How not to become a writer. . .(pt. 2)
It’s funny, really, the things you remember about certain events in your life, like where you were when JFK was shot, or the moon landing . . .
Cathy was standing in the kitchen doorway; not standing, really, leaning against the door jamb, bare feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. She was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and nibbling on her lower lip the way she did when trying to decide on the right moment to . . .
She righted herself in the doorway, deciding, I guess, now was as good a time as any. “Steve,” she said, padding across the livingroom toward me. “We need to talk.”
I knew, even then, that particular line meant something serious, something requiring my undivided attention, needed to be addressed, and the way Cathy was standing over me, arms folded across her chest, confirmed that hypothesis. I closed the book I was reading and as casually as possible so as not to betray my anxiety, said. “Okay, babe. What’s up?”
Her expression softened a bit (Cathy always took on, I guess you could call it a “flinty” expression when broaching a serious subject; like she was prepared for a shouting match, if it came to that), and she settled onto the sofa, shifted around to face me and tucked her feet up under her. Cathy was tall — 5′ 9″ in her bare feet — with a tall woman’s feline grace, and the way she folded herself onto the sofa enhanced the effect. (Did I mention I love cats?) “Steve, I think it’s time you got a real job.”
I can’t say I was shocked. We’d had this conversation before. Well, not exactly this conversation but one very like it. They usually involved me explaining, yet again, about the need to have ample time for writing, how it was only a matter of time, one good break and our present difficulties would be a thing of the past. Cathy would tell me how good my writing was, how it wasn’t really my fault I couldn’t catch a break and that she understood how important the writing was to me. It would go on like that for a while, then we would hug one another and resolve, each of us, to do better in the future.
“But I have a real job,” I said, barely trying to conceal my indignation.
Cathy reached over and laid a hand on my arm. “Honey, I know that,” she said. “And you’re really good at what you do. But it’s been four, nearly five, years and you haven’t made any real, significant progress.”
“Getting published doesn’t happen overnight,” I countered. “It takes time.”
“I realize that.” She withdrew her hand and assumed a no-nonsense attitude. “But you, we, have to face facts. We haven’t been able to save any money, the car needs work, and with the baby coming we’re going to need a bigger place to live.”
“Cathy, I know money’s tight right now,” I said, preparing my usual rebuttal when something . . .different registered in my consciousness. “Wait a minute! Did you say, ‘a baby coming’?”
Cathy didn’t say anything at first. She just looked at me with a sheepish, almost-but-not-quite contrite expression and nodded. Her ponytail shook happily as her head bobbed. “I’m pregnant,” she said, finally.
That night, lying in bed, listening to Cathy’s steady, contented breathing, I stared into the darkness and tried to imagine fatherhood. Doctor bills. Clothes. Food. School. Orthodonture! What if we have a girl? Dance classes. Dresses. More orthodonture. Boyfriends! Try as I might, I couldn’t seem to ‘get my head around it’. And underneath it all, peering out of the dark like a cat from a paper bag, was the question, When was I going to find time to write? The answer was going to have to wait, for now. First thing in the morning I would go down to the restaurant where I tended bar and talk to the owner, Bill. Maybe, if I explained the situation to him, I could pick up another shift of two.
With that I started to drift off to restless sleep. But the question was still lurking in the dark, waiting for an answer . . .(to be continued)