Unfinished table by IKEA, manual typewriter, one-bedroom apartment, the stack of pages sitting there as evidence, the same place I eat and drink. The answering machine, pictures of heroes on the wall. Rapping the keys until the bell goes off, rolling the carriage back and rapping it some more until I need to pull the paper out of the roller and start over.
The film The Shining, and the big reveal when Shelley Duvall realizes her husband’s gone nuts. The frame of her face reading the pages he’s written, the madness there, the turning point before he starts chasing them with the ax.
I feel the same looking back on what I wrote, those days on Capitol Hill, the writing slurred, the ribbon fading in the spool, the keys sometimes stuttering, the characters going crooked on the right side of the page because the carriage got bent, the words drooping like Dali.
I built up the stack and propped myself up, said I’m a poet when the bartender asked what I did, thought I’d try it on, see how it sounded, see if it sounded real when it came out of my mouth. It ticked me off that people always had that question (What do you do), when in fact it’s not what you do that defines you.
But of course it is. Which is why it’s hard to be a writer and not get paid for it. You need a stack to look at to remind you of your worth, like a pile of bricks you made that wouldn’t be there unless you carried them.