Writing is my job.

And the longer it has been my job, the less I write for myself.

The less I write for the sun setting, for the fingers of pink reaching across the gray sky. The less I write for the knot of sadness at the end of long travel, the crashing down from all the going and going and then the huge stillness of being.

The less I write about things I remember. Like sun baked streets and buying Bruce Springsteen’s Born In the USA on cassette and clipping my Walkman to my jean shorts and singing “Glory Days” in the California sun, unaware that I was singing about the very days that my wiry body was hurtling through.

I write less to unravel the knots I’ve tied.

I write less that is unedited, that hasn’t been picked over and over and over and over until it shines.

I can’t remember the last time I wrote a love letter. To anyone. To anything. A love letter to that moment when a plane starts descending over Seattle and the clouds unfold like a Broadway show, the San Juans rolling into view like a chain of green marbles on blue glass.

That feeling of home that settles on my chest like a cat. That feeling hasn’t been put to words much in the past few years.

It is achy to write this, like stretching a dormant, atrophied muscle.

I write all the time. From 9-5, and then from 6-10. The clock turns and I am mining for words and more words and even more words, until I am spent and feel grateful that somehow the well refills.

But it is not often that I dip in that well just for me.

So to get back in the practice, here is one story that I have referenced before in one music column. I told it over dinner to a writer friend in LA and he blinked and said, “write that down.”

So I am.

I was 20, and it was the night before Easter. I was smack dab in the middle of my eating disorder, my body beginning to feel much older than its years, my bones sticking out of me as though they had decided to try to jump ship before the whole thing up and sank.

I was back home in Colorado for the school break, sleeping curled around a thousand pillows in my childhood bed, politely refusing the cheesecake my mom had made for me. You might think that a mother noticing her daughter’s weight loss and responding with a cheesecake is passive-aggressive, but you don’t know Debbie. That shit was straight up aggressive. Cheesecake was paired with narrowed eyes and declarations like “A LUNA BAR IS NOT A MEAL KATHLEEN. EAT A PIECE OF CHEESECAKE.”

I did not eat the cheesecake.

My family was not, and really has never been, religious, but Mom and Dad had raised me Catholic out of some lingering sense of duty to my dad’s heritage, and it had stuck. I was a theology major at a Catholic college, and I loved it. I loved the rules and the incense and all the books. I loved the ritual and the mystery and the saints with their gory stories. I particularly loved the saints who ruined their own beauty with ash and fire, like St. Cecilia or St. Brigid.

So when I asked if we could go to the sunrise mass at our local parish, my parents gamely agreed. It would be at 5 in the morning and they promptly went to bed at 9.

I sat holding my feet on the living room couch as the night dropped its navy curtain, and felt the old restless energy rise up.

I would not be sleeping.

So I decided to run. Not even wanting to find my own jacket, I fished a ski jacket circa 1985 from the hall closet that I wore snowboarding the week prior as a joke, and I hopped in my mom’s SUV, much more capable of handling the snow than my little Chevy Malibu. I drove to the 24 hour gym that my parents owned and that I helped manage during the summer.

And I ran.

I ran from about midnight to 3:30 AM, with the Food Network on above me, Ina Garten sweetly preparing food for Jeffrey that made me want to cry. I don’t know if it was the food, or how connected Ina seemed to the food, all I know is that woman could make me cry when she explained a quiche.

When I was spent, I stopped the treadmill and got off. The gym was eerily quiet, Ina’s voice not filling the empty space. My legs were splotched bright red and I looked in the big, wall-sized mirrors and didn’t recognize the spindly girl alone in the middle of the fluorescent room.

The streets were as empty as the gym, and I turned on Ben Folds Songs For Silverman as I headed home to shower. There’s a particular quiet that comes over streets in the elastic time between day and night – when it’s not quite morning and no longer evening. It’s a held breath, a silence that feels all-consuming and entirely personal.

The red light was taking forever. I was singing quietly to “Time”, staring up at the obstinate light. No one else was around! No one else was here!

In time I will fade away

In time I won’t hear what you’re saying

In time

But time takes time you know

Ben Folds was always a little goofy, but as I sang with him, trying not to add commentary like “OOOOH TIME TAKES TIME, BEN, THAT’S DEEP”, I felt something shift in me.

I was in trouble. And suddenly I knew it. This wasn’t normal, what I was doing. The starvation and the fear and the control. This wasn’t ok, and maybe I wasn’t ok. 

That’s when I saw the headlights.

A tiny flash in the corner of my eye as I crossed the deserted intersection. I didn’t have time to turn completely before the pick up truck slammed into my rear passenger door, jettisoning me across the ice to spin and spin and spin, my screaming drowning out Folds’ insistence that sometimes time, you know…takes time.

I came to a stop facing the opposite direction and, as the hood of the car started smoking, bolted out from it and crouched by a light pole on the frozen ground, wearing Adidas running shorts and that ridiculous 80s jacket.

I cried. And cried and cried until the paramedics came and called my parents and took me to the hospital where they told me I would be just fine and that also my jacket was awesome.

They told me that the driver was clearly drunk. He had tried to speed off and instead veered onto a curb, where he stumbled out stinking like whiskey. They told me the car was totaled, and that if I had been in my own car I would have surely been badly injured, if not killed.

My knees were bruised from the steering wheel, and I stared at the purple blossoms as they mottled like strange flowers.

I felt outside of my body, and I floated above myself watching for what I would do next. I went home, church already over, curled up in the middle of a thousand pillows.

And as the day rose around me, shedding light on all the purple and black sprouting on my body, I took off all my clothes so my bruises were exposed to the sun and I went to sleep for a very long time.

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