BEING A WRITER IN TEXAS.

I think every writer, from best-selling novelists to tiny bloggers, must one day wake up and wonder:

“Wait a second. Aren’t I supposed to be in New York?”

(This is assuming, of course, said writer is not already stationed in New York.)

I’ve had this feeling many times before. Some days, I’ll be reading something clever some (New York) writer wrote on a (New York-based) website, referencing the L Train (in New York) or their favorite bagel shop (in New York), lamenting how hot it gets in the summertime (in New York), and oh how they wish they were rich so they could flee to The Hamptons (just outside New York).

The post will have many likes, and may get retweeted by a fellow writer. (Twitter profile location: New York.)

Gah,” I’ll think. “Why was I looking for New York apartments on Craigslist that one time?  How old was I … ?  Was that a whim? Why didn’t I follow that whim?!  Why did I blow my chances at becoming a well-respected and established writer?!?

Part of it’s my fault: It’s the particular writers I idolize. Had my affection for Southern Gothic literature been stronger all those English classes ago, I wouldn’t be here now, whimpering about the lucky New York writers strolling in the footsteps of Henry James and Edith Wharton. Why must I adore the droll, New Yorky self-deprecation of David Sedaris? Or the high-minded declarations of those New York Times food critics?  Why doesn’t my heart leap for the sweeping prose of fellow Texan Larry McMurtry, the way it does for one throwaway joke from Woody Allen?

The work I chose does not help.  I’m a book publicist for my 9-to-5, and make the New York pilgrimage once a year to visit with publishing houses and media. While there, I fall quickly under the city’s spell, forgetting how lonely anonymity can be in New York, and instead stumble around like the wide-eyed tourist I am, gawking at all those tall buildings, waving for taxis with a bit too much enthusiasm, peering out my hotel window at neon signs that never turn off.

“Stop it,” I’ll say as I reach for the room service menu, scanning briefly over the cocktails. Wondering how terribly classy I would feel if I ordered up for a martini. Forgetting too that I don’t even drink martinis.

***

Last weekend, I had a Saturday night that did not end, or even begin, with a martini. Ross and I drove out to the country where our friend Rob lives sequestered away in a tall farm house, with a rotating cast of housemates and a steady supply of delicious food. That’s the thing about my hippie friends: They’re always cooking.

“Can I have one?” a tiny sprite of a girl said, appearing suddenly a couple of feet beneath my elbow. She pointed toward a flowered plate of chocolate and peanut butter-filled dates, sitting primly on the table.

“Just one, Eva,” her mother said. I nudged the plate toward her, and Eva plucked the biggest one.

“Yum yum yum,” she said, while stuffing the comparatively huge item into her tiny mouth. She reached for my hand with her unoccupied one, and we went outside to see what was happening in the backyard.

A huge circle had formed around a small bonfire, and our friend Edward dipped the ends of a long stick in.

“Whoa,” Eva breathed.

Edward swept the stick up in long arcs over his head, around his body and across his back, because that’s what Edward does at night: He’s a fire dancer.

“G and R, seriously?” somebody giggled. Edward extinguished his stick and laid it down, letting the circle musicians have their turn. Our friend Louis indulgently plucked out the opening notes to Sweet Child O’ Mine, and my friend Shelly patted the blanket she was laying on. I curled up next to her, while Eva went inside to be tucked in (passing on her way the date plate).

We peered up at a black night combed through with stars. The musician’s songs turned lighter, Jamaican almost, and after a few notes Shelly whispered, “Doesn’t it feel like we’re on an island?

Underneath that blanket of Texas sky, snickering conspiratorially with Shelly, and feeling a breeze that was far too generously cool to have been August only hours before, I smiled in that contented way that comes from backyard sing-a-longs, from the vast countryside that lies in my city’s own limits, from this sky that never ends with so many stars I want to put them in my pocket for later. The moon glowed through the silhouettes of Rob’s spindly branches, and Shelly and I dozed in its gaze, resting on our island.

***

The truth is, I will probably never stop romanticizing New York. Maybe, many years down the road, I’ll live there for a short little while, just to get it out of my system.

But you know?  Sometimes, when I’m not looking or even thinking about it, Texas has a way of surprising me.  Of sweeping me away.

IMAGE // VIA I Still Dream