Epitaph: Do not say goodbye
“An empty page stares at me like a menacing creature. I came to it for refuge and in return, I am greeted by a shivering coldness. A cold that freezes my very being and leaves me there, unresponsive, eyes fixated upon it. Blind eyes. I thought I had secured one bosom friend, watering and loving that friendship over the years but today I feel abandoned. My thoughts fly and crawl with the clumsiness of bees, foolishly struggling to reach the light where only darkness prevails. To reach freedom when they are bound to the earth with invisible shackles. I wanted this to be a well where I could pour away all my insecurities, my torments. Instead, I found a dried-out and empty fountain. The fountain of creativity. And not a single drop available to quench my thirst. Only tears that crumble and ruin the structure of the paper. The pen has lost its bravery. It has now become a mere object, occupying space, inanimate and bothersome. A warm body with a heart of stone. There suddenly seems to be no happiness, yet the sorrow cannot be expressed. Words and ideas fail to ambush me. Don’t I only have myself to blame in the end? I am a failure! A monster! And now I am alone. How terrible the scratching of a pen sounds to my ears! How cruel that it is just me, alone! No notebook is the comforting pill for my soul. Is this what writer’s block feels like? Because it is painful. Oh God, how painful!...”
I drop the pen. It makes little noise. My eyes calmly follow its motion, as its oscillatory movement finally comes to a stop when the system drains its energy. The pen now lies still, deathlike. Its surroundings devoid of any external forces. Thus it will remain there. Thus it could remain there for the years to come. The laws of physics are forgotten, ignored. For not the slightest breeze would reach its secluded niche. Nor light comforts its paralyzed existence. It lies at the mercy of my will. A slave to my emotions. Poor, downtrodden, and abused pen! Used and banished, loved, and despised. If only it could write without my guidance if only inanimate objects had their own self-will. But if we, comic mortal creatures, lack it, how can we expect miracles? I turn back to the scattered papers lying messily across the table. Crumbled pages drowning me, occupying with the stamina of parasites my very being, my space, decorating the floor of the maniac’s abode. Nothing seems to have changed. These words. These words. I smile sorrowfully at the description webbed by my own hands. The irony of it. Writer’s block has stolen my patience, motivation, and it has stood as a mighty King to mock my last desperate attempt to prove to myself it is not all over.
The clock chimes with a long and painful wail, announcing the twelfth hour. How many times have I heard its ominous knell tempting me to rest, persuading me to forget? Gently narrating the stories of unblemished paintings and vengeful fairies, of utopian kingdoms and courageous knights.
One. Every single page is crammed with meaningless phrases. I see myself trapped within four walls, beating me up, my flesh is food to ravenous mongrels. Edited paragraphs. Blotched patches of black ink.
Two. I try to bite the remains of food lying untouched upon the table. The bread is tasteless, hard as a rock. My teeth have lost the strength of bygone days. I should have known. This piece of brown bread is now inedible. Only a few crumbs make their way towards my ravenous and aching stomach. The tea is cold. Its fresh aroma also faded. A miniature and barely distinguishable battalion of ants diligently makes its way to their secret dominions, now the rightful owners of the putrefied remains of my food. I am hungry.
Three. I frantically begin to rip apart the carcasses of the unopened letters. I never opened them because I knew the apologetic expressions they guarded. Today I want to see these slogans of propriety, I want to face the failure that plunged me into this turbulent river of utter despair, the origin of my self-doubt, the motive of my claudication. They are there. The endless addresses and fake idioms of comfort and encouragement. It was never good enough. It was never what they wanted. I imagine them throwing my writings onto the fire, an automatic shake of their hands and it was over. The flames swallowed the stories, the effort, the hysteria, the tragic romance between Frederique and Lune.
Four. There’s nothing that can alleviate my pain. I put my head back against the wall, closing my eyes. Inhaling, exhaling. I feel the tremors coming back. I need to breathe. I need to place my focus upon the rhythmic movements of my thorax, a body still alive, warm. A beating heart. My heart is beating! I thought its melodic movement had long exhausted its battery. How strange is it to be aware of the red and liquid gold flooding one’s body, nurturing it, unconsciously repeating the same pattern, again and again, unaware of danger?
Five. How long have I been here? Secluded and trapped in this room? How many times has the sun risen since I closed the curtains? How many times has the drunken man walked past my window, stubbornly recreating the same scenario? Tousled hair and insecure step, balancing his way to the other side of the city, his vestments worsening with each changing season. Frederique. A beggar. Broken-hearted did he allow himself to be dragged into the depths of the abyss of despondency. I named him Frederique the day I saw for the first time his reticent tears as he fed the ducks. I heard the lullaby being whistled. I witnessed the hands of hard work and the soul of a broken future. He is my Frederique. Dispossessed and punished by God and society!
Six. Remember when we used to play hide and seek? It is always too real. Your presence. Standing there next to me, behind me, watching me as I write with mellow eyes, smiling tenderly, your hand barely touching my shoulder as you attempt to come closer to me to peek at the words slowly filling the page. Your breath provoking me goosebumps, warm and fresh, caressing my nape. I tried to focus on my work, to avoid distractions, to avoid looking at you. I felt your stare. I wanted to relish in the seconds I could feel your body brushing mine. The next moment you are gone. I turn around and I find myself alone, desperately alone. Fenced in by a tumult of unrecognisable noises. Voices striving to break me, to break free. It’s been that way, ever since your departure.
Seven. I used to write when you were here, with me. Somehow frustration and defeat were not as intimidating, as frightening. Your absence has left within me an irreparable wound, a fatal injury. Pus is now oozing heavily from the disintegrating and infected wound. I dare not inhale its nauseous perfume, nor touch the aching member. The illness is rapidly spreading - say no more. I have been deprived of your encouragement, your confidence in the face of adversity, your courage, your love. Yes, that love that saw in me a diamond worth polishing, the potential for fame and immortality. Dust and age have blurred your solemn expression in the photograph I now hold close to my heart. It is the only photograph I have of you. And I cry, I cry without restraint, I cry to pay for all the tears I did not shed when they came to take you away. I cry because that is the one thing I have left.
Eight. Someone is knocking at the door. I do not answer because I do not want to answer. Let them continue knocking. I will not move. Unless it is you knocking at the door, telling me it was all a bad dream. We would embrace and laugh away the sorrow. But then we have been taught dead people cannot knock at our doors, for nothing can disturb their royal repose. It is sacrilegious. Only the dark forces of our country, hidden behind barred windows, can command the terrifying laugh of the devil. Only they can open the closed eyes and separate the praying hands. The knocking has stopped and steps are now receding. I am pleased they gave up so soon. Paula is gone. I compelled her to leave, forced her to pack her things and leave. She cried like I have never seen her cry before. I could not have imagined the old lady had loved us, or should I say, loved you. Because you were always her favourite. Always the spoiled one. Always the one who patiently would listen to her endless chattering, without a shadow of annoyance or anger. I think she resented me. I still loved her. But I did not need her anymore. I do not need anyone!
Nine. What should I do?
Ten. I have to write - I have to write about everything. I have to write about the way your lips twitched when you had to say goodbye, about the way you arranged the flowers in the living room each morning. For two years you did that, every single day. Your sense of décor was exquisite. The room was your mandala. On top of the crimson tablecloth, the red roses would make their appearance, tall and proud. Next to the window were the crocuses, dazzling in their bright purple garments. The piano was adorned with a placid pot of forget-me-nots. Blue was your favourite colour. How commonplace! The colours of the flowers merged and camouflaged with the quiet aspect of the dwelling. Each colour given its place, treated with the utmost delicacy, proclaimed king of its individual station. Never a rose and a daisy together. There was no rivalry.
All was peaceful.
Eleven. This is it. I promised you I wasn’t going to desist. This game so eager to see me downtrodden and lost was not going to beat me. I was going to win. I was going to shatter the storms, the deafening roar of the wind to overcome. I must free myself from this hallucination. I will do it one more time. One last time. After that, may the devil take my soul! As it will no longer be mine. If I fail there will be no tears. There will be nothing, God save me! If I fail. I have to do it for you. The longing for immortality has not yet perished! I plead “not guilty”. I need to ascertain your courage and my innocence. The world must tremble. I will duel it until the last ounce of strength leaves my body. Prepare the trumpets and the march. A brave soldier is not afraid to face the battle. I will write. I will write.
Twelve. The clock now strikes midnight.
I kneel down and rescue the fallen pen. In its heartless essence, I can sense its joy irradiating through my veins, vibrating, agitating my very being. It did not have to wait long to resume its work.
It was born for this.
I was born for this.
I was born to write.
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Maria, This was my first introduction to your work here on Reedsy. I feel like what you captured here was the torture that a writer feels when they're neck deep in the writing process. I love the way that you finessed the prose with such elegance and softness. Like this line here: rip apart the carcasses of the unopened letters. The word carcasses is obviously dark, but we know it's metaphorical... and yet it's still beautiful the way that you wrote it. How you gave life to the rejection letter! I really enjoyed this story.