So… I’ve been writing. And by writing, I mean WRITING. All caps. For a book I’m… writing. Writing a book. It’s just so weird to say that (write that) out loud. I’m not even going to tell you what kind of book it is, because it’s too embarrassing. UGH OK FINE, it’s a coming of age. I resisted putting coming of age in quotes because that somehow seems to dumb it down or make it seem like it’s only a coming of age in theory. But there it is. Hopefully I finish it some day and then maybe other people can read it.
I’ve been writing so much because I have a sort of self imposed deadline that is fast approaching at the first week (ish) in April. Where I shall be handing over pages to Margaret where she will write giant question marks in the margins and ask me about motivation and where the story is actually going. (You will, Margaret, don’t tell me you won’t.) Because oh my god, I don’t even know if I know. Last week I made a story arch like you do in freshman English class when the teacher asks you to point out the rising action, the climax, and the falling action. I pretty much only have one of those things figured out.
It is so much easier to talk about this in regards to me not knowing what the hell I’m doing because I don’t. I never do. I have never been super confident person when it comes to writing. Afterwards? Or in workshop classes? Super confident. Sort of. But when it comes to actually doing it. Oh my god, obsession, second guessing, terrible doubt city. It’s where I reside. I don’t know if it is productive but it maybe makes some of my scenes super sharp because I edit them in my head while walking from the grocery store to my car. And during elevator rides. And when I should be actually working, the work that actually gives me money for living.
But! I thought I would share a tiny smidge of what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks. It’s kind of exhilarating to share a voice that is not just my blog voice, which just so happens to be my inner monologue voice. This voice is sort of… out of myself. I hope you find it neat.
We moved to an old person neighborhood when I was in 2nd grade. The hills were too steep for neighborhood bike riding and we lived on the corner of a busy street. Even dribbling a basketball was treacherous. One wrong move and the ball was lost, bounding into traffic, down the hill, gaining momentum until it was too far gone.
Old people were everywhere, or rather nowhere as they rarely were seen out of their homes on weekends. The only people out in the neighborhood was a small gaggle of teenage and pre-teen boys who congregated across the street from my new house and who were all older than me. One of them was lucky enough to have a flat driveway to play basketball in. They had a hoop and everything. I played basketball for my CYO team at school and sometimes with my mom on the weekends. I watched the boys, all a year or more older than me, with envy and unspecified lust from my bedroom window.
My bedroom was over the garage and if my parents left early in the morning, I could feel the garage door opening and closing beneath me, the low rumble under my floor. All summer long I heard a constant and rhythmic nose from both the birds cawing on the power lines outside, and the near constant bouncing of a basketball followed by the swoosh of the net.
Sometimes my mom would convince me it was a good idea to go shoot around at the YMCA down the street. I’d eventually work there during the summers, running a sports camp for squirrely children and getting an unprecedented farmer’s tan. When I was too young to work, but old enough to feel unexplained hot shame for purely existing, the basketball court at the YMCA was ripe for a million different unspeakable scenarios. The ball bounced too loud on the hardwood floors. My shorts felt too short. There were never any other girls in the old gym where we played, and sometimes we had the whole place to ourselves, but when we didn’t I could tell the other men and boys were annoyed that they were being limited to half court press by some mom and her little girl. If this had happened to adult me I would be thrilled by the opportunity to encroach on their turf, but being a pre-teen the truth of patriarchy was both overwhelming and humiliating made only worse by my mother’s clear disregard for its silent rules.
In the neighborhood before the old person neighborhood there had been 3 homes with kids; my next door neighbors who had 3 boys, and then 2 houses on the other side of my block, past the crack in the cement that sometimes housed a hornets nest, past the barking dogs behind the chain-link fence. We all played together at different times, we all ate lunch at each other’s houses, we all road bikes around and around and around our block, sometimes cutting through the ally even though we weren’t supposed to. One time the neighbor boy showed me his penis. I think he was 3. I thought it looked like a broken finger. I expected to be integrated into the old people neighborhood kid-pool eventually. Maybe I just hadn’t made a firm enough move. That first summer I was eight, perpetually bored and fairly lonely.
It was a Saturday and we were just getting back from Costco and all of the boys were outside playing ball in the driveway, like always. I hadn’t yet introduced myself to any of the neighbors really, being generally shy and afraid of grownups, but I imagined the onslaught of homemade pies and cookies paired with a friendly knock on our door and the Welcome To The Neighborhood meet and greet would happen any day now. The only new neighbors I had ever experienced came from the movies and that’s what happened on the silver screen, so it must ring true in real life.
After I helped my parents unload the car from a weekend trip to Costco I told them that I was going to walk over and say hi. They had no problem with this and I had no doubts this was going to go amazingly well. It started off exactly as I had imagined and I had imagined this exact scenario many, many times. It was a beautiful early summer mid-morning, the sound of tennis shoes hitting pavement, of lazy bees milling about, and me in keds tennis shoes and matching short and t-shirt combo skipping, yes skipping, over to the boys’ driveway. I don’t think up until this moment I had ever felt this much confidence, nor have I ever felt it since.
My skipping had motivation behind it. I thought in that instant it was the most nonchalant move on the planet. Like, “Hey, just thought I’d skip over here for a second. Since I have a free moment in my day, just thought I would stop by, as one does, in the neighborhood, skip skip skip.” The boys briefly all stopped playing to look in my direction.
“Hi!” I said brightly, “My name’s Anna, you wanna play?”
Their was a brief pause before the laughing started. Almost as soon as it began, though I waited just long enough for my face to fully collapse, and my very first true feelings of disappointment mixed with acute embarrassment to soak in, before quickly turning and sprinting across the street straight back down my steep driveway, down into my garage, and directly into my cool basement.
I cried, but not until I was certain they wouldn’t see.