Tuesday, August 15, 2006

my magic trick

There’s rain today. There’s a breeze from the park and then river. I am comforted by the river. I could watch it for hours, and we have. I have always lived somewhere, since an adult, within earshot of a train, and yesterday on the train we saw a woman all in green: green bag with lock and key clasp, green shoes, green stacking bracelets, green earrings, green dress with dangly green plastic jewels across the hem. At first, it was amusing, green ankle crossed at green knee. And then the longer I looked, the sadder she became, green pendant, green charms. The greens didn’t quite match up, but she must have dressed carefully. She must have thought it was her best outfit, her favorite.

I have been worried and resisted because I am afraid that it is not a real book unless it sells, that this transaction which has very little to do with me somehow nullifies or validates me, the years I spent writing. I have collected three yeses and two no’s from agents so far. I hope I am not a woman in green. But I was younger when I started. Three years have gone by. I’ve moved three times. There was an ineffectual election. I grew out my hair. I found you. Much has changed: new train, different river, home.

The woman in green looked silly at first, but then sweet to me, then sweet. In truth, it doesn’t matter. I am just me. Someone will tell her how lovely she is or not and she will agree. In truth, it doesn’t matter. If you want to wear all green, wear all green. If you want to sing on the platform, sing. Wear roller skates. Wear nothing. Write a novel. This is my first. There are going to be others, and the next one will be even better, I know. My first teachers are dead. The ones I have now will not give me grades. No one is counting. No one is counting.

No one will remember when a book is published, just that it is, Alice McDermott said in the notes from a year ago I found just last week.

This was my fiction class, this was my teacher, this was my real degree, this tall stack on my side of the dresser. This was my proving ground. I proved to myself I could do it. There I did it. Look, I’ll do it again. Tomorrow, all purple. The next day, all red. Give me three years. My magic trick: I will do it again and again.