I wrote a book. It launched on Monday. I was nervous and didn’t sleep and my sister was visiting from Seattle so I got out of bed at 3:30 a.m. to drive her to the airport. We hugged and she disappeared through the glass airport doors. I climbed back in my car with my coffee and drove down the empty Interstate in the pitch-black of 4 a.m. I kept the radio off. And in the silence I hoped with all hope that my book would sell.
I drove to my parents. My Dad had to go to the doctor and I was going to take him. It was still so early, so dark, and I punched in the code on the garage door key pad and the door creaked up like an old man walking. I sat in the silence of the house on an easy chair, bathed in the light of the table lamp my mom leaves on to help the burglars see their way. I thought about how strange it is to grow up. I thought about how much more I know now and how much more I don’t know.
The sun came up and my dad got up and we drove to the hospital and I sat in the waiting room and read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. I only thought about my book a little. But A Million Miles kept making me cry and I felt embarrassed and hid my red eyes from the patients sitting around me. I was feeling weepy and started thinking about my book again. It is scary to create something and offer it to people and then wait to see if they accept or reject it.
My Dad and I had brunch at a country-style restaurant with the tag-line, down on the farm. I used to waitress at this restaurant, actually. I ate my omelette and I thought about my book and hoped that I would not have to waitress at this restaurant again.
“How many copies of my book have sold, you think?” I asked my Dad.
He chewed his toast and said without looking up, “Oh, maybe 15?”
“Well, how many do you think?”
“50,” I said. “At least 50. I hope 50.”
My dad patted my hand, like I was sad dog, and said, “Why don’t you take it one copy at a time?”
I drove home. The air conditioning in the car broke a decade ago and the hot afternoon air blew through the windows like a desert tornado. Gum wrappers and mapquest directions swirled around my backseat and sweat puddled in my bra. I was tired of thinking about my book so I turned the radio up and sang even though I didn’t know the lyrics. I wished I was the kind of person that thrashed their head around and banged their hands on the steering wheel. I’m not so instead I held my hands at 10 and 2 and made up words.
At home I checked my book sales. I had not sold 50 copies, not even close. My husband said, “It’s early, give it time.” I emailed my girlfriends. “People are still at work. Don’t worry,” they said. I put on my brave face but my stomach folded over like I’d put it in the Kitchenaid mixer.
For the next five hours I sat on the couch refreshing my sales page over and over. I was like Pavlov with the bell. I was like those little lab rats who the scientists feed cocaine to so that they push their tiny, twitching pink noses against the button again and again and the pleasure sensors in their brains light up like a casino until they overdose in a fit of ecstasy. Except I wasn’t ecstatic. I guess it was more like picking a scab or scratching a mosquito bite until it bleeds.
I couldn’t figure out whether to mourn or celebrate so my husband and I drove to the liquor store for tequila, which we use for both occasions. Then we drove to the grocery, a massive, just-opened superstore that sells food and clothes and pharmaceuticals and diamonds. It took forty-five minutes to find our five items but finally we checked out and put the stuff in the car. Then my husband yelled, “To tequila!” like he was a warrior horseman and turned the ignition but the car wouldn’t start.
He turned it again.
It didn’t start.
He said, “Come on baby!” and kissed the steering wheel.
It didn’t start.
He took out some pliers and banged the battery but it wasn’t the battery because the lights were working.
“I guess we’re walking,” I said. He shook his head yes. We locked the car doors and left the tequila behind and that hurt.
We crossed a busy intersection and turned left onto a less-busy road with no sidewalks. We walked in high grass, near the drainage ditch. A skinny snake was coiled on the roadside. I told my husband about the book I’d read, the one that made me cry. I didn’t think about my book at all. “This is kind of fun,” I said.
The sky faded to soft pink, like a lullaby.
“You know, there’s a lesson in this,” I said.
“Like what?” My husband answered, “carry a cell phone?”
“Don’t buy cheap flip-flops.”
“God doesn’t like it when we drink tequila…”
“Brian, no! A real lesson.”
“Well, what is it?”
“I don’t know yet.”
It was pitch black again. That’s two pitch-black’s in one day for me. The walk wasn’t fun anymore. A blister formed on my left foot and I limped like an ogre. Cars raced at us and we blinked in the glare of their headlights. There still weren’t any sidewalks.
“I think I figured out the lesson,” I said.
“The lesson is trust. Trust that I did what I needed to do, I wrote the book, and the rest isn’t up to me. If our car hadn’t died, I’d be at home, drunk, obsessively refreshing my sales page. But our car did die and now I’ve been walking for almost two hours through weeds and roadkill, in my flip flops, away from the computer. The Universe had to hit me over the head to keep me away from the computer. And now I see the lesson. Things will happen in due time. Trust.”
The lights from our neighborhood began to twinkle in the distance. I pointed at them and Brian high-fived me like we were Lewis and Clark discovering a wild new land.
“I’m glad the lesson didn’t have anything to do with tequila.” Brian said.
And I agreed.