Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sarah Yaw Takes it to the Toilet

Oh yes! We are absolutely running a series on bathroom reading! So long as it's taking place behind the closed  (or open, if that's the way you swing) bathroom door, we want to know what it is. It can be a book, the back of the shampoo bottle, the newspaper, or Twitter on your cell phone - whatever helps you pass the time...

Today, Sarah Yaw takes it to the toilet. Sarah Yaw’s novel YOU ARE FREE TO GO (Engine Books, 2014) was selected by Robin Black as the winner of the 2013 Engine Books Novel Prize; her short work has appeared in Salt Hill. Sarah received an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College, and is an assistant professor at Cayuga Community College. She’s the mother of Jed and Ella, the best bathroom invaders ever. She lives in Central New York.

Confessions of a Bathroom Reader

My View

In the bathroom over the last five and a half years, I have started and not finished the following: Eat the Document, The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel, The Pale King, The Burgess Boys, that really brilliant article in The Atlantic about race in America, Ulysses, Transatlantic, Swann’s Way, Love Medicine, The Pale King, that other really cool Atlantic article about kindness, Salvage the Bones, The Presence Process, Absence of Mind, Mountains of the Moon, The Pale King, myriad New York Times pieces (forget the New Yorker), and any article you posted on Facebook that I thought, Ooh! I want to read that.

I have 5 ½-year-old twins. The bathroom is a refuge where for the length of my twins’ lives I have read the first pages of books or a tease of each interesting article trending in my social networks, but almost never a whole anything. I try to finish. I decide, I’ll take my reading to the couch, flanked by watchers of that curious monkey or that cute tiger or those morons on Kickin’ It, so that I can finish what I started in the bathroom. It almost never works. They always ask for juice. It’s all fits and starts. The bathroom remains my best hope. And yet…

their view

Have you ever tried to go to the bathroom with young kids around? I have used the potty, a word I now reflexively use because I’ve become an idiot in certain aspects of my life, with not one but two babies on my lap. Never have I ever gone to the bathroom and not told my kids where I was going. Never have I ever arrived in the bathroom and not been asked in a yelling voice from a very far corner of the house, “Mama, where are you?” “Mama, what are you doing?” “Mama, are you done?” “Mama, mama, mama, mama, mama. I forgot what I was going to say, but where are you?”

I always spend too long. You posted something wildly exciting, and I got lost in it or I made it to page two in Swan’s Way, and then the thundering footsteps, the busting open door and…

I'm semi-informed. I know just enough to know what's going on, but not enough to feel included in deeper cultural conversations. This has lead to a general sense of interruption. This has lead to an ongoing lack of satisfaction. This has resulted in a state of stoppage, which I can tell you is no way to leave the bathroom.

The best days are poetry days, when one of you reposts a poem of the day and I have the time to read it, reread it, let it resonate and lift me up before, well, you know. On those days, my daily constitution is given a rare sense of completion, and I’m told I have a spring in my step, a certain glimmer in my eye.

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