I finished writing yesterday, and then I worried all day. I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking that I worry a lot, and that it’ll pass. Like it always does. But I’m really failing to dial it down this time, because writing isn’t supposed to make me worry. It’s supposed to make me stop worrying.
It’s supposed to let me go somewhere else. It’s supposed to show me how to get there.
That’s what it does. That’s what it’s for.
I make the five-block walk here because six days out of seven, I leave feeling infinitely better. I like the way the bell chimes hello — it’s generally my only good morning. And I like the song that’s playing — something about knees going weak and a heart starting to pound. I like the people in slow motion and the people in a hurry. I like him, with his flannel shirt, and her, with her inky black eyes. He has a nice way about him. She has a pencil in her hair.
I like the distractions. I like the sounds. Stuff clanking and grinding, dripping and pouring. Sliding across. I like the smells. Added up, they smell just like my mom.
When I first come in, I’m often about two seconds away from starting to weep all over some stranger’s wool sweater. This is always a horrifying thought. Part of me wishes that the eyes weren’t so kind, in here. And part of me is so grateful that they are.
By the time my café au lait comes up, I’ll have a topic in mind. A place to start, ideally with a photo to match. I’m never exactly sure where I’ll go, but I know that by the time that brimming cup turns into a puddle of a lukewarm pool, I’ll have figured something out.
Sometimes I’ll see something, something unscripted, and I’ll lose my train of thought. A pair of dark jeans approaching a wooden stool, out of the corner of my eye. Two long arms, looping easily around a set of bare shoulders. Twiggy. I’ll be too slow to look away — it’s too late not to remember what it felt like. To be completely spun around, like that. And then I’ll start wondering where a guy can expect to be allowed to touch, on a girl who hurts all over.
Sometimes it’ll take a quote or two, to get things going. This is the one burned into my brain today: “I’m still writing about you and you haven’t read a word.” By Travis Grandt, in You Won the Breakup. You won the breakup — I could write a whole day away. But more and more, I’ve been trying deliberately not to write about him. I think we all have someone who doesn’t read. But I don’t think it means that we shouldn’t still write.
Sometimes, I’ll reach for something I’ve spent half the night thinking about. Something I’m even more afraid of, in the light of day. Or something I’m just desperate to understand. Or something you figured out a long time ago. There never seems to be any shortage of material. I’m good at digging around. I’ll find every feeling that hurt, goddamn it, and then I’ll write my way out.
But yesterday, when I re-read what I had written, two more words popped into my head: The End.
It CAN’T be the end — I haven’t really figured out anything. Right? I mean, I still haven’t found a full-time job, I have no idea what I’m going to do when my lease comes up, and I just can’t imagine ever starting from scratch again. Hi, I’m Hannah. I like chocolate first, second, and third. What do you like?
But I don’t feel so panicked by all of the unknowns, anymore. And I need that panic to write. I need it — I’ve never done without it. I am a champion worrier — that’s who you’ve gotten to know, on here. But all of a sudden, I feel a whole lot more, I don’t know, zen, about everything. Zen?! Good grief — I know. But something is going to work out. It just is. Maybe not according to any timeline that I had in mind, but something’s going to work out.
I wouldn’t wish unemployment on anyone. But I would give everyone the gift of an extended period of time alone, if I could. Because it is a gift. As wretchedly lonely as it might be, sometimes. You should know what it feels like, to not open your mouth for three, or four, or five days. (That’s what it feels like, to really rest.)
And you should know what it feels like, to sit in a coffee shop every morning. To be invisible, at first. You should know what it feels like, to take yourself out for a walk every afternoon. (It’s awfully nice: when this direction looks just as good as that direction, and you can go this way today and that way tomorrow.)
And you should know what it feels like, to be absolutely starved for some kind of connection. Any kind of connection. It’ll prompt you to figure out how to get it.
More than one way, even.
I can’t explain how nice it is, to build your own little life. And to populate it with things you love.
You probably know all of this already. Give me another minute, and I’ll catch right up.