There’s a house I pass four times a day: twice in the morning and twice in the evening. It’s on the corner of a quiet side street between the bike route and daycare. It’s one of those grand Portland houses with a wide front porch, old-style double-hung windows, and rosebushes and rhododendrons planted along the front. Most evenings (and some mornings) there’s a woman sitting on the porch.

She’s got a great setup. A café table and comfortable chair. A funky chandelier hanging overhead. Extra throw pillows. In the mornings there’s an oversized mug on the table. In the evenings, a martini glass. Whenever I see her, she’s got her computer open and she is completely, utterly intent on what she is doing.

I don’t know this woman. In my head I call her Linda. Linda, I imagine, is a novelist. She gets up every morning, makes a pot of coffee, and goes out to her front-porch office ready to dive into her latest book. She checks her e-mail, answers messages from her agent and her fans. Pops into a couple of forums just to rile the newbies up (“OMG Linda was here and she totally agreed with my post about casting Benedict Cumberbatch as Daniel if her book was a movie!”). Sends out a couple of tweets: “Finishing up chapter 12. Deadline’s been moved up 3 weeks. #fml #amwriting #furiously” “There goes that crazy woman on her giant-ass bike again. At least her kids aren’t screaming this time. #pdxlife” She writes for a few hours, getting up only to stretch and refill her coffee mug.

In the afternoon she makes herself a sandwich, maybe does a little laundry or some yard work, just for a change of pace. She snips a few roses to put in that vase on her little café table. A little bit of busy work is exactly what she needs to untangle the next bit of plot. Around 4:00 she makes herself a drink and settles in for another few hours of writing. By the time I ride by, kids in tow, sweating from riding three miles uphill into an east wind, she’s back to being immersed in her characters’ lives.

What can I say? I want to be Linda. Or my fantasy of Linda. My house has a porch – two, actually. The upstairs one is right off my bedroom. I have a café table and an Adirondack chair, a few throw pillows. No chandelier, but there’s a ceiling fan. I could have a front-porch office too, but would that make me a writer like Linda?

Linda-the-novelist represents to me an unattainable ideal. She’s like the Mona Lisa, attractive because of her mystery. As long as Linda is a novelist in my head, it means that I’ve got something to dream about. It makes the hard reality of trying to be a writer on the side a little more palatable.

I can’t actually see her screen, not from the street, so for all I know she’s not actually working on that novel. Maybe she’s taking a break for a few minutes or hours or days. Maybe she’s commiserating with her novelist friends about coming up with the next plot point. Maybe she’s not a writer at all and is goofing off on Facebook and Pinterest like the rest of us. Sometimes I think I’d like to stop and ask, but honestly, I’d rather stick to my version.

10 responses to “Linda

  1. I would like to be Linda as well. I have a gazebo on my lawn…perhaps that will be my writing porch. I love this piece.


  2. i love this piece so much. i want a linda too, or to be somebody else’s linda. it’s neat to think you might be someone else’s mystery. this is so nicely done.


  3. Most definitely, keep her as novelist Linda. I do this all the time — create imaginary lives for neighbors and strangers. Loved this, Christine. You have such an ear for lyrical phrases.


  4. Loved this. I also would like to be Linda. Maybe one day when my kids are old enough for school. I have a screened in porch in the backyard. Admittedly, it’s only usable for about two months in New England, but it’s something.


    • I hear you! I grew up in Connecticut and went to college in Vermont. When I moved out here (Portland, OR) I had to explain to the locals what a screened-in porch was for. They don’t have bugs here like we did back east. 🙂


  5. Fantasy: it’s a good thing.


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