Yesterday, a student emailed me to ask if we had class—basically, if spring break was really over.
And while I barked a laugh of amazement at her question, I was kind in my response.
We do, I wrote back with a smile emoji. We’re in the home stretch now!
But on a deeper level, I get it. I entered spring break with a to-do list a mile long and finished about half of those things, some which I’ll push to summer (closet sorting in the spare room) and some which I’ll scramble to finish this week (notes for a presentation I’ll give next week).
For a combination of reasons—tooth infection, lingering cough, exploding sunroof—I’ve felt wrong-footed all semester, only a step ahead when I should have this in the bag.
But here we are, back at it.
Yesterday, I left a mandatory department meeting twenty minutes after the hour and rushed to my class across campus, arriving five minutes late, while my students were clustered near the door debating whether to leave.
“It’s only been five minutes!” I said, breathless. Wind had been gusting at 45 mph, and my hair was a tangled knot I itched to work my fingers through.
“But you’ve never even been one minute late before,” M. pointed out. He is over six feet, a gentle giant, and his gaze is sympathetic as it travels over my windswept appearance. “It felt momentous.”
Today I’m at Starbucks for a few hours ostensibly to write, but also I’m behind on my grading, and if I don’t finish at least five papers, I’ll be well and truly screwed by tonight, when I need to read/skim sixty poems and short stories for the lit mag class for which I’m the faculty advisor. These are the kinds of motivational bargains I make with myself: grade one paper, answer an email, grade another paper, five minutes of online browsing for a new area rug. Grade five, and I get to work on my novel.
The other day, meeting our nephew’s new girlfriend for the first time at a hotel bar, my husband said, “Paula has a more interesting job than I do” and I nearly choked on my martini.
Grade, hate myself for assigning so many words in the first place, repeat.
But even though I’m trying to focus, I can’t turn off the fiction writing part of myself so easily.
Two people just entered in full winter coats, hats and boots, abominable-snowman style, asked the barista for the bathroom code, and as I watched writer-eyed, entered the same single-stall bathroom. Was this the perfect setting for a romantic tryst? Were they naked beneath those heavy coats? Would they buy coffee afterwards? Ten minutes later they emerged, hoods clinched tight around their faces, and exited the store.
Sometimes the stories just write themselves.
Paula Treick DeBoard