Point-blank, Judith is the reason I'm here. When she found out that I, at 20 years old, had a love for writing, she wanted to see for herself. A piece I'd written for another magazine some years before fell into her hands, and she promptly programmed it as a reprint for inclusion in one of the Reader's collaborative features. From then on, whenever I'd visit her, we'd sit on her couch and talk shop. Dizzy from jet lag and the gorgeous air that streamed through her window, I'd listen as she made lists of things she wanted me to write. An article on an album I really love. A piece about my favorite teachers. On and on.
So, with Judith as my editor, I began to write.
She always wanted more from me, Judith did, more, more, more. "More middle, more activity," she'd say, in the comments she'd send back to me. I knew what she meant by this, what she wanted. Nothing extraneous, just...More. "Moore wants more," I would joke to myself, sitting back down at my desk, a makeshift, graffiti-covered plank from IKEA I'd bought off a girl in Brooklyn. I was in Boston then, writing as I finished up my last year of college. Judith, dying slowly in Berkeley, communicated to me almost exclusively via e-mail, though sometimes we'd talk over the phone. Her slow, Southern-laced voice would lull me as I lay on my futon bed, night dark outside; three hours earlier, dusk would be just beginning for her in California. But it was mostly e-mail between us, sometimes four or five a day. There were quick ones to see how I was doing, loving ones peppered with kisses, and business ones declaring deadlines, but they all blended together, all distinctly hers. Her notes would come at all hours, computer chiming as they zipped in from the Internet ether.
But that was her thing, more. I have a vision of her as a small child, hand outstretched, blue eyes waiting as though to ask a patient question, make a silent request. And her desire was genuine; she truly wanted it, wanted to hear more of what went on, what was said, done, eaten, drunk, spilled, tripped over, who was repulsed, enraptured, or simply left behind. A piece I wrote about a nightclub in Boston elicited this response: "Great atmosphere, great suspense, write more. Tell us about what went on, who got laid or didn't, anyone weeping in despair, conversations, more drinks, your own longings for the perfect flame, etc." And back to the computer I would go.
It was this that shone through from her, that made me do more, that made me think about it. I'd sit back and roll through the day, the night, the experience, whatever it was I was writing and pick out things to put down, little things I'd missed at first pass. The color of a cocktail, how it caught the light on the dance floor and made a reflection. The way the little spokes on a film uptake reel looked like teeth. How my grandmother's eyes watered. Things that picked up the story, filled it in. "Just go nuts on the page," she said, "just close your eyes and type, sweetheart."