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02 Aug 98

Shoes

Today I walked nine miles through Brooklyn and Manhattan, trying to breathe in or out with each four steps, considering how I drift along on rough talent and hard work, accepting fate, and avoiding most choices.

I allow positions and responsibilities to find me, so my work is often the work no one else cares about. I wait for women to discover me, then share the mattress with conquistadors. I expect voices to guide me, and only hear the most brash.

People choose my drinks when I go out. I pretend to value their taste above my own, but actually don't care what we order. The wine in the bottle and the wine in the box taste the same to me.

Today I wore steel-toed shoes without socks. My feet are growing a ridgeline where the steel rubs the skin. The leather in the shoes stretches to handle the thickness of my heel. In turn, my feet toughen. The body labors to fit the object. The object bends to meet the body's labor.

Reaching this podiatric accord was a blistering, painful process. After I bought the shoes last month I stumbled through Brooklyn, trying to break in the fresh leather. It hurt, but I understood that I'd end up with comfort and stability, after several days.

I'm trying to make the same compromise between my intellect and my body, make one fit the other. Right now, I behave like a floating head, living in a world of screens and information.

I'm going to the gym, starting Thursday, and have eaten abstinently (or close) for the last two weeks, because I don't taste strawberries when they are dropped into my mouth. Food is only texture. Alcohol makes me drunk, human touch makes me shiver, speech is performance. I've enjoyed sex two times in six years, when the act transcended itch-scratching. Sometimes I'll injure myself, but not notice until my shirt is bloody. The pleasure I know best is in writing this web site, strictly inside the skull.

Many famous writers say they hate to write, that the process is agony. I love it, the feeling of fingers on plastic, killing just-written paragraphs with the mouse, forcing the text to evolve. This work cleanses and educates. It purges and feeds.

I assume, from my pleasure, that I'm doing it wrong, that fame will always be an orange suspended a few feet overhead, dangling from a firm bough. Still, I keep at it, always hopping upward, hoping that when I reach the orange, I'll understand how to taste it.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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