I was sitting at my desk one morning, reading the submission guidelines for a literary magazine, when I happened upon a curious line. No offense, said the website, but we’re not looking for your journal entries.
Back to my desk. My serious, writerly desk. It’s bright teal, wobbly, and most certainly a child’s desk based on the height. Figurines collect there. Coffee cups. Small plush bats. As I write, birds commune at the slightly slanted suction-cup feeder I recently installed in the window. All of this glittering minutia makes me wonder, What is this magazine worried about? Do they regularly receive fluffy pink diaries in the mail? How many crushes have been revealed to them since their founding in—let me check—2013? Don’t they want to know what’s hidden in the shoebox under the bed? Maybe I’ll set up a rival magazine. Please only send us your journal entries. We’re dying to know.
It reminded me of things I used to read on dating profiles before I met my girlfriend, whose profile was, I must admit, adorable. Hers featured a picture of a quiche. Meanwhile, I recall one woman stating, If your only personality traits are hiking, beer, and liking your dog, swipe left. What could she have endured before penning this caveat? A panoply of rescues? A bevy of IPAs? For all I know, she’s still single, while I spend my days with a quiche-making redhead who buys stickers for my nieces and believes ardently in fairies.
Maybe they’re both—the magazine and the surly singleton—guarding against all things precious. I once went to a barbeque and got talking to a woman about her dead dogs. She said, “I want another dog, but I don’t think my heart could take losing another dog.” This over a plate of Fritos and French onion dip. It was the stuff of journals, which I think is really the stuff of life. The marrow, maybe. Or the French onion dip. Either way, it meant something to me, this blurry Maltese and her owner. She was sipping an IPA. The woman on the app would not have liked her one bit.
But what is there to deal in if not the small, dopey nothings we write in our notebooks and share at our barbeques? I recently found a journal entry from age thirteen entitled “Things I Want.” A horse, I wrote. To be much thinner. Not to be sad ever. Less math. To be pretty. To be happy. I-tunes gift card. There’s something sweet about the inclusion of I-tunes gift card. Like it might weigh the same as everything else on the list. Be shaky, be awkward, be wobbly, I wanted to tell my little self. All of this matters a lot more than being much thinner.
In my most recent journal, I wrote, Someday I’ll forget what it feels like to be here and now. I knew this was true—I don’t remember exactly how it felt to want a horse—so I wrote down as much as I could. Here and now, I said, there are tulips blooming in front of my house. Here and now I’m still a little afraid of bedbugs and the future. Here and now we talk about getting a dog. Maybe we will. She’ll feed him bits of quiche and I’ll let him sleep at my feet as I write at this ridiculous child-size desk.
We will have to love him in spite of the fact that dogs tend to die. Or maybe not die exactly. They live on at barbeques, in the space above the checkered tablecloth, below the smoke, between the Fritos, mouth to mouth, ear to ear, regardless of whether or not this magazine has any interest in hearing about it.