This, heard a line from a recent movie (the ad for it; it is not a film I will ever see), a character speaks a thought that I’ve heard often and considered much:

We get the love we think we deserve.

What does that say for the likes of me? The love we think we deserve—when did writing become mine? Or has it always that way?

I’ve always felt that I deserved a great love. It hasn’t happened, not in any lasting, daily-intimate way. Spending endless hours at the page keeps you out of the possibility pool. Then age does. After that, who knows?

Do some of us substitute writing for the love that has not—may never—happen? Would I write as I do, speaking into the tape recorder at 2 a.m., if a beloved warm body lay beside me? Would I turn away from the human complications of the day as I do now, fleeing to the one place that I understand, if a loved one was waiting at home?

Is writing the thing that fills an empty space? Or is it the thing that pushes everything else, every other need, away? When is the compulsion to create an evidence of a dedication, an adoration of craft? When is it just pathology?

I don’t know. I don’t know that I ever will. I find the question more curious than concerning. I wonder why it doesn’t trouble me more than it does.

Words are demon lovers. They are irresistible and inescapable and seductive. They are the daily banquet. They are an enriching company. They take the place of options that may never come true. They are a reality so real that we do not miss the real.

I do not mourn my life. Far from it. I am not sad or limping or wounded. We make choices—inexplicable ones, sometimes. We choose relationships that have no possibility of a future, as wonderful as those relationships are. We spend years with a guy, a situation that turns out to be a disaster. Writing has been the one choice in recent memory that has made total sense. But it doesn’t make dinner for us or bring us a glass of water in bed or send us the unmistakable look that can end, wonderfully, in only one way. It’s the life that lives nowhere except in our heads.

How did that happen?

When did life get away from the likes of me? When did I learn to love its surrogate so very much? And when will I start being sorry that this is the life I chose?