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a peaceful protest

I was 16, and the thought of being forced to mention God as part of the pledge of allegiance was too hypocritical an act for me to play along with. Each day of high school began with this mundane recitation, as most people just stood with their hand jutting from a hip, the other dangling across their chest as they counted out the seconds until they could sit back down. They leaned against desks, and talked through it about what party and where it would be, if there would be a keg or a bonfire in the woods. I recited the words, omitting the "under God" part as a sort of half-baked protest. I was raised to flaunt my family's ramshackle atheism, as a choice of smug pride. We knew better, was the prevailing logic.

But one day, I could not stand and say any of it. It felt so rote, so hollow, so devoid of choice. There was no law that said I was required to say it. I knew this was my right, a form of free speech. My homeroom teacher was a legendary drinker, a trash-talking re…

the tiger in Spring

N and E wished me luck before going to sleep. I made sure the pen had been filled with that bright blue ink from Florence. V was already snoring lightly with her hands curled to her chest, all cherub. There was ice in the freezer, in alphabet molds. I filled a short glass with everything left from A-J. A good splash of the Adega Veha and it is time to look down at the trees bending in the night wind until I am ready.

And then all in one motion, I open the big black book. The notes in the grey journal are on the white table and the dog-eared page reveals itself, the scribbles I have read so many times. I did not know how he would arrive here, how to have it happen without question, without doubt. It took months, after years. I was not in a rush but Richard Stack told me I should always finish a book in Spring. If not in Spring I must wait until the next one - that it was not ready yet. I pushed on this, surrendering two long mornings last week in New York to a booth in the back of the Pearl Diner, laying low, hammering into seven full scenes that glued together a Bowery hotel, a cathedral, a kitchen, a fateful taxi ride.

I am listening to Tabula Rasa by Arvo Part. This has been the soundtrack for the book sessions for the past few years now. The music becomes a bubble, a sense memory that brings me back when I have not written about Paul and Anya and Pasha for some time. It makes the old fragment familiar, immediate. I thread the needle once again, looping into the old story and building a few new lines, a few more inches closer to the end.

This will be the night it ends. After more than eleven years, the book will be on the page now instead of a messy pile of possibilities. It will be one whole, and it will need some editing but I edit heavily as I go so it is safe to say the book is one pile of papers, a plane at the gate waiting for the go ahead, pages ready to taxi, to leap into the sky for some unknown destination.

I do finish, and there is no surprise. I sip from the old brandy, savoring the emptiness. There is a vacuum now. I know I will wake up and have no book to struggle with, no ending to chew on as I take walks to buy groceries. The tiger has been brought to the mat and will not bite.


Comments

Unknown said…
Fantastic news, way to go!

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