Right before the movie, I fiddled with my computer, as it had been giving me problems all day.
Right after the movie, I checked my computer to see if all was fixed. It worked again, except I couldn’t find any of my documents anywhere. Anywhere. They were just…gone. I stood in front of the screen, my vision swimming, and barked at the girls to brush their teeth.
I helped the kids into bed, first tucking in Emma, then Elodie, but every moment away from the computer made me feel like I was suffocating — every moment made my lungs grow tighter with panic. I had to get back to it. I had to recover my work.
I quickly kissed Elodie and said, “I’m sorry, Sweetie, no story tonight. Mommy’s freaking out about losing all her writing on the computer. I need to find it. You understand?”
She burrowed further under the duvet until it was up to her ears, then rolled onto her side. “I understand that it’s not a good job to be a writer.”
I brushed the hair back from her forehead and moved to turn off the light. “You’ve got that right, kiddo. As a writer, you’re reliant upon your computer, there’s no money in it, not much appreciation –“
“Yeah,” she cut me off, her voice low. “And you don’t get to spend much time with your kids.”
My fingers froze near the light switch. A cold and heavy glacier filled my chest. “What?”
Her blue eyes met mine, her gaze way too serious for a seven-year-old. “Every time I call you and want you to come, you’re too busy at the computer.”
The glacier shifted and ice trickled into my blood. The back of my throat prickled with mounting tears. I thought about this past month. I’d been writing and rewriting and when I wasn’t writing I was staring at the screen wondering why I couldn’t write. I thought of all the times I’d told Elodie, “Just a minute” but ended up taking an hour.
I read somewhere that men — family men — take “selfish time” for themselves to write and pursue their creative endeavours in ways that most women can’t or don’t. I’d been trying to take that kind of time for myself this past month to finish off a couple of projects. I’d decided it was of utmost importance to get that writing done. That it was the most important thing in my life.
But I was wrong. The most important things in my life were tucked into their beds, and one of them was watching me, expecting me to turn out the light and rush back to my computer.
I turned away from the light switch and pulled a book off of Elodie’s shelf. “You know what? I think I’ll read that story after all.”
If my documents were lost for good, they’d be lost for good whether I took the time to read a story or not. And if they could be found, I’d find them just as easily twenty minutes later.
But if I threw this moment away, I knew I’d never get it back. So I took Elodie’s soft hand in mine and held on tight as I read out Puss in Boots.
I let the computer screen go black.