On Friday we had a party and though that was almost two days ago I still haven’t sweat out all of the shit I took in then. This afternoon we cleaned the kitchen in shifts, and now it looks something like it used to in the time before the party. I went running after I cleared the counter and did the dishes and gathered up the empties. After my first long dash my heart felt like it was exploding and I had a deadly cramp that wouldn’t go away. I walked for a bit and continued running only when I reached Garrison Creek park, where I once rented a plot of land, an extremely small plot of land, and grew tomatoes, collards, herbs, and kohlrabi with my ex-wife.
As I was running I had the feeling that everyone I’ve ever loved lives in a two or three block radius. Or lived. I don’t know why I thought this. It’s probably not true. I liked running along the decrepit old warehouses and commercial spaces above Dupont, most closed down or converted into incongruous residential space. Bodegas with their front windows boarded and dark green paint peeling.
John Cheever says he never looks back at stories he’s written, that once he’s done something he’s done with it forever and I admire that in him and think that I am holding on to more than need to. Maybe that’s because I consider so much of it unfinished. Like a swimmer I’ve got to put my head down into the water and forge ever ahead, until I feel again like the assembler or painter Cheever represents himself as in his Paris Review interview. I was something of that once.
Perhaps being published is a luxury, the luxury to forget what you’ve written, and I have so much that I haven’t published and haven’t—really—even attempted to publish. Perhaps all writers would be like Cheever if they had his luck, able to forget about their past work and forge ever forward, but most don’t have his luck. In some cases is it just a matter of putting the right story into the right hands by the time you’re twenty-four, or twenty-eight, or thirty-two? I don’t know, he has real talent, great talent, and he must have worked hard. It sounds like he did. But you can say an awful lot of things about not looking back at your stories when The New Yorker takes fourteen or fifteen a year.
Of course he is long dead now and The New Yorker means nothing to him anymore. I’m trying to pinpoint a time when I lost the feeling that I had this authority, Cheever’s authority, the authority to combine and to say whatever I want. I used to always gather material and thought in terms of themes, characters, that’s all I cared about—themes, emotions, situations, descriptions, and what I did was allow work that didn’t abide by these rules to creep into my heart and grow up in there. Now I must make the long slog back and cut through the bramble and weeds and make it to that little stretch of land with the cool water where I would sometimes sit and write or sit and squint and see a version of the world that I could put down on the page.
I have been unreliable and I feel like a child. My car’s tire is flat and I don’t know where to go—most car places close at four on Saturdays and don’t open on Sundays. It’s been flat since Tuesday or Wednesday and then we were having the party and I just completely forgot about it, or maybe I just don’t think it was important, or maybe I wish it wasn’t important at all. My instinct is to call my parents and ask them to pay for it, which maybe I should do since it’s flat through no fault of my own and it’s their car, and I wouldn’t have the car at all if I didn’t need it to keep an eye on their house while they’re gone, but some other voice inside me is telling me that this flat is like everything that I’ve been ignoring and if I give to them to take care of, somehow, then I will never start to feel better about myself. Maybe I’m tired of making excuses and speaking in a way that belies my own lack of belief or conviction…
I’m still recovering from the party and I haven’t showered yet, and I’m not hungry but I’ll probably have to eat soon, eat and then take off all my clothes and get in the shower and wash my hair, and hopefully knowing that I have written this will help me feel better as well as the cool water running down my body carrying my sweat and the shit through the drain and the pipes and forever out of my life.