try. What’s the matter with you?
You have no balls. You moan your lack of support. You’re a fucking waste with every excuse in the book. Poor little thing, you have to earn a living. Poor little thing, you’re overcome with debt. Poor little thing, there’s no family to encourage you, no lover to reassure you, no rescue in the wings. There are no rescues. Don’t you get it? Poor little thing, your mother is making you crazy. Well she’s the same fucking crazy mother she always was so just live with it or get farther away so you can live with it. You wait and hope and shut up and dream and scream and shut down and wake up and count the months and years and do every damn thing you can just to get through it. And you do. So? She tries to take it but she can’t take all of it so why are you letting her take this? Get out! Go! Get the hell away from her! Find a way! You think you’re trapped. Maybe you are. Maybe you’re not.
You made your way to freedom once before but there isn’t any freedom, is there. You’re carrying her around like heavy water. Nuclear. You keep running into the same closed doors and you closed them. Only bills and responsibilities staring you down and you didn’t have a choice. That’s what you tell yourself. But there are always choices. They may not be good choices or the choices you want but there are choices.
You wanted the education and now you pay for it. You were the good girl so you did your bit and you wanted that, too. To be the good girl. Be honest. You thought she’d love you then. Or at least leave you alone. Well you’re paying for that miscalculation my girl. Crazy is crazy and her kind of crazy isn’t about to change now.
But you’re stubborn. You’re so damn stubborn. You hold your head up and tell yourself “some day” and you keep trucking down this path because you started it and what you start you finish, right? Everything but writing of course. How do you explain that one? You who are so damn proud and stubborn, as if you keep your head down and do your ten hours a day of work and try to pay the bills and put in your time and somehow it will be okay, right? Wrong. How does that change anything? How do you climb out of the box you’re in? No one’s coming to your rescue, little girl. And you can’t ever seem to ask for help. The right kind of help. You see yourself as so determined you’ll manage it on your own, putting your head down so you can finally lift it up, convinced you’re a great proud bird that will soar eventually. And what if you don’t? What if you aren’t good enough or smart enough or lucky enough? What if you’re all alone with your excuses and you run out of time? What if you looked at the fact that you’ve taken the route she wouldn’t but it’s the wrong route all the same?
Stop hiding your dreams. Don’t feed them to the shadows without a fight. And while you’re at it, stop walking into doomed relationships as if that’s all you deserve. Can’t face it? Can’t face any of it? You better face it or you’ll look up in ten years and be exactly here. More money, maybe. But otherwise, here. Working longer hours, a bigger cog in the machine. And you’ll still be afraid. You better face it and face it now. To create is work and to work is certainly not to create. So what’s it going to be?