Dear V.

Mary Miller is an American fiction writer. Her latest book is Biloxi: A Novel, which was published this month by Edizioni Black Coffee. Happy Hour, a short story collection, is also available.  

Dear V—


I have decided to keep a journal. Last night, when I couldn’t sleep, I began to write an entry in my head. It was smart and interesting, but now it seems impossible to be smart or interesting. My life, like nearly all others, is confined to the house except when I’m walking the dog. The dog and I also sit on the screened porch and occasionally I’ll shout—and she’ll bark—at the neighbors: Hello, Bruno the Dog and Christian! Hello Meg and Josie! Carly and Little Jorge!


My husband is still going to the office five days a week, though he doesn’t work as late as he used to and he doesn’t go bowling or to the movies in the evening. Weekends, he’s home with me. He doesn’t even go by his mother’s house to change the light bulbs, and she’s probably sitting around in the dark. 


I have to say: I haven’t slept well in many nights, not just last night. For one, I’m chewing too much nicotine gum. Two in the mouth at a time is nice but I’ve found that three is even nicer. 


The real reason I want to keep a journal is for some low-stakes writing practice. I have to find a way to convince myself that writing is meaningless, just words in a file on a laptop that can easily be erased. I need to believe they mean so little because I haven’t been able to finish anything in a long time. I start a story and stop halfway through. I leave the file open for encouragement, and still I do nothing. 


I hope you’re working, as I’ve always loved your stories. Please send me something when you can, or let’s give each other deadlines and swap. I miss deadlines, don’t you? I was such a good student; it felt so good to earn an A. If someone were grading me right now, I might be able to excel again. 


The dog and I have been sitting on the screened porch for a while… The day is nice and sunny and the birds are chirping and we like to watch the people go by, many of whom we’ve never seen before. Now that there is literally no place else to go, everyone is forced to walk dogs that have never been on leashes, fix up old bikes, and dig tennis shoes from the back of their closets. One guy just cruised past on a very slow and squeaky bicycle. It reminded me of The Truman Show—you see the same people again and again, making the same loops, paid actors pretending to be regular people so Truman can continue to believe his life is real. 


I still haven’t worked on this story. Remind me again: why do we write fiction? Why do we make stuff up? 




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