Day three in the new home and my resident sense of dread has already taken root. I finally have everything a writer could want: a 1930s LA bungalow bathed in natural light, a backyard boasting two citrus trees and a fig tree, a dog that’s willing to curl up with me and wait patiently while I write—not to mention a loving, supportive partner with whom I can share it all.
So what do I do? I bake cookies. I bake mounds of five-ingredient, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and then proceed to stuff my face with said cookies before they cool to edibility. Then I sit around sipping a glass of almond milk, feeling sorry for my singed mouth. Tomorrow will be a new day, right?
Technically, yes. Psychologically, no. This morning, halfway between editing and collapsing, I decided it would be a good time to tone my hair. Because nothing gets you back on track like dumping on chemicals until some strands turn silver while others defiantly remain a shade of rust. Because nothing puts your fear of writing in perspective like fearing your hair will fall by the handful. I stand under running water watching the puddle turn purple at my feet and soak up the self-loathing that comes with wasting water on my vanity in the middle of the drought of the century. Lathering up in a second round of conditioner to calm my burning scalp, I comfort myself with the headline I read the other night about domestic water use only accounting for 5% of California’s total water supply. So surely it can’t be entirely my fault, it’s big farming’s fault, and how self-important of me to even think myself a pivotal factor in the decline of California. I consider the two cartons of almond milk in my fridge and the fact that almond farming wastes an unimaginable amount of fresh, clean water nurturing something as silly and inessential as a nut. Each almond is so thirsty that when I take a sip of its milk, it’s really like I’m drinking a sea of generations with big water needs. We’ll all be parched and desperate as the desert reclaims this settlement long before my lease is up 363 days from now.
I have so many serums and lotions to slather and gel on every inch of my body, serums that will likely do nothing—all in the name of self-improvement. Standing naked and cold in the open doorway Michael left ajar for the cross breeze, I realize I’m too hungry, too weak to care what stranger sees my perplexing tan lines. I reach for last night’s cookies and a swig of almond milk straight from the jug, and straight to hell I will go because the thought of assembling a salad in my state daunts me. I won’t brush my teeth until four in the afternoon today. It’s turning into one of those days.
Wolfing down snacks over the kitchen sink, I spy a suitcase spilling out of the closet with clothes destined for Goodwill. Defying any seed of common sense I have stored, I rifle through again under the guise of being thorough. I find a floor-length, peach-colored slip with an overlay of black lace—the kind of nightgown dress that belongs in neither the bedroom nor the boardroom, the Whole Foods on Fairfax nor Queen Elizabeth’s breakfast nook. I can’t say it belongs anywhere. Maybe I can relate. Maybe it grows on me. I put it on.
And maybe it’s the fumes I’ve inhaled or the neuroses I’ve allowed to seep in and make themselves cozy, the cushy folds of my brain acting like sofas; anyway, I notice a crack in the plaster wall of the closet and willingly suspend my disbelief that it’s a poor choice to insert my fingernail in the crevice and peel it back just to see what’s inside. I don’t think anything of the large pieces flaking off, falling on the original hardwood floors, to reveal a human-sized hole, a hole that begs me to enter and follow the light flickering at the end of the tunnel to wherever it leads. I reach the bottom of a hole that plummets straight down, halfway to China like the holes we used to dig in the backyard as kids, and lift the latch that leads to the den conveniently located beneath my new house. “We’ve been waiting for you,” says the oldest shaman with a skinny grey beard and a sorcerer’s stone, so I naturally take my place in the circle of like-minded folk and accept the tabs and tinctures as they come my way. Eventually, as the time passes and time slows and I unravel every question I’ve ever had about time, I stand up and tell the gang it’s about time I go. I toss a scarf around my neck for dramatic effect. My husband expects me to be home for dinner, I say. They all nod and it’s all very pleasant because there’s no such thing as a true goodbye, so I escape through the hatch and back through the tunnel and just when I get turned around so that I don’t recognize which way is up or down, I land back in my closet in a pile of clutter without a word on the page or a coherent thought in my head.
Still it seems everything will be alright. I smell potatoes roasting in the oven, hear a love song through the speakers and my dog snoring in a pile of blankets on the legless armchair by the windowsill. Yes, I imagine everything is going to be alright. Now it’s time to write.