I had to wipe the dust off my blog today, with all the expected setbacks – forgetting my password, forgetting to buy Pledge, etc. But here I am, ready to present the meager rations I’ve given it this past month.
I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation, and what motivates me to write. I came to peace long ago with the fact that I may never make a living from it, or for that matter, ever make a single dime. So, fame and fortune are not the goals. I don’t even find myself caring much for audience, although it is something that any good writer should be conscious of, from start to finish. I suppose what motivates me at this moment is the challenge to make up for years of squandered potential, even if it means writing for a sense of delayed achievement. Lately, my personal life has acted to sap my motivation, simply because it had taken so much emotional energy to exist day to day. But as I feel more and more at ease, the desire to write returns, I feel strong again, and I shiver at each tap of the keyboard.
I told myself that I’d write a novella over the summer – nothing daunting, just a 25,000-word trifle. I’ve submitted Part One of said trifle to a summer-long writing competition, and am having difficultly motivating myself to finish. Characters grow stale. Plot gets stalled. I get tired of the story and want to start something fresh (see below). But I have a renewed belief that I will finish. In the meantime, here’s 800 words of something I’m working on – final piece coming soon.
“In all things earthly and heavenly, I see myself.”
This was the first thing Leigh said when she returned. Standing in the doorway, staring into her parent’s living room, she addressed all objects in turn. The navy corduroy sofa covered in white cat hair, the philodendron that had taken over stained bookshelves, the half-full glass of warm orange juice her mother had left on the coffee table that morning – she nodded and smiled at each one, like old friends.
No one had expected her to speak, and her mother, brother and sister shared wide-eyed glances.
“Well of course you feel that way, sweetie. You’ve always been such a sensitive soul. And I’m sure it’s nice to be back at home with all the familiar things, right?” Her mother paused then said, more slowly, “I hope it’s just like how you remembered it. Maybe I’ve let Pauline’s fur take over the house a bit, but…”
She watched Leigh drag her finger across the china cabinet, then draw a wide circle around the dining room table. She closed her eyes and smiled at the introduction of each new piece of furniture, a rapturous, wistful look of lost love found. After her nascent ritual she held up her finger, rubbed its collected dust with her thumb, and blew it toward her family.
“I so wish I knew what you were doing right now. I mean, what the hell?” her brother Landon said, arms crossed and using his most serious voice. Her disappearance had aged him up, and she’d returned to a young man with a wispy mustache and mismatched baby face.
“Oh brother, if you knew what I’ve learned, you’d feel the same way. Our objects are an extension of ourselves. They don’t breathe, but they’re alive.”
“Are you fucking high again?”
“Landon! If you’re not going to support you sister then you can just go to your room for the rest of the night,” their mother said, nostrils flared as she swept her arm and pointed to the hallway for effect.
“It’s OK, mom. He can ask all the questions he wants, even the hurtful ones. It was all the questions I asked of the universe that brought me to my enlightenment,” Leigh said as she ran her fingers through Landon’s hair and kissed his forehead.
Landon shook her off and rolled his eyes before walking to his bedroom and slamming the door behind him.
Leigh was six weeks clean, but still had the glassy, unfocused gaze of someone who was used to washing down Percocet with gin and tonic. Six weeks in detox and therapy, meant to unravel a tightly sewn hem. Her sister Jessie had picked her up that morning and set out the clothes their mother had bought – a gray sweat suit, white sneakers, and a canvas tote with an electric blue peace sign to cart off her few belongings. Jessie had begged her mother to buy something that didn’t so closely resemble the drab uniform of a mental patient, but she had insisted on purchasing items that wouldn’t trigger memories. The rough, formaldehyde-scented cotton of a clean slate and a blank mind. They had compromised on the peace sign tote, but only because it was on clearance.
“I’ll bring Leigh’s things into the bedroom and have her put on something else for dinner,” said Jessie, heaving the tote over her shoulder. “Let’s get take-out from Ming’s and maybe have a little wine. Leigh, I mean, how long has it been since you had their fried tofu and eggplant? I’m actually drooling right now thinking about it.”
Jessie grabbed Leigh around the waist and led her stiff and smiling out of the room.
The sisters had shared a room for as long as they could remember. Their late-night whispers, wardrobe consternation, make-up tutorials – the walls had soaked up all of it. It also held the hair pulling, nail scratching events that had marked their mid-teens and later, the scenes of sorrow so immense and heavy that it crushed the room flat.
Leigh began her finger dance anew, this time stroking the legs of a porcelain ballerina that she had once treasured, then opening dresser drawers and holding her face against her flannel pants and balled-up gym socks.
She had been found at a Greyhound station in Amarillo. She had arrived three days before, and had spent that time asking for change to collect fare to Dallas. Food had been a carefully parsed out – a sleeve of Ritz crackers and dry ramen, and after that any dry food she found on top of trash bins. While she had become a dedicated vegan, her hunger one day led her to a half-eaten turkey sandwich that made her violently ill. Dehydrated and delirious, she walked to the ticket booth, vomited on the counter, and passed out. Jessie was the one to make the six-hour drive to the hospital.