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Lusting in my Heart

This squirrel wants a coca-cola!

When I teach writing, I often talk about the eternal I WANT. Goal is the engine of fiction. Desire—-that’s the name of the country where narrative drive lives. It isn’t Desire that defines a lot of what it means to be human, though. Any paramecium can WANT things, in a simple hungry one-celled way. Cats want things, and they grab them and kill them and make them into chunks. The end.

DIGRESSION: Actually, I wish it was the end. The ACTUAL end is, they bring you the least delicious chunks, because they WANT you to know they love you, in their own, weird, solitary, cat-ly, “but I will eat your face if you die,” way. END DIGRESSION

Humans are different. WE want things, and we have to decide what we will do to get the things we want. In life and in fiction, the way people respond to their own desires forms their character.

I very often feel called to write about awful people who want—who really truly want—to be good. Arlene and Rose Mae can’t stand each other, but they share this trait. Maybe because I am an awful person who really truly wants that—-goodness? Or maybe I just want to want it? I don’t know. If I can ever rouse the other four plates to some form of frenzied self-improvement action, maybe we will find out.

Also, people are unique in that we want things that TELL other people all about us. We laugh at how the young kids want the right jeans, so other kids know they are cool—but meanwhile, the guy down the street is fifty and !desperately! wants a Lexus, so the OTHER fifty year old kids know he is successful.

Me? I want this PURSE:

It is made entirely out of Kudzu. It’s the work of vine artist Regina Hines. I would LOVE to have this purse —not just because it appeals to me as quintessentially SOUTHERN, which speaks to my identity, but also because…

It’s so funky and unique!

If I had that purse people would notice it and say, WOW, WHAT A NEAT PURSE!


I would love to have that conversation. I could have it a thousand times, and I would come out of it feeling happy and good about myself and my purse choices, every time.

I would feel good not just because all that is TRUE —it IS made of the recycled ties and combed out belly fur from alpacas—but because a purse like that is instant art fart street creds and going green farmers market recycling street creds, two kinds of cred I care passionately about in the wizened black chunk of coal I keep in my chest to push my blood along.

AND it would hold my keys.

I just sent the artist an email to ask about the cost of such a purse—her site says her prices are reasonable—vine pieces start at $20, while jewelry starts at $35—and that seems reasonable even to a tightwad like me. I do I worry that, should I get one, I would almost surely and almost immediately destroy it. I would set it on the floor and step on it, or I would set it on the table and a cat would see it and want it and tear it into chunks and regurgitate part of it onto my pillow later, as a gift.

You should see my purse NOW. It is a battered hunk of sagging leather, formerly a lovely shade of grayed out turquoise, but now stained with water so it has patches of this abused moss shade, crusted with foodstuffs and environmental clinging-horrors. It holds my netbook easily, so I still drag it around—But LORD! it looks like the carcass of something that lived a sad life in a leaky hut made of mud and weeds and then died by violence.

I also have a pristine, up-market red purse from Hobo International— the one Schubert is thinking about stromping to ribbons. I take it out of its purse bag (it came with a purse bag!) and put my crap into it when I need to look like I am a successful and responsible human being capable of fulfilling book contracts on time or speaking to a group of booksellers without drooling or needing to wear a tinfoil hat to “keep the brain waves in so I don’t kill you all WITH MY MIND.”

It is a nice purse and it, well, it holds my keys and the leather is butter-soft—it is pleasant. But I have no identity tied up in it. That purse has a job.

It’s job is to say, SHE CAN PULL IT TOGETHER AND BE A PROFESSIONAL WHEN SHE HAS TO, even though the purse and I both know 80% of my time is spent in chocolate and red wine stained pajamas, peering back and forth from own brain to a screen I am filling up with words, trying to move images and ideas from one place to the other.

I do this work preferably with several equally chocolate and wine stained and unpleasantly sweaty animals pressed inconveniently against my legs, snoring, waiting for my attention to be SO fully engaged I won’t notice one of them slipping off to bring me back the less desirable half of the lizard they “wanted” earlier.

What do you want? What does it say about you? What do you want it to say about you? What will you do to get it? The answers tell quite lot about you, whether it is something huge and amorphous as GOODNESS or inconsequential and delightfully silly as a purse woven out of weeds.

16 comments to Lusting in my Heart

  • I think my mental illness number would be significantly lower if I knew what I really truly wanted.

  • You truly want a cool purse! And world peace.


  • I could fill pages and pages up with wants, I am sure. When my wanter gets turned on, it can be epic in scale. Hmm, I’ll see if I can name three.

    In no particular order than that in which they occurred to me. I’m sure a psychiatric professional could tell me why they came out in this order, but…whatever.

    1) I want to finish this story I’m working on. I write for myself. I may let my friend read it. I’ve always been a secret writer and for a long time I just lived the stories out in my head…that probably explains a lot about me, heh. But this character has been hounding me (bothers me in my dreams, even) and I had to put the story outside myself or GO CRAZY. Now, I’m stuck. I may go crazy, anyway.

    2) I’m ready for the school year to be over. There are two reasons for this one. It’s been a horrible year for my kindergartener. It’s a long story, but the short of it is that I’m going to homeschool them from here on out. Oh, that’s the other reason. I’m ready to get the ball rolling with the homeschooling.

    3) I want keyboard. Like a piano. I want it to have all 88 keys. I want those keys to be weighted so they feel REAL. I want it to play nice with my laptop so I can use this awesome software to teach my kids to play. My reason for wanting a keyboard is that I am a wanna-be musician. I like to play. I like to hunt and peck. I’m not any good, but I enjoy myself nonetheless.

    Gosh, what will I do to get it? I’m not sure how this applies to the things I’ve listed. I suppose there isn’t much I can do about number two but suffer out the rest of the year and try not to poison my kids against school. You know, keep my opinions to myself, or at least, out of their ear shot. Um, I just want the keyboard. I’ve wanted one for a while. Yes, I would like a reallyreal piano, but we don’t have space for that. I will, uh, save money to get it? It’s not something I’m willing to kill over, you understand. As for the first thing… Well, I couldn’t say. Being an out-of-the-closet writer, even to those I care most about, is new and I feel silly making too big of a deal about it when it isn’t, you know, something I’m paid to do. But the fact is, it IS a HUGE deal to me. I want to complete this current story so bad it’s like a taste on my tongue that I can’t wash away with Listerene. It’s a want that is large and graphic and takes up huge amounts of my conscious thought and quite a bit of my unconscious thought, too. I don’t know what comes after except maybe writing the next story and the next. The idea of these things being out of my brain and into my computer or notebook paper makes me feel light and giddy.

    right, so, heh. I do go on.

  • Em

    SO many things….

    1) I want well educated children. What does it say about me? That I want them to be better than me. That I want them to have their choice of lifestyles and feel happy and fulfilled by that. That they will have the story that their mother cared enough about them to do whatever it took from private school we can’t afford to rewriting tests they didn’t do well on and making them take it over at home in order to make sure they saw the value in learning.

    2) To be skinny and hot because I am vain as hell, even though I hide it in frumpy mom jeans. That one is a secret.

    3) Balance. To live to my priorities and still be able to make the bills. To enjoy the time my kids are kids knowing their childhood will be over someday and feel like I saw everything I wanted to see, didn’t miss anything and was still able to bring home enough bacon that they could do fun kid things that just HAPPEN when you are a kid without worry as to how (day trips, sports, movies).

    4) One superpower. Almost any one.

    5) A car with cup holders where everything works, all the windows are functional and it doesn’t make that embarrassing shuddering noise when it shuts off.

    6) I am just going to go with winning lottery ticket here so that I don’t have to admit to the state of disrepair my house is in.

    How long can this list be? …..

  • I want to run a 10K race. I hope this will say about me, “Hey! SHE doesn’t sit on her patootie all day playing Plants vs. Zombies and eating fistsful of peanut M&Ms and wondering if her ridiculous standard poodle puppy is brain damaged, I’ll bet!” I will do something about this as soon as I run out of M&Ms and win Plants vs. Zombies and my dog quits acting that way.

  • Eleanor

    I don’t want much, except the skills to deal with life as it comes (a tall order, this!), and more of your delicious posts (when you’re ready, no rush, dear).

    FYI, when cats bring you part of what they’ve killed, it’s because they’re trying to teach YOU to hunt. At least that’s what the (human) scientists say. Maybe some day a cat will be able to communicate with us more directly, and it will say:”Boy, are you humans thickheaded! I just wanted you to COOK the half-lizard for me. Sheesh!”

  • linda j

    I want to run away. I want to go to the away place that is home for me and disappear from this life and start over. Oh and to be rich to be able to afford it all…

  • Here’s what I want.

    It all has to do with my hair. I have fine frizzy hair that is naturally the color of a mouse. Anyway, I want 1) a haircut, since it’s been three months, 2) highlights, since I colored my hair “Navajo Bronze” with a box and don’t like it — I want my blonde back! and 3) I want that expensive Keratin treatment to make my hair straight and perfect all summer. I’m looking at about a $500 salon investment, plus tip. INSANE.

    But necessary. Right? So what does wanting this expensive hair extravaganza say about me? It says I want perfect blonde hair all summer and the rest of the year, too. Because THERE IS NO TIME to waste on ugly hair. At least not for me.

    Joshilyn, you should buy that handbag and love every second of it.

  • Mr. Husband

    What do I want?

    1) To crush my enemies.
    2) To see them driven before me.
    3) To hear the lamentations of their women.

    It’s the little things in life that matter the most.

  • Melissa Montez

    My wants, as I tried to articulate them, were pretty embarrassing in the depth department. I wanted to say that I hoped my children would grow up to be good for the world. But sitting here on the couch after church, I think maybe I just meant, in my heart of hearts, that I wished they would stop being loud during the quiet parts of the meeting.

  • I hope you get your twine purse. It’ll be two years this summer that I bought my non-jobbish handbag. It was more than I wanted to spend, designer – when I don’t care for such things – but both beautiful and functional. The shoulder strap alone still transports me to a state of ecstacy.

    Aside from that, I’m not really a person who covets things. It’s more a state of mind I desire – a pain, because it’s much easier to say “I’ve arrived” when you can fill it with your keys.

    On the other hand, I’ve no worry about cat vomit.

  • Brigitte

    Ha, Mr. Husband!

    I want pretty much everything, material or intangible, that can pop into my little brain, in an entirely greedy, selfish and instant-gratification-y way. But am far too lazy and unambitious to actually DO anything to get those things. I’ve just gotten used to (since early childhood) living in a constant state of “I WANT!”

  • Mr. Husband for the win! But I’m siding with Brigitte on this one. One of my favorite things to say is “Want, want, WANT!” – selfish, childishly simple, but it gets the point across. You can say it for anything! And I do. But lately I think I’ve been pulling for some really lofty wants and it’s starting to weight me down – so I’m thinking I ought to counterbalance this with a LOT of little wants. Like that kudzu purse you’re coveting. Or the frog purse you found window shopping. I’m catching on to some great taste in purses, here…

    Actually right now, all I want is to look at the word ‘want’ and not feel all strange and disconnected from it after having used and seen it too many times in one minute!

  • I love you. So much. And you just made me realize what a wealth of research potential all of my friends are.

    Well, if you ever need to write a poet or a homeschool mom or a Tourette’s Syndrome kid, I’m your girl.

  • liz

    I want more time. Time is going by too fast these days, and no matter how much I stomp my feet and yell, it won’t slow down. I want long stretches of peaceful happy time with my husband, with my kids (not necessarily the same time) and even with the very large dog. Also, time to write and maybe even enough time to squeeze in a nap.

  • Lulu

    I want my husband to have a job, and for him to keep it. I want my house to not be under remodelling construction anymore — I want it to be done. I want a housekeeper because I am not one. I want a nice car that gets good mileage and is dependable and cool (a mini Cooper would be great). I want chocolate (I gave it up for Lent. What was I thinking? This may be more than I can survive.)

    When I concentrate on what I want that I don’t have, it’s very depressing. I need to go back and review all that I do have or I’ll just crawl under my desk and weep and rage.