I’m in a small room at the end of the hall with the door closed so no one can see me. For all they know I am busy in here. This is not what I thought living in New York City was going to be like. Moving to New York City had felt like buying a new dress. It would change everything.
It felt very good to say to Jeffrey – the New York City boyfriend – the one I had liked so much – or rather the one who I wanted with desperation to like me – the one who a few months ago I had said to in the afternoon in his Salvation-Army-furniture one-room apartment that I liked so much because I had never had a boyfriend with an apartment before, I had said we should break up.
I said it because liking him and this life that he brought me into – this one with sex, finally, and an ounce of pot in a plastic bag next to the waterbed, with people who called on the phone or rich adults who were friends of his stepmother who asked you to drive their red Triumph convertible back from Southampton and hand it over to a doorman at the Plaza, and Bob Dylan concerts and movies in the afternoon and hamburgers in coffee shops – all these things – it was all excruciating, on loan as long as Jeffrey thought me gorgeous. He stared at me and said I was beautiful, but I couldn’t be that beautiful and he knew so many girls who didn't sit up against the wall and cry – ones that laughed and chatted, even ones like him who took Manhattan apartments and having a car for granted. Not to mention all the girls who had something to say when you asked them what they were doing. Like Tammy, so cute and petite in her parents’ Woody Allen upper West Side apartment, who gushed as we came in, “God, I’ve spent all afternoon making a dragon out of clay!”
I had broken up with him, the new boyfriend, the first boyfriend really, to get it over with. He could have changed my mind in three seconds, but he let it go that time. And then called two months later, sobbing. No boy had ever sobbed for me before. That’s when I got to tell him I’d be living in Manhattan now, going to school there instead of in that vile hick town.
But now I am here and I am the only person in the city with her door closed.
I want to be writing. I say that, but look at me. Jeffrey just gets high and sits down at his typewriter when he wants to write. He stays up til dawn and finishes his screenplay. And then he’s really happy. He loves his screenplay. He’s written a novel too that he likes alot. I’ve seen it. A whole three inches of white typed pages. He just sat down and wrote it. No big deal. I didn’t like his novel when I read it, but still.
When I write it’s little gnarled words on the page that I tear up and then I go to bed as soon as it’s nine o’clock so I can get out of here.
Here in this room. With the same books as always on the tall narrow bookshelf, looking down at me, and my ten or twelve records leaning against the trunk that is the table for the turntable. It’s like having people in my room who have made things – songs, guitar playing, stories – how did they do it? I am not one of them. I’m a fraud.
I had thought I’d write at this desk, but now that I am here, it’s not how I imagined it. I hadn’t imagined that dark laminate of fake wood. Or the soft yellow plastic of the seat of this school dorm chair. Or the smooth grey of the linoleum floor that I try to warm by throwing a fringed cloth over the trunk.
I walk to the classes on my schedule where teachers talk about this great book, this brilliant writer, that masterful poet. I wanted to be one of them. I had thought I just had to get out of my parents’ house, then out of that hick college town. Still, it has not happened. I write the little things I must for school, but those don’t count. I want to be the kind of writer who writes out of her own insistence not because the teacher is waiting for his assignment.
I hate the words “I want to be a writer.” No writer would ever say that. And I fucking say it all the time.