Alone in the car, Mozart playing on the classical station but low, I recite from the piece I'll be reading on the radio tomorrow night. Recite until the fog bank of my memory runs into another blank patch and I have to wait until the next red light to look at the crumpled cheat sheet of my essay to see what comes next.
The program is "Bread and Roses," on Portland's KBOO, and I'll be reading work along with four writer friends, celebrating the Burnt Tongue reading series we've all been a part of here in town. I'm assuming none of them are in their cars practicing lines. They all, I'm sure, have perfectly fog-free memories. In the Mozart quiet, waiting for that next red light, I try to think how long it's been since I was on the radio. Used to do a lot of it when I was in the circus, feeling stupid sitting there with the head phones on, not only because why would I need to be in clown makeup to talk on the radio, but also because who would think I should be on the radio at all? I never knew what to say. Always sat quiet, letting my ex-husband do all the talking, until the radio guy asked me a question and I tripped all over my tongue and fog-bank brain trying to come up with something to say.
But the last time I was on the radio it was for the local station in my then town of Baraboo, Wisconsin, promoting a children's picture book I'd had published through a small press. Which would make it 2001. And, wow, think of it - Baraboo. That time, too, the station was called KBOO. Difference then was that I didn't feel like a writer. Somehow because it was a small press, a tiny press, I didn't really feel published. I was too young and naive to know the wonderful worth of small presses all across the country. Too much the me I was then to know it was OK to feel self worth, to feel like a writer. But here I am now, in the Mozart quiet, driving with my crumpled essay on the passenger seat, on top of stacks of pages from my novel in progress, which I'm taking to my writer's group where [I don't know it now, but] I will read to the group and they will laugh and they will applaud at the end and they will talk about how the piece was funny and also emotional and also a little scary and then they'll applaud again, for god's sake, and I'll feel so much like a writer I won't even notice that I feel like a writer because I've felt like a writer, been one so long I can't even remember not feeling like one.
Or at least the fog bank of my memory has pushed those feelings so far away they sit in the blank patches like the next line in my radio piece. Leave them there. Let the fog swallow them up. Red light ahead. I slow to a stop. Quick glance at my pages and I start reciting again.