WHERE IS MAHLER’S WIFE?
Today the sun is shining. I edited 10 pages of my 4th novel yesterday and hope to do the same today. That is, if there are no interruptions. The writer’s craft may be a lonely one but the world insists upon peeking through the window. Sometimes it says, “Come out and play,” but mostly it says, “Your dryer is broken.” Or, “your cell phone has died. You need a new one.” Something always intrudes when I begin a day full with the promise of uninterrupted writing.
Besides objects that get broken — when they are not being used; when no one is looking at them; when they worked perfectly yesterday and the day before — here are also phone calls, most of them welcome but interruptions all the same. When I answer, still grasping for the shred of thought that was about to arrive, I can tell my voice registers my distraction. Instead of hearing an answer to my “hello” there is a pause. The caller must be wondering: “Have I dialed the wrong number?” “Is she ill?” At such times, I assure my friend, my hair dresser, or the electrical repair man that I am me and no tragedy has befallen. The call has snatched me from a far away land and I need a moment to settle the dust of my journey, that’s all.
Of course I say nothing about the interruption. I say that I am glad to hear from the person, and we talk for a minute or sometimes 15. When I return the receiver to its cradle, I stare at my computer screen feeling bewildered, like a man lost at sea. Which way is north? South? Where was I headed? And then I find my bearings again. I always do.
I’ve read the biographies of several great men, Freud, Mahler, Tolstoy and the like. All of them were blessed with efficient wives who buffered their genius husbands from the ebb and flow of everyday life. These were the women who aired the bed linen, baked bread and kept the children quiet. They provided the meals and did the washing up. Happy are the men who have such wives. Happy would be the artist of any gender who enjoyed a similar buffer.
When I’m writing well and don’t want to stop to make lunch or take my car in for service, I look out my window and despite the warmth of the sun, I grow wistful. I can’t help wondering: where oh where is Mahler’s wife?