Some Restrictions Apply
It’s a Sunday in November at 11:51 in the morning. I am sitting on a fake leather sofa in the corner of a bubble tea place inside a half-finished mixed-use development fifteen minutes from my house, where I have left my husband and the baby to go out and write for the first time in a year.
The plan was to trick myself! I was going to sit down and write the date and the time and where I was sitting and what I was doing. I was going to sit down and write my way into writing. I was going to sit down and write about writing about not writing. Before having a baby I never wanted to write in a coffee shop — too many other people to perceive and be perceived by. And this is still true. Except now I do not know their names, I do not want to pinch their cheeks or pat their bottoms, I bear no responsibility for them beyond the basic social contract. I am not alone but I am free.
Now it’s 12:35. I have consumed one seasonal apple and oat crumble danish and one strawberry matcha. I have written ten sentences that feel halfway passable, or perhaps now eleven. The sun has moved. I was not sitting in the sun when I first sat down but now I am. What a thing, to live on a planet.
What am I doing? What is the point of this?
The point was to write, because I need to write and I haven’t since the last time I wrote, nearly a month ago now. I need to write like some dogs just need to run, and I haven’t been, and I’m chewing up the sofa. But here I am with the gate wide open and I’m just balking at the void.
Yesterday, in anticipation of feeling stuck today, I left myself some notes for things I could write about:
Importance of momentum
Reflexive self-loathing and recrimination!
The book, for once
“Improve the silence”
These all felt very present in my mind at the time, but now they feel far away again, except the self-loathing. I have been feeling a lot of it lately. I am feeling it right this very second! Mostly I blame hormones, because the baby is almost completely done requiring my body for sustenance for the first time since her conception, and I knew this would happen when we started weaning, but once again it seems that simply being aware of something isn’t enough to protect me from it.
Ugh: I’m about to have an actual thought — something about self-protection, related to both breastfeeding and writing; the kind of little spark I’ve been mucking around for since I got here — but I really really have to pee. It is 1:13.
Now it’s 3:07. I’m back at home. The spark is gone. Finding the restroom required walking through a little food court with all its food smells, so after I peed I just wanted to eat. And then I saw a baby, and I missed my baby. So I went back to the car and I texted Joe that I was picking up sandwiches, and then I drove and picked up sandwiches, and then I drove home.
I walked in the door and the baby looked up at me and said, with her typical confidence, “Dada!”
“How was it?” asked Joe.
“It was garbage!” I said.
I picked up the baby and Joe told me about their afternoon and she examined the necklace I’d put on earlier because I was leaving the house without her. She seemed to have grown since the morning. I knew that wasn’t true, but I still felt bad for having been gone. What had I missed, and for what? Who needs whatever I wrote more than this baby needed me? Except she didn’t need me, she had Joe, who Fonzworth Bentley’d her with an umbrella while she scooted around the backyard in the shadeless midday and made her pancakes for lunch.
Oh — lunch! Maybe I wasn’t having dueling creative and parental existential crises. Maybe I’d just been hungry long enough to forget I was hungry.
Joe put the baby down for her nap and we sat at the kitchen table and ate our sandwiches. When we were done she was still asleep. I went outside and changed the wiper blades on the car. I came back in and she was still asleep. “What are we doing this afternoon?” I asked Joe, and he said, “I don’t know, we hadn’t talked about it,” and I said, “Well, now we’re talking about it,” and from her room the baby said, “Weh!”
I almost took a step towards her room. I stopped. “You take her,” I said. “I’m going to go try to write some more. Just an hour. Just until four.”
That was at three. Now it’s 3:32. I am sitting on my bed. I have earplugs in. I have no idea what the other people in my house are doing. I’ve been writing for a half hour. The sun was shining in my eyes when I sat down and now it’s only shining in my eyes if I move my head slightly forward. I keep my head back.
Now it’s 3:42. I’ve been fiddling and dithering for ten minutes. The sun seems markedly lower. Does the sun move through the sky at the same pace all day? This seems like something I should know. Maybe I have known it, and like so much else, this year pushed it clean out of my brain. What else is gone? What else will go?
Now it’s 3:50. I just looked at the internet, not to find out the answer to my question about the sun, not for any reason except habit. The dumb old drift of fingers and keys.
Now it’s four and I’m just sitting here. My hands are glowing, the window thick with light. Not free, not alone. Not a spark. Something else.
Thanks for reading Vanitas, a newsletter about life, death, and other dumb stuff. It’s a little early this month. If you’d like, follow me on Instagram: @by_rachaelmaddux.