There is this thing I want to write. I’ve been thinking about writing it for years. It will need to be longer than anything I have ever written before (or more accurately, longer anything I have ever published before, and please don’t ask me any more questions about that, Internet) and it is related to the sort of topic that is so vague and all-encompasing that you could spend (waste?) an entire lifetime “researching” it. But I’ve been researching it. I’ve read books about it, though only when I finished reading them did I realize they were about it, and I’ve had conversations with people that a day later felt like they may have been interviews, accidentally. What I have, though, is a lot to say about it. Very often, that is enough.
I recently realized that the greatest fear in my life right right now— even greater than my fear of rats, and man do I hate those guys— is that I will talk myself out of writing this thing. And I also realized that my second greatest fear in life is that I will spend like fifteen years writing and crumpling up first drafts of this thing, and that if I ever finish it, I will realize that I probably could have written it in a year, or six months, or given a particularly cruel editor, a week. And then I will just think of all the other things I could have been writing in those fourteen wasted years, that is my second greatest fear. My third greatest fear will always be rats.
So I decided today that I am going to be a forgiving but firm editor to myself: on September 1, 2014, this thing is going to exist, in some form. It probably will not exist if I don’t post this here, so all I’m saying is please hold me to it, Internet.
On the seventh hour of the second day of being stranded in and around O’Hare International Airport, a woman sitting behind me exclaimed to another woman sitting behind me, “What is your secret?” The second woman had just revealed her age (60), and the first woman just couldn’t believe it.
"Well, I guess our secret is that my husband and I don’t really eat like other people eat,” the 60 year-old woman said. “We eat a very low-glycemic diet. We don’t eat pasta or rice or anything like that. Every morning I drink a shake full of green things.”
"I guess it helps that you are married to a doctor," the astonished woman said.
"Yes, that and that I am a professional ballroom dancer," the 60 year-old woman actually said.
"Oh you just look so amazing, I can’t get over it, is it weird if I ask to get a picture with you?"
At this point, I was doing what you can’t help but do when you overhear a conversation like this going on behind you: imagining what the mystery woman looked like, and feeling badly about myself because of how much of a slobby loser I was comparison to this imaginary but surely ravishing ballroom-dancing, earth-mother-goddess-person. I thought of her green-thing shakes, and then I thought of all of the slop I had eaten on my trip, including a dinner the night before some friends and I had enjoyed at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill. I also thought of the $4 pints of beer I’d drunk with dinner, because every night is ladies’ night at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill. I semi-drunkenly took a picture with a man in a Twinkie costume on this trip, I suddenly remembered. That was my secret.
I stood up just in time to see the two of them posing for the picture. I think I actually jumped because the 60 year-old woman had one of the most frightening and inexpressive plastic surgery faces I have ever seen. I walked to the Starbucks kiosk at the end of the gate, ordered a cinnamon chip scone, and, standing purposely in the woman’s line of vision, chewed the whole goddamn thing with my mouth open. I hadn’t felt that beautiful in months.