I wake early. But not quite early enough. Today I am to meet a friend at 8 a.m. and take a walk, so I didn’t mean to sleep until 7. I will write; I will wash up; I will meet my friend at 8. I can spare her an hour. Ha! What is my life that I use the word “spare?” But I must concentrate today on my lesson for Monday, teaching a class on Shakespeare’s Mark Antonys. Today—today! – I keep postponing it—I must concentrate on it.
I wake early. On the retreat I woke early in my bunk. I liked the bunk more than I ever anticipated; I couldn’t believe its snugness. There was a shelf built in where I could keep the things I rely on: ibuprofen, a glass of water, chips of ambien, my cell phone and Kindle-as well as what I thought I would need: ear plugs, eye shades—which I didn’t at all. My roommates—no where near me—were silent sleepers. It was cozy. I woke early, tiptoed into the adjacent kitchen, heated the kettle to make instant coffee with cremora, which is awful.
They woke early. The roommates, that is—the other writers. Not as early, but right behind me and we’d walk over to The Barn for real coffee, granola (which I ate too much of), hard-boiled eggs (which were really soft-boiled, but kept in the fridge), fruit, quiet chat.
Strange how strange it was to me. Strange how much I dreaded it – to live with others, to sleep in a room with others. I even tried to cancel. Strange also how I miss it.
I woke early then and began writing. I can keep writing now. I want to wake early and keep writing. I am writing about a time when I was young – 43 is young—about a time when I thought decisions were so hard (they were).
I wake early in my past. I wake on his futon, in a tent, in a motel. I wake in my apartment at Reed; I wake in my house in New Jersey. I wake early always. In New Jersey – it’s getting harder to remember details!—I woke early for school, packed lunches—the kids woke early.
Who was that person?
I wake early now, an old woman I see. I didn’t realize until I saw a photo. The photo is not the angle I arrange myself at as I stand in front of a mirror. My lighting at home, or the way I stand, flatters. I wake early and check my hair, scrub my face, think not so bad. Until I see the candid shot of “me,” surprised, alarmed that that’s what others see.
I wake early now, not accepting the years but dealing with them, typing words about the past, about people no longer here, and find it impossible to believe that the main character is me. I wake early to write the fiction I call a memoir.