LOS ANGELES, Aug. 16 (JTA) — When I have things to write, I suddenly seem to have things to read. Yahoo online stock profiles of stocks I don’t own, because I don’t own any stocks. It’s too hot to work, I tell myself, sitting with a fan the size of a large potted plant at my back.
And it’s amazing what a thorough reading of the daily newspaper I can accomplish when I really don’t want to work. The metro section is my new best friend.
Olympic springboard diving trials have become crucial viewing. I’m now well-versed in the intricacies of pikes, double-back twists, splash management and the absolute necessity of a perfect entry angle. I’ve also found time to construct a detailed critical interpretation of all the cast members on the television show “Big Brother.” I may not be writing as much as I could during these long days of summer, but at least I’m beating myself up over it.
* * *
I visit my mom because I’m sure a change of scenery will enhance my productivity. She lives in Las Vegas. It’s even hotter there, and the sun is my poison.
She lets me watch cable and takes me to the best buffet in town but it’s rash season for me, and ultraviolet rays and chlorinated pool water and aggressive sunblocks stage a full-scale assault on my pores. Seeing the splotchy blight covering the underside of my forearms, my mom finds some dusty old prescription cream out of the medicine cabinet.
She can’t remember if the ointment is for dermatitis or a burn she once got. I check the expiration date and it says 1997. I’m not sure, but I think she’s trying to kill me. I’ll be fine, says my dermatologist back home. “But what about these?” I ask, pointing to some new blemishes on my chin. “Why are these happening?”
“Well,” she says, with the certainty of a woman who cuts people open, “life isn’t perfect.” Inexplicably, I feel better. I guess it’s not a new sentiment, but I believe it coming from the Degas of dermis. Obviously, she’s right. I leave her office and I no longer care so much about my imperfect skin or the imperfect people who cut me off in traffic or my imperfect work habits.
It’s too hot to care and it does me about as much good as an expired mystery cream from 1997. Though I’m less dogged by them, the moods, like the rashes, persist.
* * *
I’m trying to take an afternoon nap when a racket outside wakes me. I hear children whooping it up — and that’s all fine and good but don’t ever disrupt the sleep of an insomniac writer with deadlines looming. I open my window to yell , “Find somewhere else to play,” but I say nothing. I’m struck silent by an amazing sight.
Two little girls — they look to be sisters — are speeding up and down the long driveway behind my apartment building. One is in a wheelchair, her head thrown back, a wild smile on her face. Her little sister is hitched to the back, wearing Rollerblades and a sparkly pink helmet. They are going very, very fast.
I can’t stop staring out my window. I’m convinced the sisters are going to crash any minute. But they’re fearless, screaming and laughing with the thrill of it. Finally, the little one wheels her older sister toward home. To
them, a wheelchair is nothing but a way to fly.
Most afternoons now, I see the sisters outside when the sun is cooling off. I miss them when they’re not there. And I don’t know what it means or how to unwrap it, but I feel that somehow the universe has given me a gift and stuck it right outside my window.
The girls have put an end to my afternoon naps, which may be a good thing. I don’t recall “power napping” being listed among the seven habits of highly effective people.
* * *
They say creative blocks come from a fear of imperfection. When I look at myself, rash-ridden, procrastinating, stymied, glued to bad TV — sometimes, the flaws are all I see. On the other hand, when I look outside, beauty and possibility screech by my window, waving.
Teresa Strasser is a 20-something writer and performer living in Los Angeles. She recently won an Emmy Award for her work on Comedy Central’s “Win Ben Stein’s Money.”