I’ve often wondered what I would wish for if someone granted me one. Some genie, some wish fulfiller, some mythical thing that could grant a wish. The first, and obvious, thing would be for money. I still have yet to return to the salary I made in politics, and that was nothing to go running down the street about. Who the hell goes running down the street for money anyway? I probably would. I think if I won the lottery I would head down 5th Avenue at a full sprint. “I belong!” I’d yell. “Do you hear me, I fucking belong! I’m rich now. Super rich!” I’m one of those people who doesn’t much crave money, except for the fact that I don’t have it, and if I think I did I’d go sprinting down the block, my hands in the air, just waiting for someone to mug me, take all my money, return me to my trying ways.
I have already worked over 70 hours this week. There’s still one more day to go. A few months ago I sat down to figure out how many hours I work on average. I then sat down to figure out my hourly wage. After that I started crying. The only thing that really makes my hours okay is that I love what I do. Or that I love the idea of what I do, sometimes that is enough. Sometimes that has to be enough. Right now we are working on an anniversary issue, the kind of thing where you look at the history of your magazine and devise these wonderful little stories that work with past pages from past decades. We find people from today who fit into the aesthetic of something they might have covered way back then. Of course, this puts you in the position we found ourselves in tonight, where the photographer is booked, the studio is set, the writers are set up, and the only thing you are missing is the people you are going to do a story on. So we’re tracking down cell phones, home numbers, scouring the internet, desperately tracking down talent that parallels across the time of our little book. Every 20 minutes or so we’re meeting in someone’s office. “What about this person?” someone will say. “Are you fucking kidding me?” will come the response, and you head back to the internet, looking through music collections, searching movie titles, reading political journals, e-mailing friends of yours at other magazines. And somehow it all comes together.
When I think of the money I make for this, it gets harder and harder. What was okay, or even understandable, at 23, 24, and 25 becomes less and less justifiable at 28. I see these old hipsters on the subways, sad sacks of ideas as clothes and free flowing philosophical style wraps and I think, “How long did you hang on? Too long, didn’t you? You refused to give up on your dream.” There’s something admirable about that. And something sad. You can be the most talented person in the world, and no one notices. That chance, that single opportunity, that smallest of door cracks might not present itself to you. Or you could have nothing to offer, and somehow end up known. But you could also be talentless and stubborn. Me? I’m talented, I know I am, and maybe there’s something I can do with it.
So what might another wish be? I only have one, remember. I’ve always thought it would be cool to fly, but since I recently discovered skydiving that wish has become less of a dream. I fly for 60 seconds at a clip, why do I need to actually do it when I can simply jump from a plane with a pack on my back?
I would never waste a wish on ending war. I say this as someone who’s never served in the military, never seen war first hand. Avoiding this wish is not because I don’t find war repulsive, because I do, but for one simple reason: I don’t want to live in a war where we don’t care for certain things so passionately, with such force, that we’d be willing to fight and die for them. I just don’t. I think it would be sad and colorless to live in such a place, and even though there are causes so beyond a rational explanation that fighting seems misguided, and the threat that war might someday end this whole thing does give me a start, I find an odd comfort in knowing that sometimes people would lay down their lives for something they hold so dear they won’t allow another person to threaten it. Taken to its extreme my logic is jingoistic and just wrong. As an extrapolation, I find nothing wrong with it.
I have thought that I might end cancer; bring “Mom” M back. I miss her terribly, and would love to remove her suffering somehow. But where does that leave Jim and the other people I’ve known who’ve passed on? So then do I just bring back the people I cared about who aren’t here anymore? The problem with this is that I think I’d feel some residual guilt, that I got to bring these people back while others didn’t get the chance. Plus, as deeply as I feel their absence, as much as I greedily want them back, as much as I think of “Mom” M to this very day, I still carry them with me, and that will have to be enough. Moving on.
Have you ever wanted to swim underwater without having to come up for breath? That’s a pretty damn good wish, right? Flowing beneath the waves, ducking to depths that no one could dream of going, riding along side whales and looking in their eye. That’s a great wish, but it’s also something of an odd fantasy. Scuba diving gets me close enough.
The best wish I can come up with at times would be to heal my mother. To make her not crazy, or not have been crazy. I could take away the pain that she lived with that was so bad it made her think she’d be better off just leaving, not be around. And as much as I would wish for this with everything that I am, as much as I would love to change that one part of my personal past, as much as I wish she had never taken that sense of comfort away from my sister and me, and that we always felt loved by her the way that we both know she loves us, no matter what her actions have been, it would mean I’d also, in a roundabout way, be wishing Robin out of my life. I can’t make that trade. No kid would ever wish his mother away, but if you are given the gift of someone who makes your father happy and who brings the slightest sense of balance back to your life (not all of it, just the tiniest piece), then no kid would wish that person out of their life, even in the most backwards way. Even if it meant they’d get their mother back, not the way she was, but the way she thinks she was, and every kid would want that. It’s fucked up.
At my lowest, most destitute and life questioning I’ve thought it would be great to wish to meet my grandfather, my mother's father. Just 5 minutes in a room, no way out, him and my fists. I’d kick his ass from end to end. But he had to live with the knowledge of what he did, he had to be the kind of person he was, and I don’t think a severe whopping is worse than that, as much as I’d have loved the opportunity. Besides, if there is a hell, he’s certainly there.
Some people say that they would wish for happiness. I find that a cheap wish, a throwaway. Don’t you earn happiness for yourself? You find it in the oddest places, at the weirdest moments, and you don’t earn it, persay, it just pops up, like a gift. I’d like to keep my happiness as something I don’t earn but relish when it comes. I’d like to be accountable to it when it arrives, and not treat it like a given.
I could wish for Mel to have done it right.
Wouldn’t it be cool to be a vampire? Come on, think about it. A vampire. But then you’d have to kill people. That would suck.
Somehow it always comes back to money for me, which is easy because I don’t have that much of it. But I live a good life, I live a damn interesting life, and there’s part of being the “struggling artist” that I wouldn’t want taken away from me. I don’t want this thing handed to me. If I ever do something that people love to such a degree it earns me piles and piles of cash, to the point that I don’t have to worry about it again, I want to be able to revel in it. I want to be able stick my middle finger at the ones who said I couldn’t do it this way, or stopped me somewhere along the path.
So I guess I’m just stuck with this. With my long hours and my short payroll and all the history I can carry with me. And my stupid fantasies. As much as I would change, I love things they way they have been, so I guess I’ll stay here, in a place where my one wish would be to think about what I would do if something granted me just one wish.