The Big Stuff

I haven’t written anything on my blog for some time, and I’ve just figured out why. Every time I sit down to write, I feel compelled to write about the big stuff: death and dying, suffering, the unexplained and unexplored. This is a healthy impulse, I think, but I go about it the wrong way. I dive straight at it. I go for the throat. I try to plunge the knife straight into the heart. And I always fail. I always get stuck. Writing about the big stuff is like trying to fit the Pacific Ocean in your pocket. The best you can hope for is a wet pair of pants with salt in the pockets. My solution, I’ve discovered, is to forget about the ocean for a while, and concentrate on the pocket.

My last attempt at writing is a good example. Technically, I should be writing everyday, but so far I haven’t been able to manage it. My last really healthy go at prose was three or four days ago. I was drinking espresso in the cafe at Barnes & Noble, trying as hard as Hamlet to write about the big stuff. I’d been thinking a lot about my mother-in-law. She’s been in and out of hospitals for the past few years with liver trouble, heart trouble, and now kidney issues. So, with my mind firmly fixed on my mother, I made a few aggressive and rather desperate jabs at the big stuff. I wrote “She’s in the hospital again, dehydrated. Her kidneys are parched. Her skin is like a thin film of dust on the floor.” And then I was stuck. I had nothing more to write. I became obsessive compulsive and started repeating those lines over and over in my head, alternating the rhythm, the accents, the pauses and starts. I did that for I don’t know how long, and then I gave up. To hell with it, I thought, and quit writing. I pushed the keyboard away and took a swig of espresso. My tiny doppio. I’d never had straight espresso before and it was better than I expected. Beautifully dark and bitter. I particularly liked the cup it came in, somewhat reminiscent of those childhood teacups I never had but always secretly wanted. I took another small taste. I let the potion rest in my mouth. I forgot about writing and let the brew eat the enamel from my teeth. I took my time. It tasted like smoke and the coals the smoke came from. I held the small cup between my fingers. I touched my lips to its lip. I let the taste tame my tongue. I looked up at the patrons standing in line, pointing at the menu, leaning against the counter, and the barista in her green apron brewing lattes with peppermint and ginger, and the smell of steamed milk and the suck and sputter of the steamer, and a painting of Mark Twain illuminated on the wall next to Kafka and Neruda contemplating his cigar, and a young woman in braids waiting by the window where the winter light fell tired onto the poorly polished floor, and I took another taste of espresso. No, I didn’t taste – I partook. I emptied my cup and set it down on the table and sat in silence watching the dregs drip down to the bottom. Then I pushed it to the side and took up my keyboard and began to write again.


One thought on “The Big Stuff

  1. I realize that you wrote this several months ago. I am sorry for you & your wife’s loss.

    You write so beautifully. I felt like I was sitting in BN Cafe and drinking espresso myself. Wow. I think that is powerful.

    I lost both my mom and my best friend in the past couple of years. Both who I physically cared for in our home. One to alzheimers and one to breast cancer. It was a rough time and the blogging although helpful was also difficult because one does feel the need to be profound. Yet what you wrote here was more insightful than anything.

    Thanks again for sharing.

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