The middle of Octember.
These -ember months do seem to pile up rather quickly, don’t they? Last week I went away to the West Coast, spending some time with family. I don’t know what it is about me, but every single time I make a trip like that I somehow think I’m impervious to jet lag. The truth is, I’m terrible with jet lag. Eastbound is nuts. It’s almost been a week and I still haven’t acclimated, not even close. So the last few nights I’ve been up well past 2 AM, then up again at 3 AM with the little girl. So lucidity is not exactly my strong point at the moment.
Anyway, in spite of all that I’ve still managed to find the time to write. I’ve had to give up on the novella, half because the novel won’t leave me alone and half because I know I can’t give at the time that it deserves. I hate having to say no about something, to walk away. But that’s one of the realities of being a grown-up! You really have to learn how to manage your time. Or else nothing gets done. I spent the bulk of yesterday working on taxes and putting together a family budget. I much would have preferred to do something creative. But thankfully, even though it was late, I got my thousand words written.
This past weekend we visited the coast, where my in-laws live. On the ride home I had a chance to speak to my husband about the novel and some of the frustrations I’ve been going over in my head. At first, I really thought the love story was going to be central to the book. But then it sort of fizzled. It’s a whole lot less about falling in love, and a whole lot more about letting yourself fall in love. The relationships in the book don’t define Kate, she isn’t better because she’s dating or not dating. She’s not a romantic. As she says in the last scene I wrote last night, she’s gotten to the middle of her 30s without having a relationship that lasted longer than a year. And at the end of the book instead of jumping head over heels, she just meets someone that for the first time she can see herself staying with. Michael helped reiterate what I already knew: the book isn’t about romance and squishiness. It’s about music and confidence and overcoming the obstacles preventing Kate from being true to herself.
Anyway, the book is nearing the end. It’s almost at 70K and that’s without the supplementary articles, emails, conversations, and snippets that are going in later. Likely it’ll bring the size up another 10K once it’s done. I was dreaming about an interactive app. Cart, horse, etc.
Kate spends the first half trying to get over Tom, who she briefly had a thing with–but after years of pining for him. He gets born again. They both, for the mean time, beat addiction. I think I like this scene the best. They’re in Paris, about to go on stage, and for the first time they actually sit down and talk about how hard it is to move beyond, to tour without drugs and to face the people they used to be.
He sighed, looking down at our twined hands. “It’s hard. It’s… I mean, I want to be able to let go. To let God take care of it, to make me new. You understand that more than anyone, I think, even though you’re not… exactly practicing.”
That was a mild way of putting it.
“I know what you mean, at least,” I said.
“I just… do the shadows ever go away?” he asked. “Ah, shit. You’re the last person I should ask, considering what you’ve gone through.”
“We’re a pair,” I said. “But in answer to your question, I don’t think so. I don’t think we can ever rid ourselves of the shadows. We just have to learn to live with them. Eventually, maybe—hopefully—they just become part of the furniture after a while. You’re not struggling to stay in the light every damned day like some strung out vampire. You wake up one morning and, for the first time, you don’t think about it.”
“And if I fail?”
“You can always start again. But, and I can speak from experience, it’ll be harder. It’s like starting from level one all over again in Super Mario Brothers. No extra lives. No save state.” That was, perhaps, the best metaphor I could have ever given him.
He perked up a bit, his eyes getting a mischievous glint to them. Forget that it was also his “I’m horny and I’m about to jump you” look. It was still endearing. I had to battle a thousand memories and haunted strains of songs I’d written about him, pining away like some lovesick teenager. I hated how long I’d taken to let him know how I felt, and hated even more that we’d never manage to get together. Not really.
Our was not a love of the ages, that’s for sure. I was pretty much at my worst when I was with him, and likewise for him. At the time, moderation just wasn’t in our vocabularies.
We walked slowly back to the venue, his arm around me.
“There is something I noticed,” he said as we rounded the corner and the breeze picked up. “About your songwriting. I mean, I know I’m not exactly Mozart when it comes to composition, but you’re changing.”
“I am?” I asked.
“Well, for one thing, none of the songs are about me.”
I laughed. “Not directly.”
“Well, it’s the first album you’re not writing love songs to me, cleverly hidden–or hate songs. They’re about bigger things. Better things.”
I felt embarrassed to be so transparent, but grateful that he’d been able to see through my creative guise.
“You know,” I said. “Three years ago… that’s what I wanted. More than you in bed or you as a boyfriend or whatever. I just wanted you to notice.”
He leaned over and kissed my forehead. “We all notice. You’re—what’s it that James calls you?—the fulcrum. That’s it. Your the very center, the sun. We’re just the planets in gravitational pull.”
“You’re totally mixing your metaphors.”
“Which is why I don’t write much, of course. I’m just the pretty voice.”
I squeezed his waist and felt, for probably the first time since we’d broken up, that we understood each other. That whatever had passed between us as lovers had changed; we’d managed the near impossible: we’d become friends.