Gen X: I Did What I Loved, the Money Did Not Follow
Living the signature message just makes life weird. And desperate.
The Job Afterward
A Weekend of a Novelist
I am riding the train and it is not even five; I feel hopeful.
I get home, a clucking of a fire alarm in the hallway that has been going on for a year and my complaining about it to the managing agent has done nothing.
I make coffee and unfreeze bread and then toast it.I garbage it up with a pile of magazines—I don’t like this time, when my mind is too weakened to do anything other than passively absorb empty calories of gossip.
The coffee has kicked in, I’ve exchanged enough texts and now I start ruminating—
Riding the subway…writing on the subway.Why haven’t I ever made more of that? Twice, I’ve seen the novelist Nathan Englander writing on the subway. Ankle resting on one knee and scrawling away.He peered at me a couple of times, maybe because I’d gone to a reading he did at the Strand and asked a question.He teaches in my home state, Wisconsin.Maybe this is a good moment to reveal to you my secret super power.My secret super power is that I could live just about anywhere.I am from a flyover state, I went to college in a flyover state and I never saw the problem with living in one.Unless being black there is a problem.I’m not visibly black but I am black and I’ve heard enough about what white people really think of black people when no black people are around—wait a minute. I’m on the subway.In New York City.Where I moved so I’d never be the only person of color wherever I was again. Nathan Englander still lives part of the year in Brooklyn and Ella’s Deli in Madison must be his idea of Hell on Earth, but if I had the chance to get out of New York with a good job and salary my writerly feelings would not be hurt.
Saturday and Sunday morning, I actually get down to it: the writing itself.It’s a little bit like sex starts; how you don’t plan it, but you think about it over and over, until it is in the air and expands until there’s nothing else to do. This is how I would describe writing: visiting the Arch of St. Louis. Going inside it, riding up in a claustrophobic tube through a small black in what feels like a Rube Goldberg invention—chains rattling, the contraption we were in shimmying. And then getting up to the walkway which has this tilted sheer glass where a rail should be so you can lean into it and instead of looking down and seeing my feet, I see a sheer drop 700 feet down, and the west spreading out beyond me. I let go, and I fly.
That is what writing feels like.
And then it’s over.
I stand on the train platform, stunned that I am in a suit again.
Kirsten Major was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was educated at Emma Willard School in Troy, NY Carleton College in Northfield, MN, and Cornell University, where she received an MFA from the writing program. Recent work has appeared in Crannog, No Tokens Journal, and LitBreak, among others. Find her on twitter @kirstenamajor