[photo of me at my fire escape window, circa 2012]
The book poured out of me. I was alone in New York and working a job where I didn’t speak to anyone all day, and I wanted to tell somebody I was going completely crazy. Or, rather, maybe I really wanted to hear from other people who were also going crazy. In a way, the book sort of became this object in a mirror that took on its own life, and told me things about myself, and about life.
I came home from work every night and poured a glass of whiskey. Sometimes I took it up the stairs of my old Manhattan walk-up, to the roof, where I lit a cigarette and hoped to glimpse a very bright star or two. Mostly I saw clouds and airplanes. Sometimes I set off an alarm on the door. I wasn’t supposed to go up there, so, many times I slipped off my shoes and tiptoed. It felt like escaping up there, like visiting an alternate reality that was much more peaceful, ancient and wise than the frantic hustle of the city. When I got cold, or my glass was empty, I’d go back inside and tuck myself in the sill of my kitchen window which led to the fire escape. I’d dangle my legs, chain-smoke, and write poems. I filled four volumes like that, while I was still getting all of my prose out otherwise. Should I bother to mention that I only smoked when I wrote? (Do you want to know things like that?) I don’t smoke anymore, but it helped me, then. I think it helped me to feel like there was something I could do to get back at life’s cruelty, or at least something I could control. I wasn’t even that interested in smoking, but it passed the time with a passive middle finger raised, while I was very angry. When I decided to quit smoking, I just threw what was left into the trash – and that was that.
And I kept writing. And I kept going. Mostly really poorly, a lot of the time. I did continue drinking heavily in the evenings for a while longer. I was a capital mess.
Someone suggested to me, back then, that I blog about my experiences. But I am kind of a private person; I don’t want anyone to know me because I was bullied growing up, and that made me kind of standoffish, until you get to know me. And blogging is more intimate, in a way. It’s got more in common with writing an email than writing a book.
I’m finally trying out blogging now to tell you that I published the book because people die all the time, and we all feel really lonely as we grieve. I had no idea where to turn or who to talk to. I tried therapy, but doctors gave me xerox forms with boxes to tick, and a bottle of pills, and that wasn’t helping me. Not in a way like I needed. Not in a human way. Not in a way that was resulting from compassion. I wanted to publish the book because grieving people were reaching out to ask me “how the hell do you do this?” and I had asked the same question but got no answer. I wanted the book to be a friend’s voice that people could read and identify with, and take comfort in.
My story will be on the shelves soon, and I admit that I feel a considerable amount of nerves about it. I speak my truth about topics that are very sensitive, and bound to be a bit rattling to some, and comforting to others. And I did crazy things, along the way, but – I want the book to help, as I want to help. When I look back on the journey, I have such a range of feelings about the experiences, from laughter to tears and everything in between, but above all there is love radiating out to you. Whether you are grieving or lost or recovering from some other great disappointment, my hope is that no one has to sail a storm like I did without any sense of bearings. I pray that my words can reach out and find you in the dark, and ease your suffering just a little.