I hadn’t thought much that day of the fact that I was getting published. No, really.
It was my first substantial literary essay in a truly literary publication and I’d get to see real-time results, and I’d waited more than three months since it had been accepted, seven months after starting to write it, nine years since completing grad school, and 38 years for this. So why wasn’t I anxious? Or at least bubbling over with excitement?
I needed to be literarily accepted. I craved the “published” status. I wanted to know that my grad degree was worth it, that my living this turbulent writer’s life, that failing miserably at relationships and jobs and money, that learning to ask for advice and critiques from writers higher up the food chain, and having to work at this job in Piura, Peru, was because my dedication to my writing was worth it.
Yet, there was so sudden awakening this morning, no lack of sleep the night before. (Though I certainly had whilst writing it.) And today my day had carried on as always.
What I felt when I arrived at Starbucks on my lunch hour still hummed below the level of anticipation about the publication of “Burqa to the Loo”.
I loaded up my computer, pressed on with the nonchalance of anyone going through their daily routine: answering emails from one account, the second, the third, before heading over to my professional Facebook profile. But I didn’t make it to the second profile very quickly because there it was.
I audibly gasped. My hands raised to clasp my chest like an old man having a heart attack.
“Awash in a sea of hijab in Mazagaon, I might as well have worn a bathing suit to church.”
The words sang in my ears. Its professional appearance reminded me of the thousands of pieces I’d read by other published writers and authors. Now it was my turn.
Then it really hit: I did that.
The statement scrolled through my brain like a ticker in Times Square: I did that I did that I did that. My heart started pounding like it’d leap out of my chest. I dropped my head into my hands, shut my eyes tight as if to keep the tears from spilling over.
Suddenly breath raced to my lungs which forced my tears out, and they fell and fell and fell for minutes until I had a headache, until I spent two tissues, until anyone looking at me in this very public place with a wall of windows in front of me, baristas who know me by name behind me, and some international business men to my left. Why couldn’t I just have preacted before it was published and saved these people the confusion of watching a woman get published for the first time?
Then I thought of all the hours and weeks and months spent writing since then with nothing new on hand to send to publishers for a repeat performance of this. I’m not the prolific writer I imagine myself to be. The thought released giggles like gas bubbles. They didn’t sound like the woman who was sitting here a moment ago, the woman who wasn’t yet published.
Now they sounded like a woman acknowledging a blessing.
I can’t believe I did it was followed by Of course you could do it, you sap!
I stood up from the stool. Elation washed through me like a bath in Lourdes and I let it sink in. I started crying again, sobbing actually.
“Estás bien?” A barista passed by, greeting me as she came in for her daily shift.
“Sí, sí!” I said, suddenly having to pull myself together. “Algo muy bueno pasó. Estoy muy bien, muy bien.”
I let the feelings settle, simmer. I considered returning to my routine but my eyes Facebook post again, glimpse “in a sea of hijab…” and I recalled everything that led to that story, those days in Mazagaon, fearing for my life, what led me to India, what took me from India. It dawned on me what all I’ve been through in four years.
Then another crying jag ceased me.
I suppose I should be in my own bedroom when I receive this notice: “Your book is now selling in stores nationwide.”
The good thing is that my slowness has given me time to realize the psychological turmoils of what happens after not just a sweet little, nice little essay like “Burqa” is published but after my book is. As these linked authors indicate, writing is a slow, upward climb. I’ve finally got some rungs beneath me. Let’s hope I can continue advancing, without having an anxiety attack. Though I will accept some tears, especially if it means I’m getting published.