I started working on it something like 13 years ago. It began as a 125-page spew of a first draft completed in about three months while I was simultaneously working full time as a waitress in a sweatshop-ish restaurant in upstate New York, and having a kind of flailing, booze filled breakdown at the age of 31. The year before, I'd fled NYC with a mildly sociopathic boyfriend (just the latest in a long lineage), only to split up with him within months of arriving in the leafy environs of Orange County. I hadn't gotten laid properly in a really long time, so I was a bit consumed with thinking about high octane nookie. Plus, I was out of my mind with grief and angst though I couldn't pinpoint why. Rather than face any of it head on, I wrote a novel instead, about a psychic bartender and a hero cop, a tale of the beginning stages of Waking The Hell Up, complete with lots of sex, booze, NYC, psychic omens, and the Men in Blue.
For those three months in 1998, I'd come home around 9 pm after a long sweaty night of waiting tables, and I'd sit down in front of my old, used Mac SE with a bottle of wine or a tallboy or two of some sort. Pound furiously on the keyboard, hot boxing cigarettes, I was writing what felt to me at the time something vitally important to my survival.
Of course, that first draft was hideous. But 13 years and ~323 drafts later, with the help of no less than four professional writer/editor-type folk, it's in the final stages of the final draft. Really. It is. And starting this Friday, and every Friday thereafter til completion, I'll be posting another chapter.
Here's a little taste to get you in the mood:
I was in my usual state of mania, and Manhattan was, too. Fueled by triple cappuccinos, American Spirit cigarettes, not enough REM, and the ever-present remnants of my latest transcendental hangover, I was every inch the neurotic New Yorker, the transplanted Southern Belle, the white-hot Barwench Goddess. New York in the late 90’s was fueled by fame and success lust, the twin towers soaring sentinels over the cold-fusionish impact point where some of momma earth’s more colorful aspects of evolution met head on. On that particular Thursday evening, my bar shift was ending as NYC nightlife began. Come six p.m., as New York was getting ready to put its swerve on, I’d be heading out the door to hail a taxi towards downtown, destiny, and the latest love of my life. Glamorous to some, but for NYC and me, just business as usual.
“This place wads my panties up every freakin’ shift, ” Billie muttered as she flipped a drink check at me, pushing past the assortment of suits, bikers, and blue collars that adorned my small bar and collectively drooled in the direction of her curvaceous self.
“Freakin’?” I asked her. “Since when did your mouth clean its act up?”
“I’m attempting to train my mouth for a better life,” she said with a bodacious smirk. “And don’t be a booze scrooge,” she said as I scanned the back of the check. “Give that guava margarita a kick this time, sweetcheeks.”
I gave her the Hairy Eyeball but she was immune, as were all non-Southerners to this particular method of mine to appear surly.
“Do a sister-mama a solid, Elle, ‘cause you know he's cute,” she said with that coy half-smile of hers.
“Yeah, yeah, Bill,” I said, laughing as I threw ice, guava syrup, triple sec, sour mix, and a big slosh of tequila into the blender before hitting the On switch. “But only looky and no touchy or I’ll tell that boyfriend of yours and he’ll pout you to death.”
She gave me The Evil Eye, which was only slightly more effective than my Hairy Eyeball. I set the guava margarita down on the service bar, tequila vapor practically rising off it like steam, and we cackled like the witches we were. Eyebrows arching, she scooted her low-cut t-shirt down a notch, giving her girls another inch to work their magic, and she was off, swishing and swaying her way back to her tables.