I am falling behind. It is difficult not to panic.
The hours pass, the days. Weeks.
I don’t know what I am doing or why.
I add songs to my playlist. As if that counts for productivity.
I print out pages, staple them.
I carry books around and when I read them, I underline passages and make notes in the margins. I write: danger in disguise; violence at the center; does not reflect well on her and the occasional “!!!”.
I spend much of the afternoon in one meeting or another. It is a gray, dreary day and has turned cold.
After work, I meet my friend at the bar and she fills me in on the week she spent with her new love. It was fine, she says. It was lovely. We had a fight, though. One. Maybe two?
Over what? I ask.
Well, she says, he doesn’t think I should use the snooze on my alarm. He thinks it is a sign of moral lassitude.
We laugh, but she is serious.
“I asked him if it was about more than the alarm clock. I said is this about something else?”
And what did he say?
“He said, no this is just about the alarm clock.”
Over breakfast, M. and I talk about the writing. How I seem to have stalled.
“I will give you a piece of advice that I have not yet made work myself,” he says.
I say: “I hope you’re going to say: give up.”
He laughs. “No, not that."
I enumerate my complaints. I hate this, I tell him. I am not getting anywhere. I don’t know what I am doing and I hate sitting there in that chair, and I hate making decisions, and I hate the piles of paper on my desk and I hate everything I have already written and I really hate the internet most of all.
"Are you done now?” he asks.
We talk about process. It doesn’t give me much pleasure, and yet I keep doing it, I say. I mean, I sit there and it gives me nothing, and yet, I don’t want to get up, either. So I just sit there, and watch the time run out.
He says well you are constantly trying to get back to that place, to that time when it did give you pleasure. You are trying to recapture that.
I ask him if that is how it is for him, too. Every project he is working on he says is his last. "Even after the point at which it gives you pleasure?”
“Yes, I think so,” he says.
We are still talking about writing, I think.
I don’t know, she says. It was a great visit, but that fight really affected me. It was like this shard of glass that pierced my beautiful little love. And I don’t know that it will ever be the same.
Oh, I tell her, you can’t think like that. Love is kind of rough and tumble, you know.
She shakes her head. I don’t want it to be. I’ve never done this before. I don’t want anything to change. I want it exactly the way it was.
But it’s always changing, I say. You’re both always changing all the time. You know, you never step into the same river twice. It is not the same river, you are not the same man?
But that’s not the way I want it, she says. That’s not the way I want it to be.
Toward the end of the evening, we start talking about work and she tells me about a project she wants to do. It seems impractical and difficult and I tell her so. She persists and describes it in more detail. She waves her hands around. I feel myself bristle. I sit back and cross my arms over my chest. Or I lean in and rest my chin on my hand. She raises her voice. But do you understand the concept? she asks me. Do you understand it on a conceptual level?
I do, I assure her, but I don’t see how you can get support for it.
Even as I hear myself say this, I am thinking who have I become?
After, I send her a note. I say: I am sorry I was so grumpy. Please ignore me, I tell her. You should do it, I say. You should do it.
Everything you said was important, she writes back.
We’ll see what happens, she says. We’ll just have to wait and see.