The Unswung Bat

Thursday, June 29, 2006
 
Big Time

8:47 am. Wake up, me. Click. 8:47? What is this? How dare I awake now, knowing I have work to do today and need my brain to function at peak level, with the decent amount of sleep that requires. Self-sabotage? Fuck that.

11:07 am. Click. Uh? Why always on the 7s? I'm groggy, my brain not quite up to speed, so questions like that seem to matter. Read till I'm awake.

12:03 am. Close the book. Slap (shutting the book). Ah-ha! I've broken the rule of 7s — victory, self-determination. I, above those wretched, broken people who let fate toss them around, I make my own choices. Captain of the ship, laughing at angry winds. 12:05, quick, get out of bed before it's 12:07.

Today comes with work to do. Today there is studying, observing to be done. Questions that I alone bear the responsibility for asking. Today I have my first Assignment for the Varsity. And of course, the news editor knows, I was the natural choice for the job. The clarity, the utter transparence of our few communications — as though the words themselves evaporated from the page and formed a mist, sinking into his mind, reforming perfectly the picture of a place, the thoughts I had there, their deepest meaning. And responding so quickly to his email alerting we writers of upcoming stories, just thirty, maybe forty minutes. Of course I'm the one for the job.

And clearly it's well within my ability, a milk run. But what if I'm way off, if I didn't size up the story right or have the right angle going in, and I get thrown off? The Varsity ends up with 600 words — 600, that's all, such a tiny plot of real estate to found my reputation on — of garbage. I am a rookie batter, no one has seen me play in this league before. A strikeout could come just as easily as a homerun, and then it's set in stone, it's on the record. It was the wind, I'd say, and the crowd, I just wasn't used to such a crowd, and my nerves were jelly, and then a sharp blast of wind hit me just as the pitch came. Years later I'd remember that pitch, and in moments of total recall I'd see the knowing look etched on the pitcher's face. Gotcha. And know he planned it that way, he thought "I'm gonna bag me a rook" and waited a a second or two longer than usual, till he felt that gust kick the back of his neck and he let me have it. "Can't believe it actually worked," I'll imagine him saying to his buddies at the sports bar, swapping old stories and laughing at their former audacity. But no one will believe me. Sure, whatever. Some rookie blew it and says it's not his fault. And they'll go back to whatever they were doing.

It's been easy this past month, being on the Varsity's list of writers and waiting for an assignment to come in. Being able to say (if anyone asked) "Oh, I'm writing for The Varsity, it's U of T's campus paper." Or, if the issue wasn't paid work, but rather what you're doing with your time, "volunteering for The Varsity." Volunteering. Freely. Out of sheer idealism and grit, belief in the freedom of knowledge, will to pull myself up and change the world. "You know," I'd say, "gotta keep the people informed."

The people. Of U of T. In summer. Once a month.

Informed. This guy.

No actual writing of articles, but still the assurance, the satisfaction of being on the list, unadulterated by any need to perform, that alone was worth something. Proof, no doubt, that I am what I say I am. A writer, Out There, Watching, reporting, subverting, whatever I'm saying I am right now. It changes. I am mutable. In me are all things.

I will go downstairs and write about this, as I eat my cheerios and eggs and drink my coffee. I'll write for what feels like hours and look up when I'm done, and find it's only 12:30. The day unfolds before me like a book, showing two pages at a time, what's beyond unknown, but suggested by the shape of things now. A plot, or a rambling tract, at least, direction.

"This is it?" pipes my coffee, hissing from the cup. "What is this, you being creative?" As it happens, I am prepared to discuss this.

"Shut up."

"Nice comeback," it says, burning my lip. I glare.



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