The weather has been wonderful. Everything, everything has been wonderful. I ride my bike, in the afternoon, on the smooth, straight streets, and watch the houses go by me, all the strange different sorts of houses where the people live, houses with chickens and houses with goats and houses with satellite dishes and sectional sofas. It’s Portland, so everyone is allowed to be different.
I go, every day, to a little room with stark fluorescents and a table that squeaks when you bump it- it’s stuffy in there, and the window faces the courtyard. Starling McMorning gave me a piece of notebook paper so I could draw the courtyard and tape it to the closed blinds, the way Annie Dillard does in A Writer’s Life. I spread my things across the table- dried fruit and water and my new planner and some falafel chips I got in bulk at the co-op, and I open my computer and I stare at it, I go through the portal until all of the afternoon is gone, and it’s night-time, and cold, with a fog that eats all sounds. And I bike home, again, through the quiet streets, with only the turning of my pedals and the turning of my brain and the turning of the earth.
I work on my manuscript this way, every day.
I get to call it my manuscript because that’s what it is. I’m on my way.
I fall asleep each night to the rhythm of my own sentences, like a half-broken washer jerking in a darkened basement, and the tightness in my lungs is gone, because I’ve moved into a new friend’s house, and there is no mold here, as far as I can tell. I sleep much more peacefully, and can breathe at night, and do not feel like I am dying. I wake in the morning and I’m ready to see the beauty in everything, I wake up and I want to write you all a poem about the color of my walls and a little golden bird I have, golden glitter on a Styrofoam bird, it used to hang from the heaterknob in my car but now it hangs from my closet-door and it’s the first thing I see when I wake. But I don’t write poetry.
I sold my car. I sold it to a mechanic, the only kind of person I wanted to buy it. I sold it off craigslist, in one day, using Magic. I told the true story of my car, the story of how it’s 31 years old and has so many miles on the odometer that the odometer broke, just stopped, like all the computers were supposed to do in y2k. My car’s engine wasn’t supposed to travel as far into the future as it did. The engine pushes oil around, muddies up the gas, the air filter. The radiator is held together with a band of wire, the transmission is on its way out. The car runs on Magic, and at this point, the fumes of Magic.
This car needs a mechanic! Cried my ad. Are you a mechanic?
The mechanic biked over the very next day, all the way from Vancouver, in the light stinging winter rain. It was a beautiful ride, he said. He had a beard and wore a reflective yellow vest. His bicycle looked very well maintained.
I’d taken everything out of my car and piled it in my room, my little dark-painted room. It made a nice stack against the wall- everything I own. The sum of my possessions. I don’t even know them anymore, they’ve sat so long in my trunk. I know that there are all sorts of decorative objects in those boxes, fanciful, ornamental things, tiny glass bottles and wooden spools and things like that. But I’ve forgotten them, and it will be like Christmas when I have a more permanent place to live, and can excavate them again.
I didn’t bother to clean the pine-needles off the floor of the car, or pick out the to-do lists and ballpoint pens that were stuck way down between the seats where I couldn’t reach them. There was a mix-cd and a strip of “mr happy hat” condoms in the glove compartment, too, from the owner before me, and I left these there, for archival purposes.
I listed all of this in my ad, and the mechanic rode his bike over, and touched my radiator, and it broke, and he said he wanted to by the car anyway. He gave me money, fifty dollars less than I had asked but enough for me to live on for two whole months, which was more, it seemed, than the car was worth. But then, I wasn’t a mechanic.
He had other old Mercedes, he collected them like children. It seemed almost as if he couldn’t say no, as if there was something sentimental about it. We got it started with a jump from the woman next door, Kaylene, and he drove it away, thick gray smoke trailing him, the engine hacking like it had a respiratory infection. No-one else responded to the ad.
So now I have some money, and am free, as free as I’ll ever get, to go, everyday, to my small bright room with the squeaking table and work on my manuscript. And life seems so perfect I almost don’t believe in it, like if I touch it it will all fall over.
But I don’t think it’s as fragile as that.