I’ve only told a handful about the exact nature of my additional (week-end) employment. Their reactions have been, I suppose, in character. My mother, struggling to maintain tact within her usual frank approach to family and life in general, asked – but, didn’t they think you’re too old for this job? Don’t they want to place out front someone who looks, well, you know, better? Not that you don’t look well. For your age. (I assured her that the company maintained nondiscriminatory practices.)
Ed’s reaction has been a continued preoccupation with melting metals, or whatever else he may be reading at the moment:
When I nudge him to take note of this significant change, he remains unfazed -- Oh, pick you up after work then?
I want to say (and I do say it) – no, you will not. I will no longer have time for what you do so well (which is a moment-based existence that adds on bits of life incrementally – sort of like a domino chain: you can’t tell what the next piece will be, except that it will somehow relate to the previous one).
Ed is very adept at blocking the subtle differences between the schedule of a person with two jobs and a person with no job at all (he retired early).
I am mostly surprised, however, at my own reaction to this slight twist to my life henceforth. It seems like a major admission of failure. And this is something so new to me, that I almost cannot continue the conversation with myself about what comes next. It’s too distressing. Upbeat people are not good at acting out distressing turns in the road.
Of course, the failure that I now suddenly recognize, as vividly as I recognize that my right hip is lower than my left (once I was told of this, I see it so plainly, even though for years this had completely escaped my notice) – is the failure of fitting in what I thought for so many decades I was slated to do: the writing of the goddamn book that we all probably think we have within us, except that I thought it especially strongly.
Perhaps more perceptive souls saw this coming. It could be argued that I have had plenty of months to do well by my ambitious leanings. People who want to finish manuscripts don’t cross oceans the minute school’s out. They don’t kayak down the Wisconsin River just because the weatherman notes the absence of thundershowers in the forecast. They don’t wait for the writer's shack to be finished because, really it may not be the next domino piece, or the one after, and even though Virginia Woolf insisted on a better writing environment for herself, she could afford to be fussy: she was already an accomplished person before she said (or rather Nicole Kidman said, but I imagine she got it right) -- I need to return to London.
On the upside, I still wake up each day making up sentences in my head. My groggy senses haven’t caught up with the suddenly distressingly real possibility that I may never get them on paper. In the gray light of the pre-morning sky, I am still working on my unfinished manuscript.