When the roommate arrives home, resist the impulse to bolt upstairs to your room before his key unlocks the door. Remain in the kitchen only because you haven’t finished filling — to the brim — the bowl of ice cream that you’re scooping next to the open freezer door. Try to be friendly, but not too talkative because ice cream melts fast and there is a 19 Kids and Counting marathon on the bedroom television upstairs.
Ignore his comments about being in your pajamas at 7:30 or eating ice cream for dinner. Remind yourself that he pays rent for his bedroom, not for the right to judge you. Shrug your shoulders and murmur something sarcastic. Make small talk, if possible. Keep scooping. Press the ice cream down to make more room in the bowl. Multi-task: scooping, chatting, scooping, chatting. Stay focused on your goal.
Try not to act surprised when he asks to take the dog for a walk. This request coming from the laziest person you have ever met will shock you, but you cannot discourage him, especially not tonight, especially not when you are feeling like this. The dog needs walking, but you’re not going to take him. Pajamas. Ice cream. Television. These are the priorities of the evening.
Slip upstairs when he takes his mail to his bedroom. Settle into bed and turn on the electric blanket to warm up your cold toes. Stare at the television but forget to watch it. Make concerted efforts to forget the details of the day, the demands of your soul-sucking, dream-crushing job. Pine for days when you can just write books and teach classes for a living. Pretend that it is possible. Push away discouraging thoughts, the nagging reminder that in order to write books for a living, one must make writing books a priority.
Make a mental list of priorities: Work. A part-time job. A second part-time job. Occasional contract editing work that could turn into something bigger, maybe. Eventually. School. Long-distance boyfriend. Wine. Friends. Pets. Running. Home maintenance. Sleep. Facebook (because now is the time to be honest). Physical health. Mental health. Emotional well-being. Self-care.
Writing, revising, publishing.
Networking. (It’s okay to dread it. But do not avoid it forever).
Being something more than nothing. Living rather than dreaming.
Contemplate that writing workshop in Paris. Add up all of the extra classes you would have to teach to pay for it. Run out of fingers while counting.
Change the channel. Get distracted by a home shopping network promoting a steam cleaner. Look around the room and notice the dust. Consider ripping out the carpet and refinishing the floors. Consider ripping out the carpet and replacing it. Consider vacuuming. Remember the vacuum is heavy and the stairs are steep and put it off until tomorrow.
Finish the bowl of ice cream.
Glance at the closed laptop resting pathetically on the dingy carpet. Scan the room for the stray post-its of writing ideas that come at odd times, times when there is never time to write, only time to write down the idea.
“But I had panties on.”
A line without context, without memory of ever having written that statement. Doubt it’s even yours, even though it’s in your handwriting, written with your favorite pen.
Go on to the next. Work through the pile, and tuck them back in a drawer.
Commit to writing something new. Tomorrow.
Melissa Grunow’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Creative Nonfiction, New Plains Review, Blue Lyra Review, The Quotable, The Adroit Journal, Eunoia Review, and 94 Creations Literary Review, among many others. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from National University and an MA in literature from New Mexico State University. She teaches college-level composition and creative writing courses full-time in southeastern Michigan. Visit her website at www.melissagrunow.com or follow her on Twitter at @mel_the_writer.