, You’ve been good to me. Perhaps too good. You’ve published my nonfiction when others, many, many others have passed. You’ve cut me an actual check, which actually cleared the bank, which helped pay for A) bills and B) superfluous bike parts that made me immensely happy. You’ve even nominated me for a Pushcart, which has only happened once before due to (I’m convinced, seriously) a sadistic clerical error. And lastly, you’ve asked me to contribute to the Ruminate
blog, which says to that anxious, quivering little writer who hangs out in my insides nervously sipping gin and tonics: It’s okay, guy. We want to hear what you have to say.
We like your voice. We’ll even give you a week’s reminder when deadline draws near (Thanks, Aubrey!). The self-conscious little writer man, who once thought he bore a striking resemblance to John Steinbeck, sets down his drink and, if just for a moment, feels like it’s all going to be okay. This is a confession. It’s 7 p.m. on the night before deadline. I’ve just opened my computer at Ore Dock Brewing Company in Marquette, MI, purchased an IPA (7.2%, sufficiently hoppy), and finally begun to write. You deserve better, Ruminate
. You are worth more. This is where I want to get all meta, hover over myself like a med student above his cadaver and dissect my propensity to procrastinate, the cascade of excuses, all the crazy stuff (can I say “shit” on this blog?) that has occupied my time and energy. Whatever. I’ll just give you the quick list: I’ve been significantly depressed for the last few years, which has sapped me of all writerly desire. It’s been a little like losing my libido. Before, late at night, I used to feel all word-sexy, making eyes at a blank page on Microsoft. Now I just want to go to sleep. I have a headache, I say. Maybe later. So that’s one thing. A smart friend recently diagnosed me with PTSD-like symptoms, which is weird because I’ve never blown anything up or been blown up, but it turns out there are lots of ways to get world-rattled, and I was simply too spongy on my travels,
absorbed too much bleakness and poverty, met too many refugees, stepped over all those comatose street kids in Albania whose parents drug them in the daylight to generate more charitable sympathy from passersby. Life went flat a few years ago.
Instead of wanting to ceaselessly capture/translate/understand it in prose, I’ve just wanted to take a nap. But here’s the other thing. When I do muster up the courage and energy to move fingers over keyboard, all I want to write about is my son. He’s awesome. A light in the darkness. Unfortunately, my wife said that writing about your kids spells disaster for your literary career.
I asked her where she heard that, and she said everyone knows it. “I read it online,” she said. I thought of Steinbeck, wondered about his kids. So not only am I killing my career (what a funny word!) by writing about Levin, but I also write the same stuff about him, essentially trying to juxtapose his new, shining, full-of-discovery life with all the pain and death and loss he is moving toward, which I have seen, which has punctured me and let out all the literary juju. Just look at my last two blog posts. They’re essentially the same: wow, check out this innocent, angelic little boy and now look at how shitty (can I say that?) the world is and, by God, there is a collision coming.
A reckoning. This IPA is excellent. What I’m saying is that I’ve become a depressed one-trick-pony and I have a creeping suspicion that my single trick is a bit cliché. So here’s what I can do. I’m at 642 words, and I’d like to simply give you a short list of cool stuff my kid does. Career be damned. I won’t try and make it all juxtaposy and flashy, just a list. A father’s observations: 1)
My son eats music. I play G, C, D on the guitar and he puts his mouth on the wooden body and sucks down the chords, and then he rests his head on music, the piano keys a kind of harmony-pillow. It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen and I want you to see it too. 2)
My son also eats words, quite literally, pulling books off the shelf, tearing the corners from pages, chewing them back into the pulp from whence they came. His favorites are the religious texts, the ones with faux-gilded covers that catch the light. 3)
Lastly, my son stands on the shores of Lake Superior and gives the water back its sand. It’s one of his biggest ongoing projects, along with stealing my cell phone and hiding it in the recycling bin. Here
, he says to the water. You’ve lost this.
. This is all I’ve got. Cheers. * It’s now the next day. Deadline. I had to sleep on this post, make sure that “med-student-hovering-over-his-cadaver” analogy wasn’t too strained. My wife said it’s okay. The boy is taking a nap. It is partly sunny with a nice breeze. Warm. Humid. We’ll all go to the lake when Levin wakes, let him return to his project, tell him never to give up.
He will grab fistful after tiny fistful of sand and give it back to the giant water.
Josh MacIvor-Andersen is the author of the memoir On Heights & Hunger, and the editor of Rooted, An Anthology of Arboreal Nonfiction, both forthcoming from Outpost19. His essays, reviews, and reportage have won numerous awards and nominations for the Pushcart Prize, and can be found in journals and magazines such as Gulf Coast, Paris Review Daily, Fourth Genre, Arts and Letters and many others.
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