You do something that you know how to do but you’re distracted. You’re sick you go to the doctor get the official diagnosis the official antibiotics but still a piece of writing is due. You’re not exactly sure when. You turn it in late. You don’t know this editor and he doesn’t know you and it was a chase, and not a merry one, to even find out if he wanted you to write this. And the ifs start piling up—if he had gotten back to you even a week after you first contacted him, you would have had maybe three times as much time to work on it. If you hadn’t gotten sick. You didn’t have fever, so you can’t say you couldn’t pull yourself out of bed. You didn’t have that fever headache nightmare feeling that’s such a relief to lose when your temperature falls. Then you leave town to see someone who is sick, and you are worried and hysterical and it is partly because you didn’t have enough sleep, and you’re hoarse and is that from coffee in the morning or something as common and coarse-sounding as post-nasal drip? If so then what’s the good of those two nasal sprays, isn’t that what they’re supposed to cure. You have too much coffee and not enough sleep and the person you came to see is worried, upset, very upset and frightened and you try to be reassuring you try to acknowledge the fear the apprehension and to hold back your hysteria. And before and in between all this you get the piece of writing back and it’s in Track Changes, which you hate. Your eyes can’t focus on something that’s there but you’re supposed to ignore, if you’re supposed to ignore it, why is It still there, in some stupid color that isn’t even a real color, like cyan. When did the color spectrum suddenly produce cyan? What’s next, what other half-poison word is sniffing around on the horizon? Merc? Arsen? What poison suits you today? All poisons suit you today, you would snuff yourself out if you were the self-snuffing-out kind. The piece comes back with 71 or 98 comments in those balloons, and there are paragraphs in all kind of colors and when you print out only the black font shows up. All the colors become white, like secret script you wrote in lemon juice when you were little, which become visible when you hold the paper over and candle and don’t set everything afire.
Why do you try to do journalism after all and what other way is there to make money from writing, and besides it’s less money way less money than it used to be. Fie fie on you Craigslist who eviscerated classified ad sections around the world the entire world or at least the Earth. Writing book reviews makes you nervous, even more so than journalism and you are thinking of getting back to writing book reviews and you have a personal essay with another editor who will never ever get back to you he is fighting a war of attrition he is hoping for your attrition. That you will fall away like an outer leaf and outer sepal. Because you were hoping to make some money and so your wrote an essay that seemed mainstream to you and he this other editor is afraid of it, what is it, is it standup are the little segments too surprising for his gentle reader. Despair this is. And go back to writing for nothing being published in what used to be called the little magazines, you publish in them for nothing and you make no money from the books you write but after you write them there are universities that pay you a thousand dollars and travel expenses so that you will talk about this writing that makes no money to students paying thousands. How can you sustain. How can anyone. How can you be so fat if you’ve lost five pounds. How much did that breast weigh anyway? Shylock’s pound of flesh. Like death and more death. Mortification. Mortify and mortified.
The pieces I wrote, for the Progressive online and Chicago Reader online.