“What are you gonna do with that?” That’s what my wife asked me while I was staring at an old fictional story that I am always talking about finishing but never have. Actually that’s not true. Now that I think about it, I never actually talk about finishing it. I just talk about the act of writing. So maybe that’s why I bristled with such brief and concentrated irritation when I didn’t have an answer for her, because I could not envision it being finished. And to be honest with you, I’m STILL a little irritated about the question. No- it’s not the question that irritates me. It’s my answer that irritates me. Because I. DON’T. KNOW… I WANT to finish my old story, and I want it to be great. But I’m afraid and I don’t know what it is I’m afraid of. I’m afraid of looking stupid. I have to say, it’s an ironic thing to be blinded by your own vision and crippled by your own control… but I’m sure that theme will pop up again so I’ll try to avoid any digression there.
There is an old maritime poem with a metaphor for a never ending burden someone must endure. The metaphor is in the form of an albatross. Here’s what the trusty ol’ wikipedia says about it.
The word albatross is sometimes used metaphorically to mean a psychological burden that feels like a curse.
It is an allusion to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798). In the poem, an albatross starts to follow a ship — being followed by an albatross was generally considered an omen of good luck. However, the titular mariner shoots the albatross with a crossbow, which is regarded as an act that will curse the ship (which indeed suffers terrible mishaps). To punish him, his companions induce him to wear the dead albatross around his neck indefinitely (until they all die from the curse). Thus the albatross can be both an omen of good or bad luck, as well as a metaphor for a burden to be carried as penance.
Melanie is a great sport for putting up with this dead albatross I bring into the house on a weekly basis. “What are you gonna do with that?” She asks me, just hoping for me to see exactly what it is I’m playing with and reply with certainty that “I’m going to throw it away.” or with confidence, “I’m going to make it fly.” But no… I just spread it’s limp wings and furrow my brow with confusion as they fall back just as limp and dead as before- awkwardly a feather comes loose and drifts to the tiled living room floor. The weight of it’s mass too heavy to fly- crumpling as it slips from my grip and to the floor with a soggy slapping sound.
Oh this albatross… wasn’t always an albatross, you know. At one time it was actually an IDEA. And it was a REALLY good one too… It even had a name- Neon Continental. It was going to reach out and uplift the downtrodden and astrocised members of the midwest that just didn’t “fit in”. Those who were suffering from the effects of severe alienation from the society that was rejecting them with fear and ignorance. This albatross… Neon Continental was a love story to serve as a beacon over the bible belt and save the lives endangered by their own hands or loved ones. That may be grandiose but through intention alone it would bring forth into the light, all of the admirable qualities of the down cast, and highlight all of the flaws of the social elite. The darkness of midwestern ignorance would be cast aside as it leveled playing fields, shattered archaic barriers, and protected hope itself. Dieing dreams were saved on a daily basis and the unifying laughter of children was the song of this… this dead albatross in my living room.
“What are you gonna do with that?” She asks me… At this rate I’m just going to stuff it and have it mounted over the fire place out of shameful spite. Or maybe I’ll just cook it up and eat it while crying in bed like a woman in menses with a tub of ice cream. I don’t know. There may be no breath in it’s chest and no wind beneath it’s wings, but I am not yet remotely prepared to throw it out because I still believe it can fly. I still believe it can soar to reach those misunderstood unfortunate souls being lost to fear and darkness… but at the moment, it is merely serving to befuddle me as I struggle to articulate an answer to my wife’s subtly prodding question. “What are you gonna do with that?”…”goddamnit,” I sigh. “I don’t know.” Sometimes I don’t understand how she can take me seriously on anything. Then this mild paranoia starts crackling on the outskirts of my mind and I start thinking that I am in fact NOT being taken seriously and I begin reading too much into the mundane mannerisms of others, once again blinded by my own vision…
I just wish there were more hours in the day. If I have any legitimate excuse to make it would be the matter of time. Between work, weekly house chores, and daily familial duties there just isn’t much time left until I need to recharge my body with food and rest. (I also believe it’s important to take some time to just relax with your loved ones.) I remember not too long ago in my 20’s when I could go on as little as 4 hours of sleep a night. Granted, it wasn’t very good for me and aside from a finicky knee, I am more healthy now than I was in my 20’s- but that’s because I get my rest and I’m not recklessly partying all night long or cramming for final exams like I did then. Melanie is now 25 weeks pregnant with our daughter, Violet. I’m hoping that the necessity of waking hours will be ramrodded into actuality by Violet’s arrival. If not, then I need to figure out just what the hell to do with this albatross carcass. Wouldn’t want the baby playing with it.