Work


I sit at my desk. It’s 6:30 am. I open the computer and it makes one of those tired sounds that people in their mid-50s make when they sit on or stand up from a couch. Aside from groaning, it sort of talks to me. Today it says: not again, man. I think it’s a bad sign. I put on my headphones. Easy 90s on Spotify (don’t judge). I start writing.

I have been writing a series of ESL coursebooks over the last month. And while it is something I have wanted to move my career into for the last few years, I have never been busier. I have taken a job that requires putting out an enormous amount of pages in a very short amount of time. Because I am a schmuck.

When I took the job I rationalized: can’t go anywhere anyway, might a well make some cash, just a month of work, then I can relax. These are all well and good, but in the throes of the work I can’t even see straight and I am not thinking about money and I also can’t remember the last time I cleaned my body in water.

At around 10:30 am the cat is standing sideways on my lap looking into the crook of my arm. She’s sort of like a statue only she growls a little if I backspace too fast. There is nothing on the Earth that will keep a cat from doing an action it has learned that it can do. About six years ago the cat realized that loud meows got me to turn on my sink faucet and so it is what I have done first thing every morning for, well, six years. And every day since she realized that she can get up on the desk from the floor, she has done just that. But it doesn’t matter, I am writing.

At noon, Burke brings a sandwich. I eat it but I can’t remember what it was and I asked for something to eat about an hour later. When I was reminded that I had just eaten a sandwich, I squinted and recalled the faint taste of mustard and chicken ham. There’s a weird mesmerized state of being one can get into when working on writing. Though I have approached this state with other work, it seems more intense with writing. It’s a small world that is quiet but for David Gray kazooing on in some distant background.

I get rather into the teacher’s book description of the lesson plan. I write it like a robot but I know exactly what’s happening and what will happen. I try to liven things up with jokes that only I will get, but I’m afraid of getting fired or, worse, being told I am not funny by someone who has to pay me. Still, things get intense. When I reach the closing section of each lesson, I feel as though we have been on a journey together, of verb noun collocations and pre-intermediate grammar boxes. When I end the lesson with the closer, I break into tears. The cat, uncomfortable with this show of emotion, barks at me. David Gray doesn’t say anything.

I wrote a book in a weekend once. Sadly, I am fairly certain that it’s the best book I have ever written and I wrote it in 70 hours. I have been working on another book for six years and it sucks the sweat off a dead wildebeast. Life isn’t fair. But it’s the only other time I have reached this level of meditative writing. I hope that when the coursebook is done and I have handed in my work I can continue working like this for myself.

By 13:30 pm, I have to teach and I speak to my students as if I am speaking through bog water. I make little sense. The cat leaves my lap, I think she’s lost interest when I’m not writing. David Gray is nowhere to be found. I have made my way to a new level of something, but I am not sure what it is. I just wish I had a sandwich.

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