Seven years ago today, I pressed publish.*
At the time I was in my twenties. I'm not anymore, in fact that cake up there was to celebrate yet another birthday into my thirties. Sean and I called an apartment our home back then; we don't anymore. It was in the city where he grew up. We don't live there anymore, either.
I worked at a job that had me in a windowless office. Scratch that, there was a window but it was blocked from easy view by a bookcase taller than me. I could see a slivered glimpse of an interior courtyard by leaning all the way back in my chair and scooting over to the left. That's changed too — I've not sat in that chair or stood in that room in six years.
I couldn't have imagined these 2,557 days since that apartment, that career, those first words. I knew Sean was the finest man I could ever hope to marry, so that was a strong beginning.
Over the years we moved, and moved again. We left things behind and gained so much. When we moved here, to the city where I grew up, things had changed, were changing. I got to know new neighbourhoods, new shops, new people. I learned to live in a place I thought I knew, as an adult and a parent. We settled in and stretched out and explored.
One of the elementary schools I had attended closed, torn down to its foundations and then paved over for townhouses. When I pass that corner I think about the sturdy, square building that used to stand there. I think of how the thin heels of my loafers would often hook the edge of the stairs when I'd run from our classroom up on the top floor down to the room on the bottom where we had assembly. I remember the sound of chairs scraped across linoleum and the crumpled paper of packed lunches. I think of all the childhood, childlike dramas and tragedies that took place with those halls as backdrop, the stage now cleared.
We went to my high school's anniversary. The halls seemed wider.
I recently spent a day in truly windowless room. It happened to be that day in spring when the trees pop, and the leaves go from frilled curls to full spread. That blink-and-you'll-miss-it day. Keeping occupied over hours of waiting, Sean and I reached the topic of Jack Kerouac and On the Road, specifically the original text versus as it was published by Viking in 1957, with names changed and sections removed.
Kerouac put On the Road to paper over a span of three weeks in April 1951. Three weeks! He worked it out on a manual typewriter, taping sheets of teletype paper together so the resulting roll could be fed into the machine once, and he could then go from there continuously, uninterrupted. The manuscript is single-spaced, without paragraphs or breaks, a solid block of text with the words stacked like bricks in pavement, one hundred and twenty feet long. Edits are in pencil. Kerouac didn't write a book; he told a story. Starting at the outset and working his way to the conclusion.
A book written in three weeks makes a great headline. It's a headline that swaggers, full of bravado. That said, what catches me are all the years that built those twenty-one days. Kerouac had a famous habit of notebooks, of scribbling and collecting stories as he went — like those pebbles that you kick around for a while before picking them up — he tucked them in his pockets in between pages. He began writing On the Road as Sur le Chemin, in colloquial Québécois French, three months before he started the scroll.
I like that. I like the idea that even a work known for the spontaneity of its prose — one that reads like a singular act of improvisation — could have begun in fits and starts. I like that, for even him, it can take some time to get one's mind around things. We may need to circle our destination, figuring out how best to approach, from what angle, and where to land.
In a beautifully fitting twist, Kerouac's scroll is jagged and torn at the bottom, the end ripped away. And so, his finale, in its original form, is a mystery. The margin reads, "ate by Patchkee, a dog", which may or may not be the truth, which could very well be a joke, but it is another thing I like.
Endings are often messy. They smudge and smear into the next beginning as everything starts again. Endings follow along, trailing behind forward progress, like the echo of your own footsteps.
So here we are, with the trees heavily green and mornings still cold. We've made some headway, the first seven years done, with still a ways ahead. (Seven is a number that's important to me, as you might have guessed.) That milestone passed, this road has been an exceptional one to travel thus far, and I'm looking to the horizon, looking to reach the rim of its curve and then drive past it.
Thank you, thank you for the company. Let's get going on the next seven. I'll bring the cake.
*If you follow that link, it's rather empty, save for a comment made by Tara some years later; she's a treasured friend and I'm happy that she's there, Anne and Diana are we. However, the quiet there is a bit misleading; when I transplanted this site from another space to this one, the comments from those early posts did not come along. I have them saved though, and if I can figure out a way to respost them I will, as I am, still and always, grateful for the welcome and continued friendship from this community. xo, all.