The kitchen, with its stone tiles and heavy counters, holds in the July heat like a kettle ready to boil. A timid breeze huffs from the window over the sink hardly daring to rustle the greenery adorning the sill. I slide the last plate into the dishwasher rack and pull my shirt collar up to wipe my forehead before turning out the lights. The day is over and I’ve still got a little time to spend with Sara and Peter.
A mid-summer dusk fills the stifling room. I’m forgetting something. I know it. It’s something important but I can’t quite place it. I head up the stairs. The groaning steps remind me of their advanced age. The door at the top of the steps glows around its edges like a heavenly invitation. Blissfully cold air blasts from the air conditioner in our bedroom window. Sara is on the bed with Peter. My boy. She leans over him, making his feet and eyes dance as they play one of their games. He laughs that perfect, pure laugh of his. Prayers are soon said over him and he sleeps with his arms above his head, the signal I need that he’s in the wonderful place where his dreams begin to discover him.
I lay in the dark, one leg outside of the covers to soak in the cold air. The nagging sense from earlier still lingers. The doors are locked. The stove is off. The cats are in. What else could it be? As I drift off the answer comes to me like a neglected friend looking to reconnect. I didn’t write again today. My laptop sits, gathering more dust than a Swiffer. I haven’t touched it in at least a month.
It’s been nearly four years since I released Earthking. It did well enough, I suppose. Most of the reviews were kind, the one in Publishers Weekly better than I could have imagined. More than anything that first book was an introduction and the next was supposed to be, well, more. The second book is nearly done. Countless hours of writing and re-writing over the last several years and the finish line is just over the horizon. Some dedicated time and the keen eye of a good editor are all that keep me from breaking the tape.
As I finish the day at work and endure another half hour of traffic I fight the urge to greedily pass as many cars as I can. My son waits for me at home. He hears my voice when I come in and his pursed lips pull into a gleeful grin. My nights are spent chasing that smile.
Later, that feeling tugs at me again, the one that says I’m so close. Just a paragraph here and a page there and it’ll be done before I know it. I pull my laptop from its shelf like Indiana Jones uncovering a forgotten relic. I charge it up only for it to sit out another week, untouched. It’s easy to do nothing when my doubts speak so loudly. They skitter up my back and perch on my shoulder, whispering into my ear.
“You’re happy, aren’t you? Time writing is time away from them.”
“You had one good book. Why risk a second? It might not be any good.”
“It’s been too long. You’ve already missed your chance.”
“What’s wrong with just enjoying what you’ve got?”
It is nice to take it easy some nights, to go to bed when Sara does or sleep until I absolutely have to get up for work but what will I think of those times in another four years when book 2 still lies unfinished? Do I really want to look Peter in the eye when he asks why I never finished what was started and tell him “I stopped because I doubted myself and it’s easier to do nothing than to try?”
Do I want to tell anyone that?
I’d rather say I gave up sleep and not time with my family. I’d rather say I didn’t listen to my doubts. I’d rather say I tried.
A paragraph here. A page there. I will finish what I began.