She sits at her desk flipping through a book by someone she loves, one she’s read more times than is necessarily sane; and she says to herself, “in 8 billion years… I could never, ever write something this good; why am I even trying?” With great force, she tosses the book flimsily into the air and it lands on her bed, scaring both of her cats into bolting away. When they leave, their tails disappearing into the hallway followed by the sound of tiny talons scraping across the cheap linoleum, she feels lonely; and then she feels even lonelier for feeling lonely because her two cats decided to spend time congregating together in the living room and not in her work space.
On the screen are two words, followed closely by a blinking cursor: ‘The Sun *blink* *blink* *blink*’. The sun what!? The sun rose… the sun set… the sun was hot… the last one is a joke, she muses. But writes it down regardless, to see what it might look like in print. “The sun was hot”. She wonders how many books begin with the words ‘the sun’ and realizes sadly… hundreds. And just by going down ‘the sun’ road, she is absolutely being derivative. One of the cats peeks its head into her bedroom and she whirls around to greet him, and he runs away again. She even says out loud, “wait! Come back!” but then realizes… cats never do what you want them to. Just like men. *blink* *blink* *blink*. She deletes the two words on the screen and resolves to start over.
The original idea is about a girl who is on some trip by herself (motivation unknown – will decide after the first draft perhaps?) and her boyfriend dumps her over the phone while she’s away (this is a stupid and overused idea, she realizes; but it gets the ball rolling for something romantic and interesting). So driven by the destruction of her own determinate heart, she wants to end it all (a bit too dramatic?) but is reasoned with by a kindly stranger (or love interest?) who gives her a long, peaceful, thought-provoking, soul-searching ride back to her hometown. When she gets there (if she gets there), she will be blessed with all kinds of neo-wisdom and be able to venture forth on her own (or with her new love interest?) and her life will be changed forever. Now, she thinks… how does this all begin? And why does it all begin?
It’s a stupid project; stupid and boring. Stupid and boring and melodramatic. Like some old Joan Crawford movie, but at least Joan Crawford has talent. Well, until that science fiction movie with the ape in it… ‘Trog’, that’s the one. She laughs to herself and decides to watch the trailer; she looks for it but can’t find it. And then wonders how someone who was in some of the greatest women’s pictures ever could end up in a movie like that. That will be me, she thinks; a bit of promise in my undergraduate degree, but I don’t get to move along any further. When will my ‘Trog’ day arrive? I should sit on the porch and wait for the wagon to come get me now, because this ‘sun’ business isn’t going anywhere. But she digresses, in her own head, and reverts her now-tired eyes back to the blank page on the screen. It occurs to her that there is a fake shadow behind the page and a thin, almost invisible black boarder surrounding it, features she hadn’t ever noticed before.
She thinks back to her undergraduate years; the supportive classmates, the huge body of work that was being produced, all the amazing books she read which made her laugh and feel and remember that the best days of a writer’s life are the latter ones – the rich, sophisticated Dom Perignon days, not the struggling Grasshopper Ale ones. She knows that with age comes experience, better vocabulary and more adventures to talk of. And still, she thinks about her shabby life and her student loans and her two cats, which are now spooning and purring together on the couch without her – she can almost hear them doing so and it hurts her more than her last breakup – and wants to just go into accounting. I’m not good enough for this shit, she thinks. And even if I was, so are 8 million other people.
It’s 3 p.m. and she goes to the kitchen and draws a wine glass – a cheap ugly one from an Army surplus store – and pours a glass of Luigi Bosca, her favourite wine – classy in taste and locale, cheap in price – the best kind of wine, obviously. And she has a drink. Then two, then three. And suddenly, she sits in the living room watching Ellen, stroking her two cats, alternating between them as they purr and eventually fall asleep. I’m so cliché, she thinks. Just like that sun story I was writing earlier. And then she wonders if cliché people write cliché stories, or if that’s just something she does because she has no place being a writer at all, whatsoever, in any universe, for any magazine, anywhere in the world.
The cats get up and eat; she does too; individually wrapped cheeses and soda crackers. A whole net bag of cheese; a whole sleeve of crackers; and then a banana, and then an Oreo, and then seven Oreos, then two rows of Oreos from that dark plastic tray they come in. And then she turns on the radio and Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” is playing, and she thinks… it doesn’t get any worse than this. Then she dips an Oreo in her wine and decides that yes, it does. Only a little though.
By that evening, she has a few sentences: “The sun rose from behind a humble, shingled roof; roofs were flat in Arizona, and someone had told her they were built that way because there was no snow and thus, no reason for a slanted roof. Still, they look strange; like miniature shopping malls or wood sheds surrounded by cacti. And it’s blazing.”
Damn it! She thinks. Why is she in Arizona? Who told her about the roofs? Of course it’s blazing hot – they’re in BLOODY ARIZONA FOR FUCK’S SAKES! She erases it all and stars just one more time. “The sun was sitting low in a milky blue and orange sky, everything dripping and seeping into the level desert horizon. There was no one in her line of sight and the air was chilly. She stepped inside of her door way and rubbed goosebumps away from her arms. Her two cats rubbed against her…”
Really? Did she really just include two cats?
She deletes it all again and looks at the time; it’s now 3 a.m. She’s burned through three quarters of the wine and almost half the bag of Oreos. It’s time for bed. And, she thinks, it’s time to give up on this story and wait for another one to come trucking ever so slowly along, in hopes that it may grant her a ropey thread that she can follow to its ideally not foregone conclusion.
She lies in bed alone, gently touching the pillow of the empty spot beside her. Her cats wander over and sit at opposite corners of the foot of the bed. She looks up to the window above her head board. There is no sun; only the drumming of a few cars drifting past, of summer wind whistling that she imagines got lost trying to find its way to the ocean. I’ll try again tomorrow, she thinks. Or I could just go and rent ‘Trog’ instead. That might be kind of funny…