Sunday, January 19, 2014

32 Books: Chapter 6: Anywhere Else, Any Other Time

I get up before my alarm goes on Saturday morning, make one perfect cup of coffee  and re-start book #4.

It opens somewhere familiar. I like this. I’ve never been to New York or California or Peru or a gazillion other places, but I’ve visited them in books and tried to understand the landscape. This book is set somewhere I know so well I feel the salty breeze on my cheeks and imagine the tropical moon and stars exactly where they should be on the balmy night the book opens.

This is the book I’d started earlier, the one that opens with words that fire out in a percussive rhythm so catchy I can only compare it to a Lorde song. The first page slips into the second and the third and I am enchanted by this writers voice but then I realize how intimately familiar I am with this story.

 I know what’s going to happen. And then what happens after that.

Dammit. They really did make the series based on this book. 

I read three more chapters quickly while sipping my coffee and head off to the most important part of my day.


It’s been over a year since one of my students left for war and asked me to keep an eye out for his Mom.  No problem. I took her to breakfast, and since then we go to breakfast every two weeks. 

Most of the time we order the same things. Sometimes I think I’m going to change but I don’t. I like what I like. 

For an hour every two weeks we both get hot food and one person’s undivided attention.  We supported each other while he was gone, and we’re supporting each other now that he’s back. Plus there are grits and hash browns involved. It’s an awesome arrangement.

While cutting her eggs into neat squares she leans towards me and says “He might go back. He thinks he wants to.”

I sit quiet and let this sink in.While he was there he wanted to be here. But now he wants to go? I wonder how hard it is for soldiers to come back from war and  shrink themselves down to fit under florescent lights in big box stores.  

It must feel like busy work, detention, time out. 

Or maybe it’s a relief. I don’t know.

She continues, if he volunteers, he knows where he’s going and when and with what unit. If he doesn’t, then they can send him where and when they want.

She tells me where.

I take it in for one beat, two beats.

 A younger me would have flipped a plate and shouted ARE YOU NUTS? THERE? NOW? HELL NO!! ANYWHERE ELSE ANY OTHER TIME!! NO NO NO!

But I’m a grown up now. I have to play by certain rules and also get my oil changed regularly. 

He wants to go? I ask.

She nods and takes a deep inhaling breath of silence.

I nod back.

Well this is a surprise, it really is.

She nods back and we nod together for a moment, breathing, exhaling, eating eggs and silently agreeing to not throw plates.

After I take her home, I settle back into book #4 and I want to really like it, I want to be delighted by it, but it’s all so familiar that I almost can’t bear it.

This must be what a student feels like when they take a class that covers material they already had.

 I imagine them looking at the professor with a scowl and  thinking hurry up, say something I don’t know, then disappearing into Instagram until the class seems worth joining again.

Unlike books 1, 2, and 3, I can’t wait to put book #4 down.

It wasn’t the book, it was me. I wanted to jot down everything I’d been thinking and write first drafts of chapters and get rolling on the REST of  project I told my students I would do, which is to not only read all the books they give me but also WRITE a book as well. If I can do this while juggling work and kids, they can do what I ask them to do. I don’t have any more hours in the day than anyone else. 

But I have a secret. I love writing so words and stories and chapters come hard and fast to me. 

If I’d promised my students I’d run a marathon, we’d be in a different game here entirely. I’d need new shoes, a new hoodie (Grape? Lime green?) with an iphone pocket, and after spending a day or a week or whatever taking my time buying those, I’d probably find fifteen more obstacles after that to even beginning to talk about starting.

Before my daughter wakes I’m on my computer.
 Chapter 1 done.
Chapter 2 done, Chapter 3 done. 

I hope she reads these chapters, especially now that we are more deeply bonded forever since I’ve read a book she likes.

I’m ankle deep in Chapter 4 when Zoe wakes up and plops herself down next to me on the sofa.

Good morning. I lean over to kiss her but she shrinks away.

You’re writing a book. I hate it when you write books.

I do the thing where I keep a nice smile face and don’t say anything but push record in my head so I can play this scene back over and over.

She continues. You’re all happy and typing away over there. Just last week you said you must be easier to live with when you’re not writing a book. And I agreed. We’ve been through this Mom.



And I want Chikfila.

There’s room in the world for me to write books and Chikfila to exist.

Whatever, she says.

Whatever, I say back, and keep typing away until I’m happy with the first drafts of Chapters 4 and 5.

My kids play with other kids and a pocket of time opens up to finish Book #4.  The words pop like fireworks, making me laugh at horrible horrible thought and things. 

I love it, and if you read it I think you'll love it too.

The book that opened with the main character talking to and about the moon closed with him talking to the moon. It comes together into a satisfyingly delicious tale.

I don’t know what to do with myself, so I look outside.

It’s a full moon, just like in the book, but thanks to this author I see the moon a little bit differently.