Me and my girl, who loved car rides. Is it me, or does she look pensive, or sad, here? (Photo courtesy of Barbara Chiancone Gitlin. Annie Leibovitz, eat your heart out.)
My shrink screwed her face up as politely as possible when I unburdened myself of a bit of searing cynicism regarding whether there was any point to me continuing to write. I’d done a longish bit of autobiographically derived prose, call it a novel, call it a memoir. Some of it was good. But I’d got to wondering whether the whole thing lashed together amounted to anything coherent or compelling, let alone saleable. I wondered this because I was starting to get damned with faint praise from New York agents.
“Mm hm. But Bob, you sat there in that chair not long ago and expressed the highest possible praise, and optimism, for what you’d written.” Or words to that effect. I don’t take notes during our sessions. Neither does she, though I sometimes wonder if — perhaps as the antidote to insomnia — she plays back my tape-recorded dronings.
The book sits in a drawer: my stories, or my story. It’s all one story, just as Keith Richards says all Stones songs are one song.
“How do I know my liking it doesn’t take place in this little subjective, solipsistic bubble?” I defended my refusal to battle on. I have this terror my obstinate refusal to give up constitutes the ultimate folly. “I might like it, but the world has the opposite reaction.”
My therapist doesn’t seem to be listening. Not that she feels she must labor to buttress a sagging ego; more that she doesn’t believe me, or she sees though my bullshit, my self-defense tropes.
She’s seen some of my writing. Says I have enough talent to make writing worth my while.
Hell, this blog was at her suggestion. I began it as something to lift me out of the doldrums that pervaded my world when I first saw this therapist, fresh from having got my ass handed back to me, well chewed, by a soured career in compulsory education and the most difficult kids it had to offer. My shrink said I should start a blog to record my “mythopoetic hero journey.”
So I did.
My last writing before this post was marked by terrible grief. My dog had died.
I’d been there when the vet eased the needle in to end the dog’s suffering. Barb and I drove home tear-stained, stunned. Went back to bed at dawn, but no sleep could fill the hole in our lives. I bounded out of bed, wrote a Facebook post about my dog — right from the heart, with little or no revision — and got well over a hundred sympathizers, which helped me get through this thing. I hadn’t expected so many well-wishers what with a national emergency rendering insignificant any man’s sniffly little lament.
So here’s an old photo Barb took iof me and the dog during a car ride. I’m wearing long sleeves so I don’t think it’s hot. Rosa liked to lean over into the front seat to catch the air conditioning on her face. Sometimes she just liked being in our human space. There’s me and there’s that furry muzzle.
It’s been two weeks now since she roamed the house.
I refused to pick up her last poops. Heat and wind and snow have turned them back to land. Barb and I have a box of her ashes, half of which my friend Bill from Boston will help me scatter in a special hiking place.
And life goes on. One must look forward, just as Rosa and I are looking forward in the photo.
I have a new president and am so thankful. I feel sorry for all the people lamenting the end of Trump’s aegis, but I must work at mending the national fence. Beyond spite or recriminations. We’re better than that. I loved Biden from the start.
I have more work to do at Walmart, burning off karma, rubbing shoulders with Trumpers. It’s all good for me. I’m working harder than I ever worked in my life. Whether this travail is sufficiently lofty is not my call. I look forward to seeing the movie Nomadland, based on a good book, about seniors working their poor ass off in this economy.
I can work at being a husband. My wife grieves the hole in our lives same as I do. We’ve bonded in mutual reflection and consolation. Just got back from Palm Desert and those healing hot springs. We’re addressing our mundane human concerns. She’s decided to wait till January to collect Social Security checks. I can get mine too or follow my original game plan and hang on till I’m seventy. Money is boring but it gives us hard reasons to do stuff.
And I guess I’ll stay a writer. Not like I have much choice — I mean, I am one. Maybe spend some bucks entering literary contests. What the hell. “Just One Victory,” as Todd Rundgren said. Life is a dream.