I want what I can’t have.
When I say that, I don’t refer to the desires most of us have for actual things or states of being that exist in reality but which we will likely never enjoy: a mansion in Maui, a loft in Tribeca, waking up in bed with James Franco.
In other words, when I say I want what I can’t have, I don’t mean it the same way Morrisey meant when he sang “I Want the One I Can’t Have.” (Yes, that was just an excuse to include a Smiths video in this post.)
With all due respect, Morrisey, the more precise language to describe that state of desire would be, “I want what I am highly unlikely to have in the foreseeable future.” No. When I say that I want what I can’t have, what I mean is that I want what I literally cannot have. And by literally, I mean literally, not figuratively, the way people nowadays inexplicably (and literally) say things such as, “My head literally exploded.”
Here’s what I mean: Yes, I want that beach house in Maui, and I want that loft in Tribeca. I’m not likely to have either one in the foreseeable future, but my real problem is that I want them at the same time. I want to wake up to the sounds of waves crashing on the beach outside my window, then step outside onto cobblestone streets to eat pasta cooked by some employee of Robert DeNiro. I want to take a surfing lesson in my backyard then walk down the street for dinner at Nobu.
And, yep, I got a mad crush on James Franco. I sort of like the idea of being Mrs. James Franco. (Oh, who are we kidding? He’d be Mr. Alafair Burke, but whatevs.) Now, am I likely ever to meet James Franco? No. Would he love me if he met me? Well, yeah, of course, but he might not want to marry me. All of those considerations are irrelevant, however, because I want to be married to my husband. Forever. Exclusively. Indubutably. For reals. But, ahem, as bride to James Franco. I want what I can’t have.
As I write this, I find myself extremely sad because I am packing a suitcase. Tomorrow morning, I will board an airplane, and I won’t come home for 14 days, 2 hours, and 11 minutes. The husband will be joining me for the first five days on Burke-a-pa-looza, an all-Burke vacation up in Canada. There will be golf, parental units, and nieces and nephews who think I’m the coolest aunt in the world. I have every confidence that said vacation shall rock.
From there, I will head solo to a hotel room on the west coast, away from the humidity that ruins my summers and my hair, closer to dear friends whom I still miss everyday, and shielded from the many distractions at home that keep me from writing with the intensity I need right now. I asked for ten days, by myself, in a hotel room, so I could finish my next book before classes start.
I got what I asked for.
But now I’m sad.
Why? Because fourteen days away from home means fourteen mornings when I won’t wake up to find this face licking mine:
It means fourteen days when I won’t have lunch at my office away from home:
It means fourteen days without my gym, my park, my croissant place, or that amazing collection of health and beauty aids crammed into my medicine cabinet.
It means ten days without my husband.
The thing I want that I can’t have is all the comforts of home, all the familiar rhythms of family, the constant companionship of my closest friends, and all the time and solitude I need to write the best possible book I can.
In this case, I really can’t get what I want.
I just might, however, find I get what I need: a few days with my family, a few dinners with my west coast friends, a hell of a lot of writing time, and a very happy husband and Duffer waiting to greet me and my completed manuscript at home. Wish me luck! (I may be a bit quiet while I’m bunkered down.)
So what are the things you want that you CAN’T have?