the deal is 200 words a day, at minimum, regardless of mood or weather. doesn’t matter if you walk in the door with nose dripping and right eardrum throbbing. forget about losing the street parking skirmish for the evening, ceding that spot, though you didn’t have to, to the guy who’d turned in that driveway just before you pulled up, who reversed and filled up tight on your tail flashing his brights as testament to prior claim– you could have ignored him, did for 10 or 15 seconds, aching ear, 20 degree weather and all, but then you thought about the roles reversed, muttered fuckit and pulled out, parking finally blocks away, grumbling the way home all hunched against the wind. doesn’t matter if you’re working for less than you think you should doing work with little meaning or appeal most days– you focus on keeping afloat, fending off the big questions, tasting moments, floes of grace in the grey expanse– you work, as they say, for the weekend, for the delectable companionship of off-hours with the warm soul who lies beside you in bed at night. you disregard the wind that rattles the window frames. you look for a light, even in your sleep– tell yourself to see it, that you’re the only one to rub the sticks together or strike flint. notes from the universe keep saying to raise the bar, startle yourself, try something new. you try. dreams are full of sinister families, strangers who stand too close, convoluted apartment building layouts. the checkerboard of windows across the way houses an unfathomable array of lives– the city baffles and overwhelms. you begin to feel old, without marks in the ground to show your progress. the big questions are unavoidable for long– unless you stay away from the page, fill your head with busy replaceable noise– but still they hover outside, whispering to be answered, or at least addressed.