Allow me if you will, Texas, to prescribe a set of conditions that may or may not ensure my upcoming happiness inside you. I’m leaning towards “may,” but what with free will and all, even with all these conditions met, you just never know.
Not that I don’t already have some. I do, totally, I’ve got like way more than I ever deserved or ever will. But now that I’m thirty, I’m allowed to say things such as “now that I’m thirty” and follow that up with snap judgments on the way life works, and the way life works is that all friendships, even the great ones, come with an unknowable separation date. Like an expiration date, except the friendship doesn’t end; you’re just not allowed to see that person anymore.
For a given amount of time, a friend is someone you place firmly inside your top five list of daily priorities, and vice versa. Friendships are usually enabled by a common location, a shared occupational and/or educational environment, a similar social schedule. If you’re lucky in the way of friendships, these people will graduate from the shared experiences to similar ones in the same location, and the “real” friendship can continue. But it’s very easy to have one aspect of the overall situation change, and poof, that person is now a ghost, occasionally writing its name in the mirror fog or calling you up to make a masturbation joke or two, and then fading into the ether again.
I moved after high school, moved all around, and now back in Ohio I’m hypothetically able to see at least seven of my former extremely close friends on a regular basis. But I don’t. I have a job at a mall where my every weekend is spent, and most if not all of them work Monday through Friday, but even if this were not the case, they’ve tended to grow up, whereas I’ve tended to not. Mind you, I tried like hell, but it didn’t take. So they’ve got these squirmy things called babies, called husbands and wives, they’re engaging in this squirmy thing called sex, they have squirmy hobbies and homes to tend to and develop, squirmy car payments and mortgages and they probably know how a 401k works (squirmily?), but me? I’m on the verge of shedding nearly everything I own to hop in a car and relocate 1200 miles. I’m not blaming anyone for this set of circumstances, but Texas, you better provide me with a semi-permanent, coherent group of friends when I get there, is all I’m saying. I’m giving up my cat for this.
2. A minimum of seven different writing spots
I had three reliable spots before, two more that would work in a pinch, and also IHOP was there for overnight needs, but that one I’m not going to count. Another latenight/24-hour establishment would be appreciated, but I’m not going to get my hopes up.
Instead, Texas, I’m going to need a home where I can write, and if you give me that it’ll count for two. I would like to be able to write at home. Fiction. For once. I regret that I always write at coffee shops only because I cannot write at home. If I could write at home, I wouldn’t care about writing in public like I do, but if I’m unable to write anywhere else, I’m left without choices, and that is a regrettable situation.
Ideally I’d fill the home with other writers. My ultimate goal? Host a writing house. Have a garage or otherwise large room in my care, and go public with it, fill it with couches and tables and a mini-fridge, and probably a hipster soundtrack, and watch the writers pour in. It would be like a clubhouse. Everybody gets a key, you clean up after yourselves, lock up when you leave.
Maybe also hookahs were there.
That is the main problem with being at home: there’s no one else around to claim the rest of the space from my attention. At home, everything is my personal space, my eyes are allowed anywhere, and that’s where they go. Not in public, though, in public I have limited staring options. But I can’t just invite people over to hang out so I can ignore them, unless they want to be ignored. Unless they are writing too.
I’ll probably have to settle for the five, I guess. If they’re still there.
3. Cash explosion
By which I mean, please Texas, don’t bankrupt me. The above picture is an actual still of my liquid assets. That’s it. Seventeen one dollar bills, which, if I crumple them a little, make themselves out to look like more. I’m already rolling on credit to get by day-to-day, and should my credit run dry simultaneously with my gas tank before I arrive safely in San Marcos, I will have to find out firsthand how much a red-headed whore is going for these days in Arkansas. I suspect: not much.
So do your part, Texas. I don’t intend to invite much in the way of costly expenditures, plane rides to see a sweetie, oil-drilling equipment, naked tiger rides through the desert– these things are all in my past, now.
I’ve traded for a lion. And the lion traded me for a hot chick. We all make choices.
Please no lighting bolts, hail storms, train wrecks. I’ll keep brushing my teeth and taking my vitamins, and you keep me out of any trained medical professional’s waiting room. I will only drink the cheapest things on tap when I go out with ALL MY MANY FRIENDS and I will avoid any bar fights or drunken driving or any other risky behavior, including the local custom known as competitive heroin darts. You just agree not to toss any tornadoes on me and I’ll consider that a net gain for my bank account (even if this whole thing is predetermined to be a net financial loss).
4. Bench smoking with Tim O'Brien
When I was last there, I had very few interactions with Tim O'Brien, which was fine with me. I wasn’t there to bask in his glow. I’d heard good things about his workshops, but also good things about all the other writers, and I was very happy with what workshopping I had. And anyway, such giant, throbbing fame, should I ever be subjected to a Playgirl centerfold interview, would be listed under the column “turn-offs.”
“Awww, really? Awww. But it’s throbbing! THROBBING!”
The one thing I wanted to do with Tim was to sit on a bench and smoke a cigarette with him, uninterrupted. I don’t know if he still does smoke, but probably so, and if so, I know where to expect him. Before his workshop he would sit on his regular bench and smoke and I would be out there too, but usually with the other MFAers, standing over by the entrance to Flowers, trying to make SO MANY FRIENDS. Sometimes some sycophantic student or another would sidle over and plop down next to him and trash the bubble of relative silence he’d found; sometimes another workshop teacher would join him, which seemed less egregious, but I never intentionally stepped into his sanctuary. I wanted to, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do in there.
Now, I’m pretty sure I just want to exist, to share the sanctuary, if that’s possible. I don’t envy him his life. I can’t stand war, I don’t think he can either, but he wrote the book on Vietnam and everyone else in the world seems hell-bent on making him talk about it. And I get that. People want to know why we fight, why we kill each other, why we exist in the first place, and his writing so loudly proclaims I don’t know why! that everyone seems to suspect that he does, actually. I can only imagine the peace that comes when such ceaseless interrogation ceases, for ten minutes of nicotine bliss on a park bench. I don’t know if it can exist while I’m there. But, add that to the list, Texas. Give me ten minutes of nothing at all with the man, and I’ll be happy.