Marion was in town, a film student type I knew from L.A. Her short hair was brown and she had a quiet air about her until you knew her better and realized how smart, warm and funny she was. I had tried to be friends with her, and though we’d left our boyfriends to have dinner a few times, had smoked pot and the attendant long rambling personal talks, something had never quite clicked to make our friendship a given.
Still, when she called that she was in NY, I looked forward to our evening together, most of which we spent in her mother’s apartment, drinking ouzo and talking. As I drank and talked a beautiful plan took shape in my head. I would quit my job. That’s what I needed to do to make things better. The certainty of it, the splendor of this ripe possibility rose up in me with joy.
I had been with the paperback publishing house for almost three years. I had begun as a secretary and been promoted to editor – my first private office, my first set of business cards. I could take manuscripts that I liked to my boss, a short round gay middle-aged ballet-loving boss, and persuade him to publish them. I had gotten Geoffrey a job to write a novel based on a movie. He had two days to write it in and got $1,000 for it. I wrote copy that I could read months later on paperback covers at B. Daltons. Lately, I’d been going to cocktail parties for book people after work though I often showed up in cut-offs and hiking boots, confident I was the youngest and prettiest girl in the room.
But always, weaving in and out of my days was the dread of being trapped in a 9 to 5 job, and lately – even with the parties – I had the sense that I was in a prison, a large one, but still, a very confined space. And the words of an old boss rang in my head, “All editors once aspired to be writers.” I couldn’t let that happen.
I left Marion’s apartment, having talked it all out with her. I would quit. I would get odd jobs. I would sit at my desk in my new corner room and I would write, just the way I imagined Virginia Woolf had done it, the way Susan Sontag surely did it. Yes, I thought, yes. I had hit on the answer to everything.
As I bounded down Broadway in my sneakers in the morning, everything sparkled. I couldn’t wait to be in my new life.
I knocked on my boss’s door and sat down across from him at his desk. “I’d like to leave in two weeks,” I said.
He looked at me, his wide bespectacled face. “But why?” he asked, genuinely puzzled.
all my reasons collided, causing a pile-up that stifled my voice for a moment. I wanted to give him an honest answer, and it brought tears to my throat because it all seemed so important. “I just want a life that means something,” I managed to say.
His expression didn’t change. Though my words meant everything to me I could see they didn’t mean much to him. “All right,” he said.
“You must not quit your job!” my father called me at my office two days later, his voice urgent.
Nothing he said touched me at all. His worries about disaster if I quit were nothing more than the annoying buzz of a mosquito. I was doing this.
The Managing Editor said she would send me manuscripts to copyedit. that seemed like an appealing writerly way to make money. For the rest of it I would figure something out. Other people did it. I would get my writing life.