Don’t Forget about Paris …

January 13, 2011

"The God of the Basement" by Ren Garcia

I looked at the phone and held the receiver in my disbelieving hand.

Is it 2 … 3 … 7 … ?

I could not remember my mother’s phone number. My mom’s had the same phone number for thirty years. Land-line, old school. I know that number backwards and sideways. I’ve known it since I was a kid, when Mom used to write it down on a scrap of paper for me to take. “Now, call home if you need anything,” she said. I didn’t need the paper–I knew it cold.

I knew it cold …

And now I’m standing there with the phone in my hand and I can’t remember mother’s number. I could, of course, grab my Smartphone and speed dial it out of the Contacts list, but what would that prove, that my mom’s nothing more than a blip on a screen.

I stood there completely blank.

Why? What happened? I’ve spent so much time locked in the basement like a family secret, writing my stories in millions of words and reveling in things that never were. I am a god in the basement where I create all things. I step out and what am I? A creature who’s quickly forgetting many of the things that matter most.

You cannot spend so much time in the make-believe that you forget to exist in the real world. I promised my wife I’d take her to Paris–and I have not taken her to Paris. I’ve made lots of promises, how many have I broken?

My Honeydo list is intolerable.

I stood there with the phone, the dial tone converting to an accusing howl. I clicked the switch and started over and forced the unreal from my head. I forced myself to remember my mother’s number, seeing the digits in my head, tracing it out on the dial pad with my finger. One digit at a time, then: “Hello?”

“Hi, mom …” I couldn’t even recall what I was calling about . It didn’t matter. I’d remembered my mother’s number.

So, to my wife–I will take you to Paris. I’m sorry, my love, please forgive me.

To my mom–I will never forget your number again. Oh look, your birthday is coming up. I won’t forget.

I swear it.

UPDATE: 2014
So, here it is just a little over three years since I posted this cathartic little item when I became distant from the people I love. I’m happy to say I kept my promises to myself. I still remember my mother’s phone number and I took my wife to Europe last year(just not Paris–that’s next trip!). This post was a harsh wake up to myself reminding me not to allow the unreal to dominate my time and thoughts, at least not to the point of madness and obsession. I have since changed my writing process. I migrated from the basement to upstairs in the bright lights of the loft where my wife watches television. I stand at a podium with my latest WIP while the giant TV blares. I talk to my wife. I ask her about her day. We laugh. I peck away at the WIP.

I still create a host of strange things, just not as quickly as before. I keep things in perspective.

You cannot allow yourself to become like I did, a wraith in the basement possessed with an imaginary world. No matter what your personal situation is, it’s simply not a healthy way to carry on. Ask yourself some tough questions: Have you broken any promises? Have you forgotten important things? Have you neglected yourself and your health?

Be honest in your answers. Change things up, alter your process, adjust the mood. Take a day off every so often. Set yourself a limit, I usually don’t go much past 2000 words a day. 2000 words is good. Very good.

While creating the lives of imaginary people, don’t forget to live a little yourself.

Bowl Naked


4 Responses to “Don’t Forget about Paris …”

  1. Chantal Boudreau said

    Until recently, I had that whole juggling act under control, and I will not let my family be neglected in any way. I went out and played in the snow with my kids last weekend, and we will go to the pool next weekend if the community centre isn’t closed the way it was last weekend because of the weather. Reality still has a certain share of my time.

    The problem I encountered this week is the creep of non-writing activities associated with writing that continue to steal away my writing time. I’ll be discussing it when I blog on Friday – along with the whole idea of information overload.

  2. I have problems with this also, Ren. I spend so much time with make believe that my therapist said I don’t have energy for friends, because the friends in my head which I make up for stories require so much of my time.Plus, when I’m writing consistently, it becomes difficult for me to talk to people, and the more I speak, the more irritable I become. I like it that you hole up in your basement with your Godzilla doll. I like it even more that you’re taking your lovely wife to Paris, and that you remember your Mom’s birthday: )

  3. theleagueofelder said

    Thanks for the thoughts Chris and Chantal. Writing for me is like that big old Godzilla doll staring down on me from its shelf, unchanging with time, demanding more and more. I could spend all day and all night in the basement with Godzilla and I’d be perfectly happy, but, after a time the distinction between what’s real and what’s made up begins to blur. I had a dream the other day that Syg left me a message on the answering machine, and I went through the day fully convinced that the blinking light on the machine was left there by Syg. Imagine…

    Give ear to your passions and let them lead you to great places, just don’t forget all the good folks around you. I’ll never stop writing and spending long night hours in the basement with Godzilla, but I’m also never going to forget my mother’s phone number again and I’ve got a vacation to plan with my beloved wife.

  4. Angelina Garcia said

    Ren – I always knew you were special. What 5-year old kid goes around with an encyclopedia in his hand, almost 24/7?? Everything interested you and you had to check it out. I still have some of your writings as a very young person – all fantastical – and I treasure them.

    I loved this blog – I think I got a little sentimental.

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