I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation where all of my friends in my immediate surrounding are writers. It’s not that I haven’t had writer friends before grad school. I have — I’ve known writers my entire life. They’ve been this lovely, obscure group of people that I can gush about books with and don’t blink at the idea of making jello shots for a poetry reading of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner turned musical when paired with an acoustic guitar and the tune of House of the Rising Sun. I can’t think of a time in my past where I haven’t been friends with a writer or two.
But in my grad school life, all of my friends in Riverside are from the MFA program. A group of us went for Dim Sum this weekend, and as I introduced an old friend to everyone it sounded like the beginning of a joke. Two memoirists, a screenwriter, a science fiction writer and a poet walked into a Dim Sum restaurant…
Don’t think I’m complaining. I love this messy, vulnerable group of people. A common thread of discussions among my genre typically begins with, This may be oversharing… but we all write nonfiction so here goes! In a lot of ways, I feel like I have found my tribe.
I don’t remember when it started, but lately when I drink wine out of a fragile glass I get a weird feeling. It’s strongest if the glass is thin and curved, delicate. I hold the thin stem in my hand, watch the deep red liquid swirl around the sphere and have this overwhelming desire to smash the glass against the surface of a table. To throw it into a wall. To forcibly break it into a thousand pieces and listen to the shatter as they fall to the floor.
Sitting at a bar in Laguna Beach on Saturday night, I imagined bringing my wine glass onto the corner of the coffee table in front of us and asked my friends if anyone ever felt this way.
“All the time!”
“Once I broke a wine glass in my hand because I couldn’t stop myself from squeezing around the top.”
I don’t know if we feel this way because we are damaged. I don’t know if everyone feels this way, but only writers think to ask the question. I do know that I felt a less alone as I listened to their answers, sinking back into the leather chair against the wall.
We carry a little bit of darkness with us, the young writers who are striking out into a painful world with only collections of words as our weapons. Some of us are healing from broken childhoods, broken marriages, broken bones. Some of us are angry. Some of us are funny. Some of us are grieving, and we all carry a little bit of something intangible with us. I carry my sadness. This weekend, it felt heavier than normal.
It’s not that things are bad, far from it. My book is coming together. My horse is doing reasonably well, and I’m finding a renewed vigor dedicating myself to the sport. I’m writing interesting pieces for equestrian magazines, and have some great opportunities in the horizon. Next quarter I’ll be TAing, which is going to relieve so many financial stresses that have been worrying me. I’m getting good feedback on my work. I’m starting to believe I can do this.
But the older I get and the further I move from losing Tim, the more final it feels. Time healed me in a lot of ways. I don’t burst into tears much anymore. I talk about him with a smile more often than I do with a distance, as if I’m afraid to get too close. I’ve taken great steps in seeing addiction as a disease, as something he tried to control. I’m working on forgiving myself.
With each new person I meet, story I hear and month that passes, I realize something else. What Tim and I had was special. It was a gift, and that might be it for me. He was my love story. I’m not guaranteed another.
No, of course not! You’re so young!
I hear this a lot. Someone is thinking about typing it as a comment right now, and you’re not wrong. I am young. If I follow the footsteps of my strong willed grandmothers, I’m still just merely cruising towards my mid eighties. Age is just a number though. Being young does not guarantee you happiness later in life. It does not diminish the loss.
I’m circling into this acceptance of my greatest fear slowly. Saturday afternoon, those want-to-be wine glass smashing writer friends of mine, headed to the beach. I watched a few of them splash in the frigid Pacific ocean as I sipped Soju from a red plastic cup and buried my feet in the sand. The small, thin grains slid through my fingers and I watched them roll down the sides of my feet until my toes were buried in a mound. Under the warm earth, I could feel my feet throb slightly under the weight of the beach. When the sun dipped down behind the marine layer, I could see sea lions popping up to the surface. Their heads were black dots poking through slivers of amber light in-between waves.
I didn’t want to smash anything. I wiggled my toes free from the sand, and looked out on the water. An afternoon like that, the memory of Tim, is going to have to be enough.