I took my printed manuscript, photos, and flash drive to the UPS store on Friday. It was my big moment— the one in which I would fork over roughly $15 to send my book to the editors— and I sat in my truck for a few minutes, one hand on the used Amazon box that contained my work, the other hand fiddling with the radio to find a suitable soundtrack. I waited for a rush of emotion, or at least a strong feeling or something. An emotional reaction seemed appropriate for the occasion, but nothing happened. I started to sweat, but that was from the 80-degree air and even more intense heat radiating up from the asphalt. I watched a man try to crank up his ancient Mercedes, a woman peck at her phone, and a sign flicker above the Chinese food place next to the UPS store. I felt as normal as what I witnessed. Not one bit of of anything in my mind or body reacted to tell me that I was experiencing something significant.
I’d been depressed for three days though, vaguely filled with a sense of loss and doom as the work on my book reached its end. An incident in the Office Depot parking lot the day before I went to UPS had jarred me loose from my morose introspection, and as I sat in my truck outside UPS, I thought back on what I’d seen when I emerged from Office Depot with my final, printed manuscript in hand. Another pickup truck had blocked mine in, and as I got closer, I noticed that the offending truck was rocking side to side. It was a Tacoma, a nice one, much more expensive than my beloved Smurfette. I knew almost exactly how much someone paid for that Tacoma since I’d bought my bright blue Frontier, used, only a year ago. I couldn’t imagine what would make a new, $35,000 truck rock back and forth so violently. As I approached, I momentarily forgot that my book— my first-ever book under contract for publication— was in my hand, and that it was kind of a big deal.
I soon saw that two obese women were physically fighting inside the expensive truck, and that if I were to try to leave the parking lot, Smurfette’s rear would scrape theirs, since they’d parked across me diagonally. I dug my fingers into the box that held my manuscript and quietly got into my truck as the passenger emerged from what had become a fighting ring on wheels. She was furious, and slammed her hands against the door as it closed.
Their fight escalated and carried on for what seemed like an hour but was probably only three or four minutes. The passenger eventually climbed into the crew cab backseat and announced, with an impressive string of expletives, that she was going the F to sleep. The driver pulled out slowly, careful not to nail Smurfette, then left the parking lot, taking the time to use a turn signal and obey a stop sign as though everything was ordinary. I looked down at my printed manuscript and reminded myself that I was but a speck in a mountain of dirt. What was a big day for me was just another ordinary (although contentious) day for someone else.
Nothing so exciting as a fight happened outside UPS. I sat for another minute until I worried my deodorant couldn’t do its job in the oppressive heat, then wiped my forehead on my 14-year-old college t-shirt and carried my box into UPS. The workers taped it and posted it, and one took a photo of me holding the package. It was the most unflattering picture I’ve been in since middle school, but it was evidence of the day. I left the store, and as I squinted and wiped my forehead again, I tried, without success, to feel something major. I finally decided that mailing the book was simply a job done, an end or a beginning depending on how I looked at it, and that the depression of the previous days, the feelings of loss regarding the completion of the book, were gone— and so was my manuscript.