“I knew I was in trouble when I began dreaming of roses.
I’d see myself walking down Merrick Boulevard, past the Korean beauty supply, and the ninety-nine cent store, the used bookstore, and the Chinese takeout joint, my arms full of sunset-colored roses. I smiled as people stared at the mound of vivid flowers I carried. A little boy with curly burnished brown hair scampered to me and threw his chubby arms around my knees. I leaned over to kiss his forehead, and the pile of roses tumbled from my arms. I saw all the roses fall, one by one, in a cascade of peach and pink and sweet yellow. The boy helped me gather them again, and as he handed me the last one, I would awake, troubled and restless and unable to go back to sleep.”
Every once in a while, I find bits and scraps of old stories in my notebooks and journals, stashed away carelessly. I wrote the excerpt above on February 26, 2004 for my undergraduate creative writing workshop. It was part of an assignment to write a story that began with the prompt: “I knew I was in trouble when….”
I wrote a dozen pages about this girl, Grace, who has just graduated from college, and realizes that her high school boyfriend, with whom she had a powerful connection, is still in love with her. Before she sees him for the first time, she gets all these signs from the Universe that she tries to dismiss– beginning with her dreams of roses. There’s some eye-twitching, his look-alike appears at her job, then his father calls to ask if she’s heard from him, when she hasn’t spoken to his parents or him in years. It’s cute and silly and sad and I had a lot of fun writing it. Writing used to be what I did when I just wanted to have some fun.
For a while, writing became labor for me. Getting just two pages was like carrying a 20-lb bag of charcoal two miles in dense July humidity. (I have actually done this, and I thought I was going to die. Or at least, I felt like my arms would be useless for a few weeks.) I deleted more drafts and crumpled up more awkward paragraphs than I care to admit.
The words have been coming a bit more easily lately. I am not sure why this is, but I am grateful. I started another section of the book I’ve been working on for years. I like it. It’s different from what I’d written before, probably because I am different. I have more faith in myself as a writer. Because of this, writing is starting to become fun again!
I wish I had the vast blocks of free time that I had in college, when I could sit uninterrupted for twelve hours and do nothing at all except write. I would churn out a short story every week. Now I’m happy if I can write three pages during my lunch break at work. These pages are small victories.
This book will be written through small victories. Word by word.