fredag, september 29, 2006


I recall reading a note about Franz Kafka that detailed how he stayed up all night once writing a story. That isn't a feat, really. But it was what the night meant to him. It was his crucible--his proof to himself that he was a writer. He would write until he finished the story. It took a night.

Or so the story goes.

Jetlag has made me feel this way. I'm not sleeping at night. I'm a sleepwalker during the day. My mind is running non-stop. When I sleep, I sleep lightly and dream much and wake frequently.

I slept briefly two nights ago, but woke in a state of fear not recognizing my hotel room. Then I realized that I was in my own bedroom. I was home. This was Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Yet it still didn't look familiar. The fear remained.

It's been a year of travel. As we enter October, I realize I've spent 2.5 months of the year away from my city. It's a strange feeling. The year has been thrilling, but it's left something of a homelessness in me. Or maybe what I mean is a placelessness.

(God that word looks nuts: placelessness. It looks like a dinosaur's name, though doesn't sound like one. Or maybe it's just the jetlag and insomnia doing things to my eyes.)

Random thought:
I like my chef's to have a belly and my chef's assistants to be without. I feel the exact opposite of nearly all other professions.

So at 4 pm yesterday I fell into another dream coma and woke at 9:30. The need to pee forced me out of bed, but I wanted to stay there under the comforter, especially with the new bedding and the chilly air in the room. In the back of my mind, the nagging version of me kept saying that if I want to enter the Zoetrope All-Story fiction contest, I need to send the manuscript today (Friday, September 29). So I got out of bed, emptied this bastard we call a bladder, and fired up the computer.

I was determined to write until I could (legitimately) say I'd finished the story. I worked from 10 to 2:30, writing, reading aloud, rewriting. I drank tea to keep my hands warm. (This apartment is frigid tonight: low 50s.) I took breaks to walk about and think about other things, which usually consisted of telling myself (aloud) to stop writing. But I kept returning to it.

Weeks from now, I'll look at what I wrote. I'll decide I'm insane. I'll decide I suck. I've already decided both of those things, but in a few weeks, I'll have the clarity of mind to analyze the proof.

But I feel good for having subjected myself to this. I couldn't sleep after the writing. I gave up. I've returned to the computer. Now the weight of gravity is different. I've sleeplessness to thank for that, I think. The world shifts in my vision a bit, like that camera effect used in Batman Begins to show the drugged up perspective of certain characters.

The sun is still 90 minutes away. I'm eating rice. I'm drinking tea. Elizabeth will have the baby soon, quite soon. Before the sun has set on Monday. Tom and Hope marry in a month. Erin and Jim are now engaged. (Coincidentally, both sibling engagements occurred while I was in Asia; one while in Korea in June, one last week while in Japan. Asia and I are an engine of law-bound love.) And autumn is painting the leaves throughout the neighborhood.

Somewhere back in the noise and lights of Tokyo, as I wandered endlessly and spoke only a few words aloud each day, a tremendous calm entered my heart.

I'd like to think it was the wolf in me finally being put at bay. I'd like to think that he's turned his fury and hunger to more valued endeavors, such as focused writing rather than this desperate scramble of unreason and doubt and obsessive scribbling. I'd like to think that all the inner vagabonding and all the intentional self-defeating decisions have played themselves out, that they've wandered into the valley and gotten lost and have set themselves down for a very long nap. Not even the coming storm can wake them. But only time will tell.

You can't outrun your shadow.

I know this much: these are gorgeous days.
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