Scene Beneath a Red Canoe

On a Friday afternoon last August, I received the last of three major invoices from my editor. Along with the invoice was what I then thought was a PDF of the completed interior of Leave It All. There were a few things that needed fixing so I sent my requests back. Then I paid the invoice. It hurt to pay. It was so much money.

Then I bought a plane ticket to go to Mexico in October, because I told myself that I’d travel one more time on my tattered, smelly World Race passport before it expired. I booked two weeks at a Spanish school. (Two months later, I went, and I learned lots of Spanish, and had many adventures, which I am not going to talk about in this entry.)

After dropping all that money, I felt nervous and stretched thin. I was afraid that I would get in a car crash or fire and need the money all of a sudden.

I took a walk around my block to collect myself. Then my boyfriend Matt came to my house. He had strapped his bright red canoe to the top of his Jetta and he was going to drive us north so we could paddle in the North Cascades. 

As soon as we were on the road, I told Matt about booking the Mexico trip, and about paying the invoice. I told him the book was just about done. 

“Babe, that’s amazing!” Matt said. “How do you feel? Being almost done?”

“Emotional,” I said.

I started to cry. He put his hand on my knee and didn’t say anything. We got through Northgate, Lynnwood, Everett. Half an hour later, I still was blinking back tears and sniffling. 

“It’s just that… it’s happening,” I said.

“It is. It’s really happening.”

It was the first time in months and months and months—all year, in fact—that I’d felt anything other than exhaustion and fury about the book. I’d stuck with it through the bad parts. I’d paid the money. I’d put in the time. I’d chosen my battles. I’d fought for a cover I loved. Yes, there were things I knew would not be perfect. Whatever. I wanted it to be good, but being good was a small dream in the shadow of its impossibility of existing in the first place.

I didn’t cry a lot in 2019. I didn’t cry a lot in 2018 either. I was just writing. Then, I was just waiting. Euphoria and passion for my art baby morphed into low-grade contempt for it, then stagnation as I sent my manuscript off to the editors and designers and felt more like a spectator of my art rather than its creator. I didn’t know what to make of having written a book anymore. It was the best thing I’d ever done. It was the shittiest thing I’d ever done. It was deep. It was shallow. It was an accurate depiction of me. It didn’t say a thing about me. I did it all by myself. I couldn’t have done it without others. 

“I don’t even care if it’s any good,” I said to Matt, staring out the window at an outlet mall. He kept his hand on my knee and squeezed. “I just care that it exists.”

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