It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. For those of you who haven’t yet been privy to my shameless self-promotion in the Notes & Words essay contest, I’m one of the five finalists. I’m honored, thrilled, nauseous, eager to hear the announcement of the winner — which, incidentally, was moved to TOMORROW. Our non-refundable tickets are already booked to California, so Chris and I are going to the event — either as the Grand Prize Winner and Her Sexy Husband or as the Finalist Who Didn’t Quite Make It but Came to the Event with Her Sexy Husband Anyway.

I’m hoping for the former. Either way, we’ll have fun. Either way, I’ve already won.

I just returned from a week of sales training in Indy for my new corporate gig. I spent numerous hours with reps from The Netherlands, Singapore, Germany, Brazil, France, and Australia. They informed me they were glad all Americans were not like the ones they saw depicted on TV — the ones on Jerry Springer and reality shows who spent most of their free time in fast food lines. Ugh.

My greatest takeaway from the week? Thank God I’m not in sales. And more power to those who are. That’s a tough gig. I much prefer writing about selling than being crushed under the weight of quotas and sales incentive trips and competitive positioning. It makes my head hurt.

But here’s the thing that really did me in over the past couple of weeks.

I lost my hard drive.

It had been making a strange whirring sound for a couple of days, so I should have known. I should have listened. She was calling out for help. But I continued to load pictures on her and write blog posts and update my Facebook status.

And then.

Then she gave me the spinning circle of death. I couldn’t rouse her. Not even with promises of wine and chocolate.

So, on my way to the airport from an offsite marketing meeting, I dropped her at the Apple store in Indy.

“I’m getting on an airplane,” I told the Geniuses. “Take good care of her. I’ll be back to get her next week.”

“Do you have all your files backed up?” the young Smarty McSmart Pants asked.

“I have iCloud,” I said. “So I’m good to go, right?”

And then he gave me The Look. The one that made my heart drop to the floor.

“iCloud isn’t a back-up, it’s a syncing device.”

“Soooooo… you can pull my files off my hard drive, right? I mean, you’re Geniuses and all.”

“Well, we’ll certainly try,” he said. “But we can’t make any guarantees.”

And it was time to catch my flight, so I handed my sweet Mac over and drove nervously to the airport. As I was walking to my gate, I received a phone call.

“Mrs. Willis, your hard drive is definitely bad. We’re going to have to replace it.”

“And my files?”

“We’ll try to save them, but we can’t make any guarantees. If you want to do a third party data recovery, now is the time.”

Fuck, fuck, fuck! I thought as I stood in line with my boarding pass. Okay, “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” is what I actually said out loud. In the airport. Surrounded by thousands of other passengers. Many of them with children. Sometimes I can’t help myself.

“I’m heading back to Mississippi right now. I can’t come back to get it. Just do your best. I trust you. Be Geniuses.”

“Okay,” he said.

“And if you do recover all my files, I’ll come back and kiss you on the lips. If that’s appealing. If it’s not appealing, I’ll take that option off the table. But I just want you to know that there’s an incentive there. Or not.”

“Umm, okay, Mrs. Willis,” he said.

And I got on the plane.

The next day, I was working from my home office when the call came. Chris answered the phone and I knew instantly by the look on his face. He shook his head sadly.

There would be no lip-kissing for my Genius.

“We need to go out for drinks tonight,” I told him. “Lots of drinks. I’m going to try not to cry. I have a shitload of work to do today. But tonight, I’m going to drink.”

And so we did.

We sat outside at Central Station Grill and shared a bottle of wine. Well, Chris got about a glass and a half and I slugged down the rest.

“I want to throw up,” I told him as I thought of all the things that I’d lost forever. I was a hundred pages into my next book. It wasn’t backed up. Gone, Baby, Gone. All those words. One hundred pages of words.

Years worth of work samples, invoices, general musings, kids’ papers.

A few years ago when he was still willing to share his feelings with us, Sam wrote an essay called “Wasps on the Window Sill” about how much he loved staying at the Blue Cabin in Brown County. Gone.

Because my memory is so unreliable, bits and pieces of the magnitude of my loss come to me at various moments. The essay I wrote for Jenny? Gone. My latest resume? Gone. The “Letters to My Kids” series? Gone. Hundreds of short stories, book beginnings, random notes and thoughts. Gone.

And every time I remember another one, it’s like a little bee sting to my heart.

“You realize you lost all your applications, too, right?” Chris asked gently as he poured another glass of wine. “We have to re-buy the Microsoft Suite and re-load it onto your new machine. And all of your favorites and settings will have to be reset.”

Buzz. Sting. Sting.

Not only Gone, but expensive to replace.

“But the good thing is that everything you’ve ever sent via email is recoverable. So ‘Table for Six’ and ‘Three of Eva’ are safe.”

“But ‘One Brown, One Blue’ is gone,” I sighed.

100 pages. One hundred.

“Let’s talk about back-ups,” Chris said. “We can’t go back, so let’s move forward. You can use DropBox for your documents, we can buy a Time Machine. There are numerous Cloud-based back-up systems we can look at.”

“Do you think ‘Cloud’ is capitalized?” I asked.

He looked at me with his What-the-Fuck-Is-She-Talking-About-Now look. I know it well.

“I mean, do you think it’s kind of like heaven? Are there Cloud Angels up there reading all my lost files? Do you think they’re enjoying ‘One Brown, One Blue?’ Is God holding all my cover letters and invoices in His hand as we speak?”

“Well, probably not,” Chris said, trying his best to follow my crazy, wine-soaked line of reasoning, “because your files aren’t in the Cloud. If they were in the Cloud, they wouldn’t be gone. Yours are gone.”


Where do files go to die? It seems like such an abrupt loss — no memorial service, no flowers, no singing of sad hymns. Just nothingness. No time for goodbyes.

I can’t even bring them flowers.

“Kat, no one died,” Chris reminded me.

“You’re right,” I agreed. “No one died. But my SOUL did. At least a little.” Melodrama? You bet your ass.

It’s a pain for anyone to lose a hard drive. But for a writer who LIVED there? It’s a bit like losing an appendage. My heart was in those files. And my memory isn’t reliable enough to raise them from the dead. There will be no resurrection. Not this time.

“You get a clean slate,” Chris said gently. “A fresh start.”

He’s so damn glass-half-full.

But he’s right. In fact, an agent I love and follow on Facebook just posted something today about not pulling from any of your old work word-for-word. Use it for inspiration, she advised, but breathe new life into it by starting from scratch.

If I can’t change it, I guess I’ll choose it.

Today, I get a fresh start.

And chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

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6 Responses

  1. I was already sad about what you lost, but that is just heart wrenching. You deserve much chocolate. And even more wine. I hear they are both good for creativity!

  2. I just sat in bed watching my beautiful wife frantically writing a paper at last minute, and life suddenly came into focus. It amazes me that it always turns out to be the small shit like hard drive crashes and last minute cramming that knocks us on our asses and causes us to adjust the lens.

    Back to the wife before continuing on in philosophical ramble. The wife is pursuing a dream of a college education at age 32, and she is my hero! The wife writing a paper caused me to watch The National Parks by Ken Burns. Toward the end of the last episode (Dax crying) the narrator recalls a trip to Galcier National Park that he took with his wife and 2 children. He describes a day of “buddy hiking” with his 9 year old son in the majestic vastness of the park and coming across a family of mountain goats that proceeded to pay no attention to the humans and walk past about 3 feet away. He then proceeds to break down while describing his son’s journal entry for the day which said ” today was the best day of my life.” Oh the sting of perspective and the reality check of priority!

    Why write this deep garble in reply to this writer and her sexy husband that I have only known for a brief time? She gets it. They have left us in Indiana amongst people that think life is about the sacrificing of health and family for the pursuit of money and the unecessary things that money will buy. People who think that the worth of a human being is determined by size, brand and quantity of the finite as opposed to the quality of the pursuit of the infinite. We are unfortunate to have lost her and her wonderful family but words can be read from any corner on earth. Her words were much ended tonight, and this brief description of the loss of a hard drive will make it easier for me to face the “Ground Hog Day” reality that will hit me in a few short hours. Katrina is deserving of the Grand Prize for the contest, and I hope she stands tall in position 1 on the podium!

    I can only end with “Hey! Hey! You! You! Get off of my cloud. Don’t hang around cause 2 is a crowd!”

    1. Dax Norton, you just made me cry. Thanks for your own powerful words. And give that beautiful, inspirational wife of yours a big hug from me. How lucky we are that our paths crossed before we headed South.

  3. I’m so sorry, Katrina! How awful! Indulge in the chocolate and wine, and I truly hope you’ll be able to take the pieces that you still have and make something new and beautiful that you can put your heart into.

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