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draw it in, even when you’re writing

published: 2013-09-15

The man who’s dog diedis in the take-out pizza place. Wherever I see him, he’s always there first. He is waiting. I mention that I saw all the kitchen staff inside the restaurant. They are eating.
“Oh are they?” he says, “I see. I was wondering about that. I’ve been here for some ten minutes or so.”
I marvel at the concept of a person who quietly waits at a counter until someone shows up to help him.
The kitchen staff bursts in and they take our orders. The man who’s dog died offers me a chair for while we wait, and orange juice. I always wonder whether he remembers who I am. I tell him he’s looking much better.
‘Really?” he asks.
“Yes, last time I saw you your dog had just died.” I can’t help but hope he’s still wearing the collar of his dog on his belt. He isn’t.
“I went for a walk the other day,” he says, “with a friend’s dog.”
“Did you walk the same route?”
“Yes, I chose all our favorite paths. And it was good.”
I nod. He adds, “we did well.”
He clearly says we. I ask what he means.
“I took it in. The mourning. I drew it in,” he uses no gestures when he speaks. “Some people will advise you to write. So it can leave your system. I guess writing is fine, but only if it’s to draw it all in. As opposed to simply putting it out there.”
I want to ask: but how? But how do you draw it in?
He then tells me that he has always disliked reading until recently. He enjoys it now. Although the infatuation with a certain author can disappear as fast as it came, he adds. And he describes a few things he’s read with the same quiet focus he had while standing there waiting to be helped.
Suddenly he asks “how is your writing going?”
I want to say “fine” but I can’t. I tell him exactly that. He says “you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.” This startles me. Of course I want to talk about writing. It’s my profession.
I find myself explaining what projects I’ve been working on and that in fact, well, what’s the point really? Forget it. The pizzas are done. Bye now. Bye. And your name was? Oh yes, that’s right.
I walk home with the pizzas. After dinner my son cries about how much he misses his dad. For this specific moment in time, everything in his little life seems better at dad’s. His ear hurts and he’s tired. And he wants to go to dad. I sit next to him and listen. He says I don’t play with him enough and dad does. And he wants to be at dad’s for 4 nights a week too, just like he is with me. Instead of finding a solution and getting up after having heard him out, to go on with our business of going to bed, I stay put. I sit and sit and sit and watch him shift around the room uncomfortably, unsure of how to carry the emotions in his body. When he’s ready, I put him to bed and stay with him for a while. I think of how much I need my boyfriend to stroke my head and back, and that I only realize how much I do when he does. I stroke my son’s back and his head.
Take it in. Even when you’re writing.

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