I banged my knees against that child’s desk for a full year before I packed up and moved into the empty space he left behind. For another year, we let his Peeps stay balanced on the computer screen where he once worked. He had used the Easter candy as a barometer. Sometimes they were rock hard, other times they were soft and fluffy as the day they were hatched from their plastic sleeve. It all depended on the weather.
I hung an 8×10 photograph of Robert Long on the cork board above our desk, a great big oak antique that must have weighed1,000 pounds. There was plenty of room for my feet and knees and even for my dog, and all of the drawers on the right side refused to open unless the middle drawer was opened first.
When I left, I took my flair with me – my photographs, clippings, and thank you cards. My used press passes, obnoxious bumper stickers, and notebooks full of handwriting so illegible that only I, and only sometimes, could decipher it. The poster that reads “people with mental illness enrich our lives” now resides on my refrigerator door. But I could not take down that picture of Robert Long — it was never really my desk to begin with, it belonged to him and to his peeps. I hope the person who is sitting there now hasn’t taken it down, because that desk will be Robert’s for as long as the paper survives, which is has somehow done, for the past two years, without me.
I don not believe I will ever work for a newspaper again. It sapped the energy right out of me and when I wind up in therapy, it will probably take years to sort out. But for a time, I was a journalist, and I adored every second of it.
I still maintain the hope, as I did as a child, that I will grow up to be a writer. But for now, I am glad that the paper has survived.