WarriorPoet(2), a friend of mine from Open Diary, suggested that I write an entry about an alternative life in which, instead of ever meeting Fuzzy, I was an international jewel thief. On the surface, it’s a romantic notion – going all Carmen Sandiego and hopping from continent to continent, spending a week browsing through the Louvre, or having romantic one-night stands in Barcelona or Milan, dancing through Carnival in Rio.
But the thing is, even in my fantasy, that’s not a life I’d want. Oh, I can appreciate the romance of it, the thrill, the sense of daring and fun, but a life on the lam is no kind of life at all.
Here’s my real fantasy – I want to be an old-style foreign correspondent. There’s this book called Paris to the Moon that I read a couple of years ago – it’s a series of essays about an American couple with a young child experiencing life in Paris. The author was freelancing for The New Yorker at the time, and the book is a compilation of his work. The life they led – writing in the morning, experiencing life in French and English – going to cafes and public swimming pools and museums – that fascinated me. That’s what my alternative life would be – me holed up in a garrett or loft in some extremely quaint European city, and having little adventures disguised as trips to the market, an afternoon of shopping, late evenings listening to jazz in obscure clubs, early mornings sipping coffee and nibbling on croissants or beignets – and writing about it all – for money.
I blame these romantic notions on my mother, who has a Sweet 16 lecture we all received as we hit that age – “See Europe!” she told my cousins and me.
I also blame Jo March, the fictional character created by Louisa May Alcott in Little Women. When I was nine years old I stapled a red bow to my black velvet beret, and tucked my hair up inside it, whenever I wanted to write. I filled pages and pages with nonsense, none of which was ever complete. (I do the same thing now, when I have time, except that my vocabulary has improved and I don’t wear the hat any more.)
Rilke once told a young poet who sought advice, that if you wake up and all you can think about is writing, you’re a writer.
Words flow through my brain on a near constant basis, and I am ever so madly in love with pen and ink and text on screens. Writing isn’t all I want to do, but it’s the thing that never goes away.
But it’s just a romantic notion.