Friday, September 23, 2011

We Fix Computers

For some reason I've held on to my Dell laptop for almost ten years now. It has been through a lot. At one point, the hard drive died and I temporarily lost everything I had ever written. A few years later, my backup drive died and I officially lost everything I had ever written.

That was the day an entire writing life vanished. I spent a few weeks in denial. Technically, the work still existed. I just couldn't retrieve it. When it hit me that was a problem, I did not panic. I actually became completely zen about the whole thing. I thought, It doesn't matter. Maybe all that work was meant to be a secret anyway.

Over a year ago, I dropped the laptop and a screw disappeared. Apparently, the screw was important because the laptop screen managed to detach itself from the keyboard. Somehow, and I do not, for the life of me, know how this is possible: it still worked. And, so, I went about my days, using hefty books to lift up the flopping screen, moving the laptop around the apartment, trying to figure out which wall would work best for me to prop it up on, so I could continue with my work.

"How do you work like that?" Tyler asked.

"I don't know. It's not a big deal."

After working like that for about a year, I was walking through my neighborhood and saw a Grand Opening flag and a sign that read: We Fix Computers. So I walked into a nearly empty room which had just one folding chair, a desk, and a few empty bookshelves. I walked up to a young man, his dark hair sticking up every which way, huge wire-framed glasses that took over his face and I asked, "Do you fix computers?" And he said, "Yes. We fix computers."

So I gave him my computer, shook his hand, found out his name is Ken, and became the first customer at the no-name We Fix Computers store.

Before Ken fixed it, he asked me how quickly I needed it back and whether or not I needed it for work. I shrugged and said, "I don't really need it. I just write on it."

And Ken said, "You're a writer?"

Despite the fact that I write things. Despite the fact that I actually write for a living, it did not exactly occur to me to refer to myself that way. "I guess so."

"If you're a writer than you must really need this computer."

Again. Dumbfounded. "I guess so."

"I'll order the parts and fix it as fast as I can."

I see Ken nearly every weekday. Our lives are timed in such a way that when I leave the subway, he heads towards it. And we smile and wave and nod.

I am grateful that Ken was there. Is there. To remind me that the work matters. That it is a big deal. That it doesn't have to stay a secret.


  1. Ken seems to get it. You are valuable and so is your work.

  2. God, how awful. I have had the same thing happen to me but it was mostly fan fiction and other things from when I was pretty young, so it wasn't as bad. Kudos for carrying on, it must be hard after a blow like that.

  3. Dear New Friend Melissa,
    Buying a new computer is NOT scary. Please. Your laptop has lived a full, rich life. That's unless you just like seeing Ken... My laptop at home is 5 years old. I feel really bad for it. I do understand the hesitancy to let go. A Twitter friend of mine has suggested that I buy an external hard drive to save work and programs on where I won't lose anything when mine dies. Just a thought...

  4. I heart you. :-) Egad! Melissa, please do me a favor. Back up your writing. Purty please. Just in case. Cuz I know Ken is good and all (btw, is that Barbie's Ken?), but we still need to do that. Cuz that's just being safe. I use dropbox. Just sayin'...

  5. Wow, just the previous week, I was oh so happy that my husband fixed my reallyold laptop, and that he was able to retrieve all my files. I'm hoping that Ken was able to retrieve yours?
    Anyways, I backed everything up in dropbox so I didn't have to freak out too much. I don't think I'd be able to be Zen like you!
    Now, I have my very own flash drive that the hubs waves in my face every now and again to make sure I back writing up there (he doesn't trust dropbox for some reason) ;)

  6. It absolutely matters, Melissa -- and I admire you're very zen way of handling that situation! Despite the urgency with which I typically write, I'm pretty lackadaisacal about backing up my own stories. I just sort of figure, "Eh, if they're meant to be something, they will be."

    But then, of course, I flip out occasionally and email everything to myself so as to have a record somewhere of my work.