‘Painstaking Progress’ is another of my stories, like ‘Art and the Mermaid’, that was first published in Quadrant Magazine. It shows the difficulties of the writing process for the narrator as she tries to make sense of her family history and agonizes about the relationship with her young lover.
by Libby Sommer
I’m imagining a cloudy autumn morning. There’s a room. Half office, half bedroom. Not too large and not too small. The windows of the room face east and look out towards the ocean across the expanse of a green gully.
I picture a woman sitting on a bed with pillows behind her back. The windows are open. Perhaps it is Saturday morning. On the bedside table is a mug of tea and a photograph of the woman’s daughter on her wedding day.
The wind begins to stir the big trees outside and the morning haze is beginning to move and for a short moment the sun lightens the carpet and heavy dark wood furniture. The shadows of the curtains’ curves darken the floor, almost invisible to the woman on the bed. The morning sun lightens the CD player, the alarm clock, the piles of books stacked on the revolving Victorian bookcase.
She looks out at the water and at the triangle of beach. Sometimes it seems that nothing much changes out there, although on some days the waves break close to shore and at other times further out to sea. She can see it all from the bed, even at night time. The bed faces the beach and the ocean, and so does the desk. The room is like standing at the rail of a ship.
On the radio: ‘Waves, to me, are a reason to live,’ says the surfer. ‘When you see the roar, the jaws, there is nothing that touches it on the face of the earth.’
In June the twilight begins in the afternoon. The days close in on me, here in
this room. The infinite possibilities in the sky and the sea and the possibility of nothing.
What is this writing life? It tears me to pieces every day.