I walk to CVS to pick up my birth control prescription. Not that I’m having sex with anyone. I haven’t had sex for a long time, and yet I keep taking my pills because of the optimistic thought that maybe I’ll meet someone soon.
While in line, I check out the CVS book selection: Chicken Soup for the Diabetes Soul, 100 Bible Word Searches, Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts: “Though men swarm around Emma, she still hasn’t found Mr. Right. And the last place she’s looking is right under her nose.” People actually buy this stuff, you know.
I walk home. The sun is out, and specks in the sidewalk sparkle underfoot. Back at the house, I sit down at my computer and try to write. Like most writers, I want to be published. There’s that desire for validation – I’m always trying to prove to my family (and myself) that I didn’t totally waste my money getting an MFA. There’s also the hope that I might be successful one day and actually make money at writing, although I fully realize this might never happen.
But there’s another aspect of it, too. In publishing, I can send a part of myself out into the world for others to find. We are all looking at the world through our own warped lenses, and I want to pass my glasses for a second and say hey, take a look, this is my experience – how does it compare to yours? It’s a way of connecting, of spreading my roots, of making my own puny life feel a little bit more significant.
It’s a nice thought, but in front of me the computer screen is blank. I try to force thoughts out through my fingers, but nothing is coming. Nothing decent, anyway.
I think maybe I should write about my online dating experiences so that at least they’ll be good for something. Like Emma in Bed of Roses, I still haven’t found Mr. Right, and it’s becoming quite frustrating. I go on plenty of dates, but I never meet anyone I’m excited about – someone who I think I have the potential to connect with mentally and emotionally and physically. Sometimes I’ll find a guy with one of the three, but as of yet, not the whole package. And now that I’m older, if I don’t have the promise of a mental-emotional connection, I don’t feel right about having a physical one. Hence the lack of sex.
I start to type something about the close-talker guy who spit in my eye, but I don’t really want to write about online dating. It seems so superficial. I want to write something of substance. Something that surprises me, something that punctures one of the veins that leads to the heart of what it might mean to be human. This world we live in, it’s a total mystery to me, but every now and again, I spot a glimmer of something that might be a clue. I want to grab that glimmer and tack it down with words. It’s crude, of course, like a silk moth pinned behind glass. But how else can I share it?
Okay, Eva, I say to myself, let’s go. Let’s write something amazing and transcendental. Let’s write something that captures the essence of what it means to be human…..
Nora Roberts has probably written another romance novel in the time I’ve been sitting here staring at a blank computer screen.
According to an article in the New Yorker called “Real Romance,” a Nora Roberts book is bought every twenty-seven seconds. She completes an average of two books a year, and to date she has had 124 novels on the The New York Times Best-Seller list. Now, granted, her novels are not quite masterpieces of literature. They’re filled with lazy language, stock characters, and clichéd plots. They are not trying to dig into dark caves to find hidden jewels of human truth. Her books are surface stories you can read with half a brain, while waiting for your birth control at CVS.
And yet, who am I to judge? I haven’t published a novel. Nora Roberts has published hundreds. She is the one connecting with people by writing about sex and fantasy romances, while I’m sitting at home with a blank computer screen and a pack of pills I don’t even need.
So what’s my deal? Why don’t I just churn something out like Ms. Roberts?
And why can’t I just find a boyfriend like everyone else?
Am I waiting for a muse to toss an epiphany in front of my face? Am I waiting for the perfect
person to appear – someone with whom I immediately connect on all levels? Am I waiting for things that just don’t happen in real life?
The Talmud says that to live a complete life one should plant a tree, have a child, and write a book. It doesn’t qualify these things. It doesn’t say the book has to be a literary treasure. It doesn’t say the child must be from the union of me and my soul-mate. Maybe I’m worrying so much about the quality of my production that I’m not producing anything at all. Isn’t publishing one not-so-special book better than publishing none? Isn’t being with someone better than being alone? Am I expecting too much?
A tree. A child. A book. Right now I’m 0 for 3. The ironic thing about the birth control is that one of the reasons I want to meet someone is that I would like to have a child one day. And one day I would also like to cradle in my arms the hardback edition of my first published novel. But I don’t want to have a family with just anyone, and I don’t want my name on a book that isn’t trying to communicate something I feel is significant.
I want to share my writing in the same way I want to share my body – as a way of connecting myself to others in a deeper way than what’s on the surface. It’s not about writing something. It’s about writing something that shows a flash of understanding. Even if it isn’t a diamond, even if it’s just a bit of mica in the sidewalk, it can still dazzle the soul for a second and make life feel just a bit more meaningful.
In the same way, I’m not just trying to find a man to have sex with. Because I could do that pretty easily. What I’m searching for is a man who wants to look through my glasses, and let me look through his, so that together we can feel more deeply rooted in the world than we did when we were alone.
But these things are hard to find.
I guess all I can do is plant a tree, watch for a glimmer or a guy, and return to my computer each day for one more try.