Write Space

I remember reading Annie Dillard’s essay “Schedules” back when I was an undergraduate creative writing student. Dillard describes spending her days writing in a toolshed in the backyard, a structure that I imagined to be much like the one occupied by the Unabomber. She also writes about her former writing studies, small rooms with cinderblock walls because “one wants a room with no view, so imagination can dance with memory in the dark.” At the time, as a 27 year-old undergraduate student at a state university in Florida, I thought: she sounds like a loser. Dillard seemed like someone who wore sensible shoes, knew when to say when, and had probably never played Pictionary while wearing a bikini. Dillard even admits skipping the Fourth of July to go to her study and write, forgetting the holiday completely until she heard the muffled boom of fireworks in the distance outside her covered window. At the time, just the occasion of “Friday” was enough for missing work and binge drinking, so the thought of missing a holiday that celebrates independence with alcohol, blowing things up, and racing anything with an engine was incomprehensible.

Now, I am alone in a campus office during Christmas break trying to work on my thesis. Classes are finished for the fall and the campus is set on silent. When I walk out of the second floor stairwell each morning the sensor lights down my hall flicker on like dominoes, illuminating a succession of locked doors. The only other person I have seen this week is the morning janitor, who I thought was trying to speak to me in the atrium, so I smiled and walked hurriedly towards her, but it turned out she was just on the phone. My office is not cinderblock, and it is not small; somehow it is as if I have won the equivalent of the graduate student lottery. I try to lay low, rarely mentioning my office around the department just in case my placement in this room is a mistake, and part of my assigned office number was missing, like a letter that designated “basement” or “behind elevator shaft.” However, here I squat. Alone. Writing.

I am not sure how I got here. Graduating from college the first time was a surprise to me. It took me ten years, and an actual diploma seemed like the rabbit dangling a few feet in front of the world’s laziest Greyhound. Eventually, I guess the rabbit just got real tired or maybe died, and I caught up. Now I have two kids, and I am close to finishing a second degree. College is easy now. Sitting anonymously in an air conditioned classroom? Sign me up! Taking Saturday afternoons to go to campus to write a paper/stare at the wall? Schedule it! Being a mom makes me value anything that involves privacy. Last night, I managed a dispute over the last Capri Sun while sitting on the toilet. If writing a thesis is all it takes to have some alone time, then I am in.

What the hell am I going to do when I am finished?

Annie Dillard’s essay, Schedules, is cited from its publication in The Essayist at Work: Profiles of Creative Nonfiction Writers, Lee Gutkind, editor. Heinemann, 1998.

Election Hangover

I have an election hangover. Not the kind that usually starts with “I am awesome at beer pong!” and leads to me chugging six Solo cups of Milwaukee’s Best, but the good kind that serves as a gentle reminder of the fun times from the night before. That leftover dragging feeling where the memories of laughs outweigh the lack of rest, and the discomfort is just enough to warrant eating a sausage biscuit. Also, I have an actual hangover. I didn’t play “too close to call” because I don’t own a funnel, but I did chug a Michelob Ultra when MSNBC announced that Obama would take Ohio. Then, I may have tweeted “I am so happy I might piss myself” to @BarackObama.

This election is a win for women. Not just because of who we did not elect, but also because of who we did. Wisconsin elected openly gay democrat, Tammy Baldwin, and Illinois ousted Tea Party incumbent Joe Walsh in favor of decorated veteran, Tammy Duckworth. (Big night for Tammys!) Duckworth lost both her legs and part of her arm while serving in Iraq. According to the coverage last night on MSNBC, this makes her the first disabled female veteran to serve in Congress. And in Missouri, my new favorite state, Claire McCaskill, the democrat incumbent, defeated Todd Akin, who had to give up his House seat to run against her. Now, maybe Akin has time to go back to ninth grade biology class. Based on his understanding that our super vaginas can repel unwanted sperm during rape, Akin probably thinks, like my six year old son does, that we pee out of our butts.

Now, I have to get back to work. The hangover means it is time to move on. Sweep up the streamers, wipe the sausage biscuit crumbs off my chest, and try to stuff all the bottles into the recycle bin/find an extra container to serve as the back-up recycle bin. I have papers to grade and a thesis to write. I can’t spend my afternoons trying to figure out an oxymoron like “legitimate rape” or determining why actual morons keep getting elected to congress. I am a scholar. The world needs me to solve the crisis of how David Sedaris is, or is not, an unreliable narrator. I am pretty sure if you look up the term “scholarly” in the dictionary, you will see a picture of me pointing at Sedaris, Abu Ghraib style, cigarette hanging out the side of my mouth, finger guns blazing at him stooped over his typewriter. I feel like a parasite holding him captive for my own wicked and somewhat useless games. Today, I must determine how he writes about his former housekeeper and babysitter, Mrs. Peacock, in two different essays. The world cannot wait any longer for this analysis.

Well, hopefully the world can wait until after lunch. I am starving.