Sixty and Ready for Manhattan

Marlene Lee

I'm sixty and ready for Manhattan. Ready in the "what am I doing here?" sense. Ready in the "nobody in their right mind moves to Manhattan when they're sixty" sense.

I haven't aged gracefully. I'm not content and I don't know where I belong. I may have lived in San Francisco these past ten years, but I'm not from there. You could say I'm from Kansas. "From" in the historical sense of the word. My parents and grandparents lived in Kansas, but I've always been on the move. I take refuge in history because I'm a refugee.

And I'm always running. Always in a foot race of one kind or another. Isn't that an athletic way to spend six decades? Always seeking some kind of imprimatur. The stamp of approval: "You're fast. You're one of the fastest. You're all right. You're better than all right. You're good."

I'm on the road again, restless and ambitious and ready for Manhattan. If that isn't enough, I'm angry, too. Why? Agents, editors, teachers, and book doctors who don't like my writing, that's why.

Can so many people be right? Of course not. They're all wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I just got a call from a book doctor who said my characters are dull and so is my writing style. He's from Manhattan. He thinks fast. He wants excitement.

All right. I'll give him excitement. I'll show him, after I've ripped my clothes off in front of him, how mad I am. How ambitious. How hurt. How raving with self-doubt. How well I understand the tortured schizophrenics, the obsessive-compulsives. How, when I hear the man ranting about Jesus over a microphone in Times Square, I could step up to his sound system and scream, too. "My novels are good! Oh, Lord, they're good!"

I'm sixty and ready for Manhattan. I have to be. There's not much time left. It's now or never. I intend to stay here until I change Manhattan and Manhattan changes me. I intend to write a book that agents and editors and teachers and book doctors will read and say, "Why hasn't someone published this woman?"

My book will curl your hair. I will tell you a story about greed and jealousy. About lust, murder, incest, and depravity. Mayhem, pornography, genocide, decapitation, guns out of control, patricide, matricide, and defilement. Divorce, depression, anxiety attacks, and sexuality so unoriented there's no name for it. You're going to love this book.

These things haven't all happened to me, of course. I can't remember the last time I personally experienced defilement, murder, or decapitation. But they've all occurred in Manhattan at one time or another, and now that I'm here, I'm going to write about them.

But I don't wish to leave anything out. I'll also tell you about friendship, love, hope, beauty, and unpremeditated kindness. Babies in buggies, children in schoolrooms, adolescents in flux, adults in the labor force, old people in retirement. Sensible old people in retirement. The ones who have no manuscripts. The ones you don't find raging at the gates crying, "Tremble, Manhattan! I'm here!"

© Marlene Lee

Marlene is a writer in New York City who subsidizes her habit by working as a court reporter. She has written several novels and is currently working on another. She is an optimist.

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