Finally a Reality

I feel like I’ve got everything I always wanted. It’s a strange feeling, a foreign one, of not wondering when the other shoe will drop, not even thinking about shoes, rather kicking them off to finally relax a little. It first started to hit when I withdrew my manuscript from every other place I’d submitted it to, when I let these places know that I’d just signed with another press. It was sending those withdrawal emails, and it was realizing that I wouldn’t have to send this novel out anymore. I’d done it. It was finally getting published.

I go back mentally to the places I was at when writing it, diving back, taking half my lunch break to cloister myself in an unclaimed cubicle at work and pop open my laptop, squeeze out a little more writing time before going back to administrative tedium again. It was finding gaps in the story, holes in the memory, and filling those holes with something, dirt if I had to, because having something to remember is better than nothing at all. It was taking walks till exhaustion and listening to the same hundred or so songs over and over until their rhythms and patterns were baked into the story, into me, and I could taste freedom from the pain if only I kept writing about it.

I can track mental states in the pictures from that time, in the drafts saved in sequential order, cross reference with journal entries if I’m feeling particularly masochistic, but really just trying to get a snapshot of where I was then and how I was able to sustain a mental deep-dive of myself for that long. Because it was one of the most useful things I’ve ever done in my life, but it also nearly destroyed me. And so I’d touch on those images in the book, looking back on the past and risking salt-pillar-transformation, writing and rewriting traumatic memories until dissociation became the norm and it was all almost normal. We return to the thing that hurt us because that can become all we know. And that’s the tricky thing, because that’s also exactly how we beat it. We face it, we plumb the depths, we walk into that great dark, and we don’t stop walking until we come out on the other side.

I came out on the other side with this book, and now it’s going to be published. There are professional artists, designers, and editors working to bring this to life. When that’s done, there will be machines that will print it, and digital versions optimized for people to read however they want. I have to say these things because the unreality is still there, shock in the best possible way, and to say it is to realize that it really is happening. After so much time, so much work, the thing that I dreamed about is finally a reality.

What You Always Wanted

There’s a saying about getting what you always wanted, and she’s trying to parse out exactly how it goes without having to Google it. She’s not needing the meaning for posting purposes or anything like that–call it simple curiosity. She’s been doing her outreach for a while now, and her own unique way of showcasing the words of others (getting stories printed wrap-around style on drink cups) has only just now started to take off in a holy-shit, five-news-appearances-in-just-as-many-days sort of way.

She told herself that this is okay, and it is, the long nights spent scouring the streets of the internet, looking for a person who hasn’t been heard but who desperately deserves to be, because giving voice to the voiceless is her specialty, and she almost stopped and took another course of action when she found out that a major restaurant chain had started printing flash fiction on cups, but she kept going with her idea when she realized that they were only publishing established writers, big names, people who would be recognized. But the way she did it, you’d be reading stories you didn’t even know you needed to read, written by your hairdresser, or your mailman, or the woman you pass by every day who’s sleeping on the street.

She started doing it on a whim, self-funded, and whatever wasn’t for rent or absolutely-necessary-food got funneled into this side-project she did after work, testing out different food safe printing techniques, different cup materials, biodegradable a must, and then different inks, collaborating with various artists to spice it up a bit, etc. It was one of those things that tended to dominate conversations with friends and family after a while, and she could tell that while they were supportive, they were also looking for the opportunity for topic change when she went on about it for too long.

The thing about it is that she herself didn’t even really write until she was well into adulthood, and by then there were all those fears and self doubts, the thoughts of old dogs and new tricks, the fire alarm that blares in your head and tells you that you are Too Far Behind, that you will Never Catch Up. When she was a kid, it was AP classes and constant studying, and her parents were the live-vicariously-through-their-kid type that saw her journal scribblings as time better spent cramming, as opposed to the poesy of a budding genius. So she stopped writing for about 12 years.

When she started writing again, really writing, it was like she was coming to after a deep and dreamless sleep, and there were suddenly too many things to do all at once. She immediately had to write in every genre, every style, until she finally felt that she had Caught Up. Mixed in with all of that was reading every literary magazine she could get her hands on, devouring content like it was her job, which even back then she had the feeling that it was–or that it could be.

There comes a time when all of your hard work pays off, when the camera is on you and the kind and smiling person behind the camera and slightly to the left or right of it is waiting for an answer to the question they just asked you, and you have to pause for a second. Not because of anxiety, or rather not only that. You have to take a second to appreciate the fact that this is happening. You are not dreaming, this is not a joke, you are actually exactly where you wanted to be when you first started out.

She remembers the saying about getting what you always wanted, or at least an iteration of it. The old Willy Wonka film, the one she grew up on and still returns to every couple years. The last lines of the film:

“Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted.”

“What happened?”

“He lived happily ever after.”

Sake, Koji Kondo, Dreams

Shifting toward a redline you can’t see or hear, can only feel, the way Beethoven must’ve, delimbing his pianos, setting them down on the ground, to feel the vibrations and nothing else, probably turning off the light to starve all senses but the ones he wanted, the composition, the light that flicks on in the brain when a connection is made–a vital spark–a turning of gears toward something greater than oneself. All my life, I’ve wanted to create, and I’ve wanted to escape. Now I find myself in the position to do both at the same time. I’ve worked so many years at this, fostered the growth of others along the way, and here I sit, where it all began, watching the accumulating pages fall like so many raindrops in a summer storm, fogging up the glass to make a new face over the reflection of my own. I sit at the precipice of something great, but I have no idea what it is. I’m stumbling in the dark and figuring out how quickest to find the light. Stealing glimpses of unfiltered light through a window that’s just out of reach, gliding through mental pictures of other times and places, save points in this game I’ve been living, improv-ing and improving along the way, just going with it, trying to learn, staying hungry and moving forward no matter how agonizing it might be. Sometimes I feel like I am marching onward into a great and blinding storm. I know that there is light and clarity past this storm, but to find it I must move forward. Inexorably I travel this patterned ratchet-clank world, wandering Southern passageways toward a place I never expected but which I couldn’t imagine being without. Your life never ends up how you expect it to, and that’s a good thing. At least it was for me. So I climb plateaus and shift under tree boughs, sensing something beyond this plane I’ve been given, this flesh and blood monkey-body derived from retooled parts and millennia-old adaptations, with teeth that don’t even fit in my head. I had some sake earlier this evening, stood guard as it flowed through my body, put on some music by Koji Kondo and allowed the feeling to swell, the inhibitions to drop. These notes that fall like pieces into place on a grand and ancient puzzle, and I can do nothing else but accomplish these things that’ve been set for me, can only do what’s best for me, now and for as long as I’m here. So the notes crescendo, and I move, the stable waverings moving like something apart from physics, something beyond time and space. I am a human being, and I am glad to be so much more than that.

WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?

When you were little, eyes wide as could be, the teacher sat you down and asked you a simple question:

Who do you want to be?

And dreams of all the choices filled you up. You could fight fires, or teach, or land a shuttle on the moon, that question echoing in your head:

Who do you want to be?

But you got older, and the eyes grew dim. The choices fluttered away, those dreams seemed more and more childish as the days passed, the real question getting more urgent all the while:

Who do you want to be?

You had to make money, there was no time to waste, so you took the first job you were offered. You worked to save up to get away from it all, that question now a tiny whisper:

Who do you want to be?

But times got hard and cuts had to be made, the company laid you off. In the pits of despair, that question came back loud and clear, now screaming at you:

Who do you want to be?

And it was bad for a while, but the world didn’t end as you thought it would. The days passed in peace, and as they did you spent them with someone you hadn’t seen in a while: yourself. That question was barely noticeable, but still there:

Who do you want to be?

The interviewer called back, you landed another job. You didn’t need to save as much any more, the frills of life were just that. Those teacher’s words had more meaning now:

Who do you want to be?

You worked to live, no longer living to work. You read the books you always wanted to read, visited the places you always wanted to see. The question was a soothing one now:

Who do you want to be?

And in the end, that interim time was just a stage. The moments you remember had nothing to do with the office, with the rat race it contained. The teacher’s words were prescient, but not in the way you first thought. The question was always for you and only you. So:

Who do you want to be?