Monday, April 30, 2012

40 Days

April 30, 2012 – 40 Days

It’s hard to believe that this time last year my friends Jill and Jen were helping me truck my couches over to a thrift store, a guy was picking up my piano which I’d sold for thirty pieces of silver, and I was frantically breaking my bed frame apart (with a hammer and some ineffectual jumping) and trying to maneuver that and the mattress downstairs on my own and stuff it all into the back of my Toyota to go dump behind a mattress store (with their permission). These were the last of the big things and they’d seemed insurmountably huge and unget-riddable. I was way past the “What in the hell are you doing, girl?” stage and into straight up adrenaline panic. I had to be completely out of my house by May 1st so the new tenant could move in. I didn’t know if I could pull it off. All I saw around me was STUFF. How did I still have all this stuff after I’d sold so much, given away so much, thrown out so much?
But, in the end, the place was cleared out and cleaned up. I even had ten minutes or so to sit on the bare carpet and feel a little emotional before I locked the door behind me for the last time. To say goodbye to the house that had been my very own. To bid farewell to all the memories painted on the walls of my mind; the ones that threw a smile on my face, the hard times that had made me better (faster, stronger).  To blow a kiss goodbye to the mountains that I loved. To try not to cry when I hugged my friends goodbye—for now? for forever?

“There is always something to miss, no matter where you are,” Sarah said, in Sarah, Plain and Tall. All that we leave behind in order to try on a new adventure.
I’d do it all over again.

Now I find myself nearing a similar situation. I’ve got forty days (biblically sounding enough) left in Peru. I sit here at my ironing board desk listening to the sounds of Lima; the zooming whishes of cars, their honks, their beeps, the parrots, the birds, the sibilant clicking of a sprinkler, the erratic clacking of the front gate opening and closing, someone’s IM notifications, a telephone ringing, my roommate’s voice, a knife thudding against a cutting board, the whirring of some distant machine, my fingers hitting the keys. And I wonder if I’ll miss the noise.
I doubt it, but I know which memories I’ll set on the windowsill of my mind. I’ve got them lined up. The freedom I crave, the sunshine I love, the nearness of the ocean, the freshness of the fruits and vegetables, the thrill of not knowing what will happen when I pass through the apartment gate out into the city—all these things I’ve had. Being here afforded me the opportunity to focus on writing in a way that was never possible for me before. I have a contented sense of accomplishment regarding the book I’ve been laboring over, the stories I’ve written, the rejections I’ve received, and the interactions I’ve shared. I have new people to call friends. I’ve got an expanded bubble of world experience; soapy and slightly purple around the edges as it may be.

This last year has been like the passing of a flock of these little green Peruvian parrots; noisy, raucous, and quick. I don’t doubt that the next forty days won’t speed by, but I do know for sure that they’ll be as full and wonderful and agonizing as the days that have gone before.
I’ll throw out the clothes I’ve worn holes in. I’ll pass on the books I’ve read. I’ll tuck my memories between soft things, fold them gently up and pack them into bags.

And then I’ll wander, joyfully wander, until someplace calls me home again.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Stay with me forever, Summer.

April 24, 2012 – Bidding Summer Farewell

Summer is fading. The days are shortening. The breeze shivers under a colder patina. Inside the apartment I catch a chill and think about putting on a long sleeve shirt. I watch the slip of sunshine cross over the building outside my study window and suddenly crave that warmth. I need some uninterrupted hours to read through the latest edit of the book I’m working on. I also need some sun and some fresh air.
So I pack a few things, slather sunscreen on my face  and walk out the door.

“Hasta luego, señorita,” the apartment doorman says.
“Hasta luego, chau,” I say.

It’s about a three mile walk to the ocean view at the end of Salaverry. I take it slow. I cross streets carefully, ignore the taxis who honk to let me know they are available, and don’t pay attention to the “que preciosa,” and the whistle I get from a worker who’s doing some kind of construction on the top of a house.  
It’s a perfect day for an excursion. The heat envelopes me and I embrace it. This is how summer should always be.

From half a block away I spot a Bread Cart Man. I’ve got a few apples with me, but who knows how long I’ll be gone. I may need more nourishment to fuel me for the walk home.
“Disculpa (excuse me),” I say, coming to stand next to the cart and another man who’s munching on some bread thing. “Do you have any with apple?” The bread cart men have a wide assortment of bread treats, most with a meat filler. The apple tart is the only thing I’ve thought safe enough to meet vegetarian standards. I probably wouldn’t eat it at all if I knew how it was made. The whole innocence is bliss thing is, for the moment, bliss.

“Sí,” the Bread Cart Man says.
“May I have one, please?”

He opens the side door and selects an apple tart for me. Puts it in a plastic bag and hands it over.
“How much?” I ask him.

“Un sol cincuenta (1 sol fifty),” he replies.
I give him the money. “Gracias,” I say. I stick the tart in the top of my bag and turn to walk away.

“Are you Peruana?” the other man asks me.
“No,” I pause to tell him. “I’m from the United States.”

“Muy bien,” he says with throaty enthusiasm.
“Gracias,” I say again. I smile and go.

I wonder what he meant. Was it very good that I am from the United States? Very good that I made a bread transaction in Spanish? Very good that I’m alive? I’ll never know. But with that praise still ringing in my ears I make it all the way to my favorite ocean view spot.
I sit with my back up against a tree and turn my face up to the sun. Not that far from me, the waves crash, the steady rhythm of the water pulses in and out. Above me, a flock of green parrots go squawking by. A mourning dove calls out sadly. The melodic songs of at least three other birds filter through the trees, and I look for them, but can’t see where they are.

I eat the apple tart and then pull out my book.
Several chapters later a little black dog skirts the space around me. He eyes me to see if I’m a threat, decides I’m not and circles three times to sit on the grass nearby. Just then two dogs and their walkers pass by. The hair on the little black dog’s neck bristles, a low growl comes out, he stand and backs away.

The dogs bark a response and then are pulled away.
With them gone, the little black dog finds his space safe once again and selects a new spot to nap in. We sit in companionable silence.

The chapters add up. A group of kids gather behind me and chat. Their laughter and the music from their radio blend together into a note of youthful happiness. The ice cream man announces his presence with a noise like a duck call. A police man bicycles by. Another policeman motors past.
I hear them abstractly. Every now and again I look up to see what’s going on around me. To look out at the ocean and feel its calm presence. To glance up at the sky and appreciate the blueness of it.

When my apples are eaten, my read completed, and my sun requirements fulfilled, I brush the ants and dirt off my shorts, take a final view of the watery horizon and walk back home.
Stay with me forever, Summer, I love you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Nazca and I don't like Peruvian Men

April 18, 2012 – Nazca and I don’t like Peruvian Men

Before I leave Peru I am going to go see the Nazca Lines. I’d first heard about them at one of the Writers Readers Meeting I attended in Colorado Springs. The guest reader Juan, a poet from Pueblo, had written about them. He’d read us some poetry, laid out a brief foundation of the history and mystery of the Lines, and then moved on to other things. I’d been creatively sparked to write in my notebook “A memo left in the sands for the gods to read” and thought it would turn into a short story at some point in time. Then I’d forgotten about it. I’d forgotten about Nazca.
At that time (a long winter in Colorado) Peru wasn’t even a glimmer in my mind. I had no idea I’d be living here less than half a year later. Weird how things happen. That suddenly, I’m living in Peru. Although I’m writing, and have even tried once or twice to force the memo/gods/sand story, it’s still unformed, unready, simmering in the back of my mind.

One day while I was thumbing through my Peru guide, I saw the Lines mentioned. “They’re here,” I said to myself. “Oh. Huh.” And then I decided they’d be a must see. A few weeks ago I mention this to Rodney and he says, “Well, let’s plan a trip and go together. I’ve already seen them but I’d like to go to the ruins in Huacachina. We could make a weekend of it.”
We file the possibility away and go on our merry ways.

Several days later, my phone rings.
“Can you meet me and Aaron Sunday morning at Café Z around 9:30 or 10:00?” Rodney asks.

Aaron is a Peruvian tour guide Rodney had meet (perhaps at Café Z) but has never used for his touring services. They’ve kept in touch via email and Rodney had sent him one asking about trips to Nazca so we could have an idea of how much money we’d have to set aside, and how much time.
“Sure, see you then,” I say.

Easter Sunday morning I leave the house early. I don’t know if the buses will be running much today since all of Holy Week has been a big deal with many holiday days, so I give myself extra time. But I don’t have to wait long on the corner. I even get a seat.
When I arrive in Miraflores I’m forty minutes early. I know Rodney will already be at Café Z. He’s always early. But I decide to give him his coveted alone time and go get some of my own. I scan Parque Kennedy and see an empty bench far enough away from other people that I won’t be able to eavesdrop on their conversations or hear their radio music. I put on my mean, “don’t bother me” face and pull my book out of my bag.  
For twenty blessed minutes I’m undisturbed.

I’ve gotten looks. I can feel them. I’ve even gotten some muttered, attention-seeking comments. But I’m lucky this morning that ignoring those really does make them go away.

I turn a page. I read a sentence or two.
In front of me I feel the presence of a man. I mentally hold my breath. “Keep going, move along,” I think. His shadow hits me. “Dang it,” I think. But I don’t look up. I don’t acknowledge him. He starts to move. I almost let out my mental breath. Too soon. He takes the open spot on the bench next to me. I shake my head (to myself). I know where this will lead. I don’t look up. I don’t look over. I pretend complete absorption in my book. What I don’t see, doesn’t exist.

“Hola,” the man says.
Seriously. These freaking guys are incorrigible. If I were truly skilled, I’d be able to ignore even that. I’m not. I look up, but I don’t close my book. I give a fake smile and turn back to the pages.

“Hey,” he says, recognition etching his voice. “I know you. What’s your name again?”
Alone time is over. I stare at him this time. He and I have met. We’ve talked.  When I made the video for my dad he’d stopped me after eavesdropping on me and a bunch of Peruvian kids to ask me about helping him sell his maps. “You have really good Spanish,” he’d told me. “Can you teach me English?” I’d told him I was busy as all get out and that I wished I could, but my schedule wouldn’t allow it. Which was true. We’d shaken hands and parted ways.

I wonder if I should just go meet Rodney now. Save myself from a conversation I don’t really want to have. I’m still twenty minutes early. But heck.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” the man asks me.

And we’re off. I should be used to this by now. He’s following the formula. It’s not like I don’t know the questions. But I’m annoyed. Normally I tell the truth.  Most of the time I do. This time I just want to be left alone. So I lie.

“Is he here?”
“He’s in the States,” I embellish.

“Do you have a Peruvian boyfriend?” he pries on.  
Now. I’d just told him I had a boyfriend and he’s got no qualms assuming that I can have more than one. Well I could. But I don’t lie that much.

“No,” I tell him. “My boyfriend is in the United States.” I created a picture of him in my mind. He’s hot. He’s nice. He’s got a great sense of humor. And he gets along with my family. What more could I want? I wonder what I’ll name this fictional character.
Bench Man takes this information in. Then he nods. Then he gets a worried look on his face. “You don’t like Peruvian men?” he leans in as if to see the truth in my eyes, concerned.

The easiest answer to this question is No. Not for boyfriends (real or imagined), not for lovers  (real or imagined), not for taking home to meet my parents, not for flirting with on park benches when I’ve got a book in hand, not for the comments they harass me with on the street, not for the whistles and honks, not for any of that.
The other answer is Yes. For the fact that they’re human just like me with cares and wants and needs and a love for life.

I don’t say either. I hedge and wish I were silly enough to gasp, point behind him and say, “What in the world could that be?”
“Well, uh, hmmm,” is what I manage. “How’s your map selling going?” I ask.

“It’s okay. I’m not selling them today.”
I don’t know how we get from that to his family life. He pulls out his wallet and shows me the pictures of his three children. One of them is fourteen years old, for crying out loud. I admire them. “They’re precious,” I say. He tells me that his wife makes and sells jewelry and that between that and his work they get by. More or less.

“I’m helping my wife out a little bit today,” he says. “Do you like earrings?”
“I don’t really.” This is true. I have two piercings in each earlobe, but I haven’t worn any earrings in over a year. This is probably just laziness on my part.

He withdraws a packet from his pocket and brings out some little gold loops. He puts a pair in my hand (The key to good salesmanship is getting the customer to connect with the product).
“They’re very nice,” I tell him. And I hand them back (The key to not getting tricked in to buying something is in returning the product as quickly as possible).

“Only ten soles,” he says.
“They’re very nice,” I tell him. I look the proper amount of wistful. “I’m sorry. I can’t buy anything today.”

He wraps them back up and holds the package for a minute. If I had it to give, I’d just give him ten soles, but I don’t. Or maybe I’m just not generous enough. I think about this. I evaluate myself.  I look off into the trees, at the cat two women are taking pictures of, at the passing people. It’s a little bit of both, but more that I don’t have it to give. This makes me feel a tiny bit better.
“Well,” I say, putting my book away and standing up. “It was good to see you again. I’ve got to go meet a friend.”

We shake hands and bid each other goodbye.
I walk a little out of my way so he doesn’t see where I go. It’s only being slightly paranoid.

Rodney and Aaron are waiting. Though I’m still early we don’t waste any time. We get right down to business. Aaron spells out the details, gives us the lowdown and his recommendations. Lima to Nazca, Nazca to Ica, Ica to Haucachina, Huacachina to Paracas Island, Paracas back to Lima. I write the costs and suggested itinerary in my notebook. I calculate this against the ten soles for the earring. I’ve budgeted a set sum for this trip and I need to get a calculator and see if we’re within my limit. Once the details have been spelled out, he thanks us for our time, we thank him for his. Rodney and I let him know that we’re not going to actually go until sometime in May and then Aaron leaves.
“What do you think?” Rodney asks now that we’re alone amid the bustle of Lima.

“I’ll have to go home and add things up and convert the soles to dollars and vice versa.”
“Me too,” he says.

But we both know we’re going. It’s just a matter of working out the minor points.
We order fresh coffees. I get breakfast. We talk.

My fictional boyfriend loses shape and fades like a ghost from my mind. I push earring thoughts away. I set aside my money worries and the lingering stress about the future. I sit back in my chair and take a sip of coffee. Because soon I’m going to Nazca. A story is waiting there for me. And I have to go in person to retrieve it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Kissing in the Park

April 9, 2012 –Kissing in the Park

It’s been a long week. I’ve been roughing through a bit of pain, a lack of sleep, a disruption of my schedule, a handful of story rejections and a general dissatisfaction with my work. I need a restart button so I accept an invitation from Tim and Lourdes to go do yoga in the park followed by an afternoon at the beach.
Saturday morning I pack my bag and head out.

I met Tim and Lourdes through Rodney. Tim is Canadian and has been in Peru for several years. Lourdes is Peruvian. They met at a language school and fell in love. They’re (as Tim called me once) “Good People” and fun to hang out with. I’ve been out a few times with them for breakfasts, coffees, and or lunches.  

I’m meeting Tim and Lourdes at Tim’s apartment. I take the combi just past Miraflores, get off a couple stops too soon and have to ask two girls at the corner if I’m going in the right direction towards the sixth block. I’d crossed the street and the numbers that were going up are now going down and I don’t feel like wandering around like the children of Israel in the Wilderness. The girls look at each other and shrug unknowingly. But they’re helpful. “One second,” one of them tells me, “I’ll go inside and ask for you.” She ducks into a shop. A moment later she and the young guy tending the shop come out and, after he looks up and down the street, he verifies that I’m going the right way. I thank them and walk three blocks up. I’m early. So I sit on the curb just outside the building and wait.

I don’t listen to the honks and shouts and noise around me. I raise my hearing above it and tune in to the parrots who are gossiping in the nearby trees. It’s peaceful there in my solitude.  
“Amanda?” Lourdes says from behind me.

I turn and smile.
“Did you ring the bell?” she asks me in Spanish.

“No,” I tell her. “I was really early so I was waiting just a little bit.”
“I was early too,” she says. “I walked for a while in the park before I headed over.”

She rings the bell and after a bit Tim comes out. We exchange cheek kisses and the three of us set off briskly. Parque Reducto is five minute away by foot. It’s already a hot day. I’m feeling self-conscious in my yoga clothes for the silly reason that I often wear my yoga pants as pajamas and I feel like I’ve left the house improperly attired. The pants are also too long and I’ve safety pinned them up so I don’t trip over them. I tell myself I am dressed normally and decently and to chill out.
Parque Reducto is filled with people. It’s Holy Week Saturday and what better place to be?

There’s an organic market outside the park and hippy-type people just like me are milling about. There are a lot of gringos, some artist types, and dreadlocked twenty-somethings. Families with their children are enjoying the calming presence of the trees. There’s a group class learning how to dance with folding fans. There are people with their dogs. There are some dogs with their people.
“There’s the yoga instructor,” Lourdes says. She motions at him and we cross the park and go set our towels-mats on the grass. “Come on,” she says, “I’ll introduce you.”

The instructor’s name is Josué. He and I kiss cheek to cheek. On the professional level this greeting still seems foreign to me. Strange. I’m reminded of the epistolary admonishment in the New Testament to “Greet one another with a holy kiss” and I smile to myself on the inside. This kiss isn’t holy, just introductory. Then I think of the children’s book A Kiss for Little Bear when one of the creatures complains about “Too much kissing!” I’m glad no one can read my thoughts when I think them.
“Have you done yoga before?” he asks.

“Some,” I say.

More ladies show up. We make a circle and Josué starts us off with hands in prayer position.

I’ve never done yoga in Spanish before and I strain my ears to hear the instructions. We aspira and exhala. We take the forma de la perra (downward dog) in between neck stretches, leg raises, Tree, deep breathing and some balance postures. I look up at the clouds that drift over the blue. I feel the deep peace of the tall trees. I telepath “Be careful” to the ants that crawl across my mat. From the sides of my eyes I watch the people watching us. I have this absurd pride that I can do the forms prettily, and this shy tremulousness that I’m being seen. I try to let all those thoughts and cares vanish from my mind and concentrate on the ground beneath my toes, the beingness of the moment, and the inhalation and exhalation of my breath.
An hour later, after some time in Savasana we all but say Namaste and roll our mats up. Josué thanks us for coming. We thank him for the class. Everyone kisses everyone else. One of Tim and Lourdes’s friends from church has come with her six month old baby. The baby is getting lots of attention as babies do and I’m wanting to go check out the organic market food. Tim wants to as well. I think Lourdes is indifferent about it. But, nevertheless, we herd up and head toward the front of the park, past the lady practicing sword-art, past the musicians, past the front fountain and then we’re clear.

We’re not clinging to each other and I drift off to see what fares I can find while they drift to see what they can see. To my great delight I find some Brussels sprouts. I haven’t had them since I’ve been in Peru. I’ve just not found them. So I buy a quarter kilo. Dinner is gonna be happenin’ tonight, I think. I don’t think I could have been any happier unless I’d encountered some kale. It’s those little organic things in life.
Tim and I get a hummus, spinach, mushroom, et al filled wrap for breakfast. Lourdes isn’t hungry. Yoga stretched and somewhat fed, we start the walk back to the apartment.

“Well, ladies,” Tim says. “What do you think?”
“If you’re still planning on going to the beach, and if the invitation is still there for me, I’d love to go,” I say. “If not, I’m good for heading on home.”

With that small push from me for further adventure they say okay.

Back at the apartment we get changed into our swimsuits.

“If you want to leave your bag,” Tim tells me, “I can take it to my room and lock it up. We like to go light.”
I’d brought water and snacks just in case, but this is serious swimming. So I leave it all behind. I take just enough coins for transit fares. We don’t even pack towels. This is hardcore beaching.

We take the metropolitano – the closest thing to a subway train in Lima – to Barranco. We cross multiple streets, walk down the stairs, and go down the pathway to the beach. It’s not as packed on this Easter weekend as I’ve seen it before. This is the end of summer. The weather is perfect, just so hot that a shocking cold ocean swim sounds delightful.
“It’s not so crowded today,” Tim says.

“We’re superstitious,” Lourdes tells me, meaning Peruvians. “My mom wouldn’t ever take us out on Easter weekend. Especially not to swim in the ocean. She said the earth was moving and that it was unlucky to go. But since I’ve been with Tim and he doesn’t care about that, we’ve gone to the beach over la semana santa and everything is just fine.”
There’s a kiosk lady selling things at the back end of the beach who is kind enough to watch our sandals and outer wear. Tim has left his things with her before.

“Señora, hola,” Tim says. “Do you mind if we leave our things with you?”
“Tim has friends all over town,” Lourdes whispers to me.

The lady gives us permission with a half-suspicious, half-recognizing glance. We thank her as we unshoe and derobe. Then we hop over the scalding sand and splash wholeheartedly into the water.
“Are you a good swimmer? We usually go out a ways,” Tim had said. “Then we swim about twenty minutes and that’s it.”

It sounds perfect. I’m always down for swimming. And I’m grateful for another chance to enjoy the summer in such a summery way. There’s seaweed floating around. We weave around it, head out past the foam.
“It’s choppier than usual,” Tim says, floating a few paces away from both me and Lourdes.

“The earth is moving,” Lourdes says.
These waves feel gentler to me than the water I’d swam in a month or so again. But I don’t care. Oceaning is still new to me. Just amazing.

It’s the kind of day I’ve been needing. I float face up, feel the sun on my face and the weightless calm of soft motion all around me. I let the water support me. All the stress I’d been holding sinks from me and sifts to the ocean floor.
We swim for a bit then drift our way back ashore. We dart back over the sun scorched sand, collect our clothes and shoes and take the metropolitano back to Tim’s apartment.

I’m not completely dry when I get on my combi to go home. But I sit on my towel-mat so I don’t leave an uncomfortable seat for the next bus rider. I settle in next to the guy on the double seat and hope I don’t smell too much like sea water and grime. I lean back and sigh happily.
What a day. Yoga in the park, a ¼ kilo of organic Brussels sprouts, communion with the trees, time with friends, a swim in the ocean and sunshine--how much better can it get?


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Following my Bliss or Teaching Again

April 1, 2012 – Following my Bliss or Teaching Again
In The Power of Myth Joseph Campbell says, “You have to follow your bliss.”

I’m lucky enough to be doing this.
“How are you subsisting?” a friend asks me.

The question brings me a surprising amount of guilt because as Dr. Michael Wayne says, “We are programmed to think that we need to make a living, and that we should make the most pragmatic choice in that regard.”
And I feel this sharply, it’s as if the fact that I’m not currently earning an income is despicable. That somehow I have to apologize to everyone who is working at a job they hate. That my meager savings (which is becoming more and more meager) is an indicator of my value as a human being. Or that my writing isn’t worthwhile enough to justify my current lifestyle. The trickling stream of rejections from agents seems to emphasize this – even as I know it’s only par for the writer’s course.

Silly me.
Writing is my bliss. This is what I’ve worked my whole life to be able to do.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“A writer,” I’d always said. My second choice was to be an astronaut, but I knew I didn’t want to invest the time I’d need to improve my less than perfect math skills. Right brain thinking has always been more my forte than the left.  

Yeah. To write. And now I’m feeling this is somehow wrong. That the words I string along aren’t enough. Aren’t big enough. Aren’t good enough. I’ve always struggled with the drive that says, “You must accomplish Things.” Things. Things. Things. I’ve resisted our world’s emphasis on the value of paper and metal. I hate it. But, even resisting, I know that money facilitates things. I have plans. And as most plans do, these involve money. I’m counting pennies, wondering just how far my dollars will stretch. I’m thinking maybe it’s time to do something that brings in a little plata.
Yet, even with this thought in the forefront of my mind, when Katrina passes my name on to two different English Class Seekers and they call me, I freak out. I love my daily groove. I love the fact that I don’t have to set an alarm in the morning, that I can afford the gentle easing into the day with a workout followed by coffee and breakfast then settle down at my ironing board desk to work at words in between snacks. This is all gonna get interrupted if I have to make lesson plans, travel to a student’s home, work around their work schedules and actually teach.

I realize anew the fortune-dense life I live when teaching five hours a week nearly sets me into a stressed frenzy.
“Are you going to think of fortune, or are you going to think of your bliss?” Joseph Campbell asks me from The Power of Myth.

That question is what I try to communicate to my mom when I explain my ridiculous aversion to this new work. I hear in her voice the latent scolding and I understand the reason for it. I know I’m being absurd. My greatest fear is that I’ll get too caught up in trying to gain money for the future that I’ll lose out on this Now which I’ve worked so hard to have.
It’s a strange and contradictory life I live out in my head.

On Thursday when Rodney and I are out for a vegetarian lunch and a quick walk to the ocean he says, “I’ve got a great idea for you!”
“What is it?” I ask.

“I was thinking that you should write yourself as a character in your fiction.”
It’s a great thought. I toy with the idea while I pick the corn out of my food. During the rest of our time together I ponder the main questions that come to my mind. What parts of myself would I put into fiction? What would my greatest flaws be? How would I react to situations? Would I make myself to be greater, bigger than life, or more ordinary? Would I ruin my fictional life the way I do so often with my characters? How would it look to blend truth in fiction? Maybe that’s what all writing is anyways.

In real life, I take on the new students. I hate how happy the cash makes me feel. How relieved I am to get paid. That I feel I have to justify me to myself. Sometimes it’s just adjusting to the new that throws me. I’m a creature of habit that loves adventure. I’m a human thing that craves freedom over all else, but wants structure, my own structure. I’m a paradox of needs and wants.
I’m rich in this life I’ve got going on.

And I do truly feel rich. “I didn’t feel poor,” Campbell said, “I just felt that I didn’t have any money.” I feel that way too.
The two people I’m teaching both want to learn English in order to make better lives for themselves and their families. This is worthwhile. This is something I can do. It’s living outside my own mind and contributing in a small way to another. Even if it’s in exchange for cash.

Whether I'm teaching, reading, writing, living--there back behind it all, in the archives of my brain, I tuck words into files and record experiences to use for later. And I write. I worry sentences around. And I write. I doubt myself. And always, I write.
This is living.

This is life.
This is following my bliss.