At almost every instant things happen that I cannot believe.
And here, now, in a dorm room ninety minutes inland of the Pacific Ocean, I sit half-buzzed on alcohol, my other half blissed out on the wisdom of the day, and still I struggle for words. Epic voices in waves of genius, sprinkled on my day like mere confetti; abundance. Each author is a precious gem. I could crawl along the sidewalk all day long picking up their scattered pieces, analyzing their advice, savoring their closeness. The task is at once overwhelming and inspiring.
What can I say half-drunk when, forcing better judgment through clouds of moonshine and hard cider, I walked away from talking shop in the courtyard with JB in her pajamas and PF nodding in approval after he sips the sharp rye mountain dew that I smuggled all the way from North Carolina? Their interactions were generous, yes, but more importantly – real. And would that I were immortal, unwanting of sleep and occasional sanity, so that I could have stayed out all night basking in their cool water wisdom.
What can I say when at the graduate reading the well-published poet-kid reads a line about “men fucking men” in front of his conservative Christian anti-gay father who subsequently squirmed in his seat, silently sweating bullets like a machine gun, nervously twirling his umbrella as his pierced and tattooed progeny confesses his “sins” and unearths family secrets?
I will put it in reverse, sift backwards through my notes. PF gives a lecture on rewriting, lacing humor throughout with the delivery of a well-versed salesman. Then he confides to us that late last night, while he and JD were shooting the shit, the latter leaned in and whispered to PF: “I wish there was some way we could tell these [students] it doesn’t get any easier.”
And PF continues to us: “I just finished a novel and I can’t tell if it’s good. You get really weird doing this stuff…”
Sixty minutes later I am in my first workshop and JB is hitting home with every syllable, her words forming sentences that my heart has tried to pump out of me, concepts I have held subconsciously but been unable to articulate. Our eyes are locked and in a sappy moment between her eyes and mine there is no one else in the world and I am spinning, finally myself again and free from all the trite neurosis that have plagued the new students in tsunami waves – unpredictable, relentless, real. I could weep. I could leap from my seat shouting: “Do you believe in me? Can you see my aching authenticity? I cannot live without this!”
Or how later that afternoon, after standing in line with VM for lunch and meeting JR’s wife and telling JD I thought his transitions in his second novel were “wicked, smooth like frosting, immaculate,” I went to a reading by CL and tasted the vomit he describes in chapter three of the latest memoir.
And how BR and I went for a long walk after the reading, stumbling upon the grandest arch of a rainbow I have seen in years, its florescence wrapping around the earth like a belt, like an overdue hug, like a butterfly kiss. How we just stood there in awe, uttering small sighs in the same tone that one utters a sigh at the end of a poem with the perfect ending. Watching the swallow flit back and forth across the glistening arch, thinking how JB talked about arches all day and here I am presented with one in its rawest form, it occurs to me that for the first time in my life I have discovered the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Here, living my dream, exercising faith and euphoria, swimming without holding my nose, wide-eyed like a deer in the headlights, wanting like a cowboy for the horizon, here, the gold, the digging, the hard labor of love begins. And if I ever thought I have written about matters of the heart I know now that I have only skimmed the surface where a mine must be blasted with the bravery and compassion earned by a true writer.