Challenge: Where and When
“So,” she mouths, leaning towards me, or rather towards the blob of gravy remaining on my plate. She dips her fry — her half-chewed fry — into my gravy. Without. Asking. “When do you write?”
This is the interviewer, famous for coverage of Middle Eastern politics, pilfering the meat juice I didn’t even order, her face so close to me I can see a tiny nib of unplucked chin hair daring me to out it. This is the journalist who called from the epicentre of a hurricane to boast of her Front Page Award. This is the reporter who harvested her own ovaries as “information gathering” for a story.
“Whenever I can.” I push the plate towards her still wondering why she wants to write a piece about me. “‘You may delay but time will not.’”
“Yeah, yeah, I see what you did there. Quoted Benjamin Franklin.” Her right eyebrow, penciled in a little too much like a brillo, twitches in that way it does when she’s impressed.
“Yeah yeah,” I repeat. Yes. Yes. Does professionalism completely exit stage left when it’s your sibling you are interviewing? “Sometimes it’s that peaceful, breath-filled early morning before everyone is awake. Sometimes I send the kids outside to do whatever and I padlock myself to the laptop. Mostly it feels like I have to steal the moment…I feel like I’m burglarizing time to get the amount I need…”
She swipes the napkin across the dimples I always coveted, bunches it up across her pinched and perky lips that I did not covet, but that many highschoolers did.
“That’s gotta be hard. Losing focus between those moments?” I feel the practiced empathy and know that there is a measure of deeper truth and sisterly compassion within it. “Where do you actually write? Your place is so damn tiny?”
“There’s no such thing as ‘private space’ in our home. You know how the bedroom fits a bed and that’s it. So usually I’m just at the table. Shove aside the piles of schoolwork or empty cereal box that hasn’t made it to recycling yet or the art project that’s been started using nail polish and chalk…I guess I just have to claim what real estate I can.”
“That can’t be easy.” Her hand settles on mine. It’s warm, almost too warm.
“But once I’m writing…I’m in another world, so it really doesn’t matter.”
“Yeah. I know exactly what you mean,” she says. And she does.