I squint at the red glowing numbers on the alarm clock on my nightstand as I crawl into bed, pull the covers up as high over my head as I can without covering my nose.
And my body is exhausted and the numbers blur and I curl close to his warmth but I can’t sleep. Words follow after words, swirling and colliding through my head. Angry words smash against bickering words and they dash apart, joining again the eddies of words coursing through my mind.
I’ve been awake for 20 hours. Ledes discarded from the two articles I wrote after midnight add to the paragraphs I’m remembering from three hours of heated meetings. I can’t remember which I ended up using. I don’t remember what I wrote, and I hope I got everything right, but since I started writing at midnight I’m not overly optimistic. Hopefully they read it carefully in the morning.
Rolling onto my belly — the only way I’ve ever been able to sleep since as long as I can remember — I try to silence the words in my head. But they won’t be still.
It’s the Tuesdays after the Monday night meetings that I seriously reconsider my choice of profession. I spend the day in a fog, even though I have it off and can sleep late into the morning. I wake at 9:30 a.m. but don’t feel rested. After floating aimlessly around the house, landing at the computer, I fall asleep again on the couch. I accomplish very little with my day off.
The Tuesdays I don’t have off are worse.
And all day long those words are still there. I check my work email and I’m nervous; people can’t always tell the difference between repeating what someone else said and saying it myself, and I’m afraid of what’s waiting for me.
Either no one read the articles or I pulled it off OK, because my email is quiet. One story was shared 46 times on Facebook, so someone’s reading. I’m relieved.
But when the paper comes I flip through the classifieds, looking for garage sales but wondering if maybe I shouldn’t exchange the reporter job title for receptionist. Regular hours; no meetings stretching through the night hours toward midnight; no moonlit drives through ridges and valleys and sleeping hamlets; no more 1 a.m. Doritos in a desperate effort to stay awake to write.
On Tuesdays, it sounds awfully tempting.
But then Wednesday rolls around, and I’m off to court, and the message waiting for me is an interesting feature story that I’d like to pursue. I know, on Wednesday, that I’d miss the adrenaline of a good story; that I’d miss the words that are a part of me; that I’d desperately miss the feel of pages dropped on my desk, still warm from the press with ink smudging slightly against my fingers; that I’d miss my byline that no one but my husband looks for.
I love watching facts and comments and pictures fall into place under my fingers. Some days they fit one into another, seamlessly, and it’s almost like I can’t take credit for it because the story just told itself. Those days I love.
I’m a writer and I’m a reporter and I know I never really will be able to leave it — not entirely and not for long. I’d miss it all too much.
But not the night meetings that go on and on for hours. Those I’d be happy to live without.