I open my eyes, and see the same magazine clipping that’s been one strong wind away from being blown across the room – the one I keep telling myself I’m going to re-tape as soon as I get home from work. My arms extend back against my pillow, my toes past the covers and off the edge of the bed.
I’ve been told my room is too dark – with its blackout curtains and lack of essential oil diffusers with rotating fluorescent hues. My boyfriend, who can sometimes be found in my bed before sunrise, uses his screen light to navigate through the clothes, Diet Coke bottles, and other parts of my life that litter the floor.
I require no such guidance system. I am this room.
When I descend the stairs and open my door to the hallway, I’m temporarily blinded by the sunlight. I feel my way to the bathroom. As I debate whether I should shower, then brush my teeth, or if I should brush my teeth and then shower, I hear the voices.
I peek out from the bathroom and lean over the bannister, extending my ear.
“It’s just not working, Kathy,” I hear a man say. “I can’t do it anymore.”
With Christmas Eve-like agility, I begin to make my way down the stairs, listening.
“Please,” Mom says, “I can pay more. Just give me some more time.”
“It’s not an issue of time.”
That’s Kaylie’s voice! What is she doing here so early and why is she talking to Mom?
“Look, Kathy,” Kaylie continues, “Lauren needs to know the truth.”
“I can’t,” Mom’s voice breaks. “I can’t tell her. Not now!”
“She needs to know,” Kaylie says firmly. “She’s a terrible writer. We can’t keep up the charade.”
“If we tell her now,” Kevin interjects, “she could go on to lead a completely normal life.”
Kevin is in on it too? But he was the one who pushed me to apply to MFA programs. Why would he do this?
“Lauren is a smart girl,” Erika says. “She’ll be okay. She could work at a bank or become a realtor. She’s just never going to be a writer.”
It always ends with me waking upright in bed, the sweat pouring down my back and chest. I collapse onto the pillow before throwing the covers off and speeding down the two flights of stairs to the kitchen, which is almost always empty.
Sometimes Mom’s kettle will be whistling on the stove, or Dad’s mug will be steaming beneath the Keurig. But most days, it’s devoid of inhabitants, and my worst fears.
Whenever someone asks what I do, I always fill in the blank with whose name happens to be on my paycheck that week.
I’m working at a call center. I’m interning at a publishing company. I’m an administrative assistant.
And while the positions have changed many times over the years, there is one thing I’ve always been doing: writing. Yet, I never call myself a writer.
I used to tell myself it was to avoid the questions and ridiculous comments. The “Oh what have you written?”s and the “Yeah? I’ve got this great idea for a book”s. But really, it’s because I never considered myself a writer.
I felt like there was something fraudulent about claiming to be among those who had reached the promised land of publication – who had survived editors, secured agents, cashed advances, and obtained ISBNs.
I guess that’s why, when I branded my Facebook page, I chose Web Site Developer. After all, I was developing websites, providing social media marketing expertise, and all the other things I listed under the SERVICES section. But it is not who I was.
And so, in the interest of leaving bull shit (insecurities, fears, and denial) behind, I’m happy to say that I am Lauren Sharkey, and I am a writer.