I have today and tomorrow off from work. These are the last of my vacation days for 2008 and were meant to be used for an anniversary trip. I had an island in mind, dipping my toes in the Caribbean or the Pacific, frozen strawberry drinks galore, walking on the beach, long perfect days spent only with E, I could go on, but this did not happen for three reasons: scared off by a very aggressive hurricane season, a sudden reluctance to get on a plane, and—most significantly—no money. I was also too sick a few weeks ago to plan on going anywhere and we weren’t sure if I’d be better in time. The island will have to wait. Even so, I kept my days off. This means I will not have extra days around Thanksgiving or Christmas, and I just heard that a friend will be in town around Christmas, so I apologize for that. Anyway, I have these days, and here I am on the island of Manhattan, though it’s far too chilly to dip my toes in the water of the Hudson—and besides I wouldn’t want to, that’s just gross.
Just guess how I will be spending these glorious two days of my staycation. That’s right! Working harder than ever. Working till I drop. Maybe even skipping lunch like I did yesterday. I really have to finish this novel. I got up early and am here at what is usually my weekend writing spot, hunkered down at a good desk in expectation of a long day. I have a top-secret goal I will not tell anyone about, but if I reach that goal by tomorrow, that point in my manuscript, that line in the sand, I will be very, very happy and you-know-who will be allowed to have chocolate. If not, I will be very, very disappointed and will go to bed with nothing. (I am banking on the power of a good guilt trip.)
I write far slower than I would like to. A faster writer—I know a few—would have finished this first draft already. But I am the kind of writer who can take a whole day to write one page and then read it back and scrap it tomorrow. Therefore, it’s probably a good thing we could not afford an island vacation. I actually really need these two days.
I have taken the desk I usually try to snag on weekends. It’s not near a window. It’s against a wall and sort of dim if you don’t keep a lamp on. I like it that way. I am realizing, as I type this, warming up my fingers for the long hours ahead, that this desk may well be someone else’s favorite desk too. It’s Monday morning and by now I’d be on the subway headed to work and this desk would be empty. A woman came around the corner, books and laptop in her arms and stared at me for a long beat. Then, seeming put-off, she chose the desk just behind me. Sorry! I guess I got here first. I feel bad, though not too bad because there are a sea of empty desks around the room. Seeing someone else covet my seat gives me a great sense of responsibility. I must get out some good pages while I sit here.
I want to share with you my beautiful view, but I forgot my camera. So close your eyes and picture it:
Laptop open and shining bright. My page is magnified to 140%. Times New Roman, single-spaced, to trick myself into not caring about page count. In the middle of a scene, start of a new paragraph, waiting for the words to come. Now all I need is a strawberry daiquiri and life will be grand.