Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I'm Not on Drugs

I strained my elbow. Did you miss me?

It's tennis elbow and I don't even play tennis any more. I never was very good at it anyway, but I loved the idea of tennis. Mike and I played a little when we dated. It was one of those things I just went along with whenever he brought it up. Tennis anyone?

Sure why not? Now, it makes me nostalgic. 

The real story is that I've been hanging out in the kitchen listening to The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman. He's one of those writers who writes beautifully even for speeches and introductions and rants.

I talk back to him when he pauses on the audiobook. Blitz hangs out in the kitchen with me, usually in front of the sink where I'm working, on his back with his fluffy dots and stripes showing. Maybe he thinks I'm talking to him. Maybe I am talking to him. I don't know.

Neil says things like: it's necessary to make mistakes; write what you love; read the damned comics before you put them into that clear plastic sleeve; and listen to these attributes of his favorite authors.

I love when people talk about their favorite authors. Some I had read and some I hadn't.

Isn't it amazing how two people who read totally different books can still be avid readers? There are that many books in the world, enough for a bunch of us to be able to share completely new old books whenever the subject comes up. I love that. I also love that my stacks of books teeter in piles around my house. I have books on the back of my bed. I have books stacked in the window of my bathroom. I have an audiobook in my car and one in my kitchen. Books clutter the table on my side of the couch and lie double-stacked in bookshelves throughout the house. I currently have a book under my pillow. It's true, Dog Songs by Mary Oliver. I love being surrounded by books. I'm sure I won't live long enough to read them all but I can try.

Neil Gaiman made me cry too. I wanted to hug him and say, 'yes, yes, I know what you mean about those authors you love.'

At that point, I'd finished loading the dishwasher, had wiped down the counters, cleaned the litter box, did the last load of laundry, rearranged the silverware drawer, and then I just sat on the footstool in the laundry room and listened. Blitz was certain I was sitting there by the litter box for him. He loves lying on the rug, the one covered in scattered cat litter. At least he isn't rolling in the cat litter any more, not that I've seen anyway.

I kiss that kitten. Don't blame me for wishing he weren't such a dirtbucket.

So, as I sat on my footstool listening to Neil Gaiman read, Blitz rolled back and forth on his filthy rug.

Rub my belly.

Rub my belly.

Wait, don't rub my belly.

And I realized I was crying because of the joy of Neil's words and also because I struggle with my own words. Actually, writing is easy. Editing is hard. Editing is critical, turns the words from grape juice to wine. But editing, sitting down at the screen full of words and getting the shape of them just the way I want them - that is hard.

I have trouble with the glut of words and what I should do with all of them.

I hate when people come up to me and they tell me I just have to write this crazy story that happened to them last week because I must be looking for a subject to write about.

No! I have an abundance of subjects. Write your own damned book! I have my own passions that burn through my bones. I can't write your story.

So, I sat on the footstool and rubbed Blitz's back and patted his paws, crying, mourning my age and the fact that death could come and I might not finish writing. Neil's words made me ache and then brought a brand new story to mind.

No! Not a new story. And I felt compelled, when so many other stories await, to write out the bones of it. Moss and a crater and taking over the world. Then I went back to the footstool and listened so more to Neil speak about meeting his favorite authors. Stephen King's tribute was amazing. And funny. It made me feel less alone to hear that some souls just feel better when they write. And Neil spoke about Ray Bradbury. Ray fucking Bradbury. Dandelion Wine.

Yeah, that.

Does Neil Gaiman know he's that author for so many of us? I've given is book The Ocean at the End of the Lane to about four people now, describing it as 'ethereal.' Mike keeps telling me that I don't have to buy books for my friends when it's not their birthday. I will buy more by the end of June. Don't tell Mike. And I'm so relieved I haven't read everything Neil has written yet. There are still new stories for me to anticipate.

Eventually, I got tired of squatting on the footstool. My elbow ached for ice. I turned the sound up, moved to the couch, iced my aggravated elbow with Blitz sitting on my ankles, and Neil read me a story. When Blitz looked up at the ceiling, my eyes followed his. Nothing was there, just textured white ceiling and sky through the skylights. Blitz looked up again. I couldn't keep from checking.

Haha. Made you look.


Did Blitz know more about people reading and what happens to them than I did? Was Neil up there, a speck of dust, haunting me with his words? Was I too blind to see? Only a cat can see a reader.

I swear, I am not on drugs. I'm not.

Thank you for listening, jb

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