I’ve finished this novel, about a year after I finished the first full draft. And it’s been about a year since we all began getting to know our homes a lot better, since we’ve shut down so much of our lives. This time last year, I was packing up my few things from the studio at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, a haven of a place in the rolling Virginia hills where a few dozen artist-types can work on whatever they want. And, in the evenings, have dinner together, and have a drink, and listen to some poetry. We were aware of the virus then, but in a distant way. As if it were Montana, or the moon: something that existed but which would not touch us. I think they shut down the place, like everyone else did, maybe a week after I came back home.
I was going through some notes from last February. The idea of spending a few evening hours with such people, now, is a luxury too outrageous to dream about, almost. Like touching the moon.
A supremely talented flutist and jazz composer from New York who plays for us, one night, a composition on the lodge’s huge stereo speakers. Two composers of a musical being who were using the theater students at the small liberal arts college across the road as a way to work out ideas. A Washington Post columnist. A professional poker player and nephew of Norman Mailer. A soulful and funny essayist who had recently left a tenure-track job teaching Persian at Harvard. A stripper from Brooklyn who was working on a memoir. A writer on Netflix shows. A photographer from National Geographic who makes weird and beautiful art. A short-story writer with a desk next to the actor Paul Dano up in New York who is working on a novel about soul-switching best friends. A terrifyingly smart poet who translates Chinese poetry and who, some nights, around the fire, recites whole poems from memory. An artist who is good at dealing poker and who makes beautiful photos by somehow merging printed words and mountains and clouds.
A year, a book, I hope, and, since then, unfathomable loss, everywhere. And I miss my parents, my brothers. But I’m glad Magan’s around.