“How are you, Ginger? It’s been too long!”
The plump orange cat stares back at me blankly. Perhaps a little annoyed, even. Truthfully, I can’t blame her. I never have any food for her.
I tentatively reach out my hand toward the open window where she's perched on the sill. When my fingers are mere inches away, she quickly rises, stretches, and jumps to the ground below. For a moment, it looked like she even rolled her dark green eyes.
“So much for making friends,” I scowl after her. She'll be back when I’m making dinner, of course. She always is.
I finish lacing up my shoes before walking out the door and locking it behind me. I trip as soon as I cross the threshold, cursing as I catch myself on a bike railing. I glance at the ground, annoyed as to what could already make this horrible day any worse. One half of a bright green broken pencil wobbles where I tripped over it. Too lazy to throw it away in the trash can in my apartment but too anti-litter to leave it there, I snatch it up. I’m about to put it in my pocket when something catches my eye—a faded label. A faded label…of my name.
I squint my eyes. There it is – “ELLE”. It’s a bit discolored and shabby, but I can make out my name clearly. There might be another letter there, right at the end, but it’s too worn to see clearly. I stare at my name for a moment longer before I shrug and slide the object into my pocket.
It’s quiet as I make my way down to my favorite spot on the island. No surprise there; since the day the bus dropped me off here eight weeks ago, the quiet has become a close companion, always nearby. It’s as if this minuscule piece of the world is muffled and muted by the expanse of water surrounding it. A suppressed town. The stories here don’t seem to make it past the ocean.
A great location for an aspiring writer, clearly.
Gentle water laps against the docks as the ocean comes into my view. Small businesses—closed for the holidays—line the long, windy sidewalk that runs along the beach. I follow the path along the water’s edge.
Breathe. I inhale deeply. As I exhale, I make the conscious effort to lower my shoulders, both of which had been creeping higher and higher throughout the day. I think back to this morning when I’d awoken; my shoulders were low. Relaxed. And then, as I stared at the blank page on my laptop, my eyes burning into the screen, I felt my shoulders rise with each ticking minute. I shut the laptop in frustration as morning became late afternoon, without a single typed letter to show for it.
I came to this little Croatian island to be a writer, to narrate all the places I’d gone and all the people I’d met. I was going to spin stories of gold and silver and weave all the intricate moments I’d experienced into a poetic tapestry.
My shoulders are rising again. Breathe. I force them to drop.
It was all to no avail. For eight weeks I’ve been staring at the blank page, willing a beautiful memoir to appear. Wishing that my fingers could do all the work. And for eight weeks...nothing.
I told myself that the first week didn’t matter. I was getting accustomed to the island. Right? I needed to settle in. The second week? Still adjusting, of course. The third and fourth weeks were dedicated to exploring. I hiked all over the island, found hidden beaches and alcoves, meditated to sunsets and sunrises. During the fifth and sixth weeks, I focused on figuring out what I wanted to do when I returned home after this trip; I couldn't go back home without an idea of what I want to do with my life. And the seventh week was…well, also for figuring out my life, because I still hadn't done so after the fifth and sixth weeks. And actually, if I'm being completely honest, I still haven’t.
The eighth week consisted of me finally opening my laptop and staring at the screen. The sun rose and fell and rose and fell… six times. Seven times, now, with tonight’s sunset. The sun is still slightly too high in the sky to count it quite yet, so I guess that’s one positive aspect from today. I still have an hour before I determine myself to be, yet again, a complete and utter failure.
I thought I would have more time. But I leave in one more week, and still, the page remains blank.
The sidewalk ends here, and so do the buildings. I forge ahead, picking my way across a small field of rocks. The tide hasn’t gotten to them yet, so they’re dry and sturdy. The water laps gently a few feet away from me as I follow the rocky beach. It curves gently to the right. And there, at the edge, far away from any other indications of human population, is a crooked, lonely, barren tree. As I walk toward it, I see the sun beginning to dip down, the sky turning my favorite rosy pink.
The tree beckons me into its lonely arms. I fall into them. The trunk is long, thick, and crooked, enabling me to lie at an angle on it and watch the sunset, leaning my head against a branch.
The sky continues to transform into a display of colors. It’s more orange now, as the sun scatters its rays far and wide. Bits of pink and red splash across the few spots where small clouds gather.
Is this all I’ll amount to? A washed-up writer before she even had a chance to do the washing part? I’ve heard it everywhere; it’s an impossible road to be a writer. No, not impossible to be a writer; it’s an impossible road to be a memorable writer.
The sun kisses the horizon line, sending a blinding flash of light across the water, almost too bright to look upon. Almost.
Maybe if I burn my eyes out I’ll actually have an excuse—er, a reason—as to why my story is nonexistent…
“Get a grip, Elle,” I hiss through clenched teeth. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Lower the shoulders.
I try to let it all go. Every memory, every expectation. The sun continues to set, the sky turning a deep and romantic purple.
I rise to my feet to make my way back home. The once dry rocks are slippery and shiny now, and I walk through them slowly. I breathe again when I reach the sidewalk. Inhale. Exhale. Drop shoulders.
My body is heavy as I make my way to my apartment. With each step, my feet seem more and more leaden, until I feel as though I need to physically pick up each limb and maneuver them toward that empty room and that empty page.
A few feet from my apartment door, I pull my keys out of my pocket. As I'm fumbling for them, I manage to trip again, catching myself on the same bike railing as before.
“You’ve got to be kidding me––”
I stop short. There, on the ground, is the other half of the pencil, in the exact same spot where I found the first half. I stare at it. I lean down and pick it up, pulling the other half from my pocket at the same time. I put them both together, and gaze at the label.
“STORYTELLE” it reads. The last letter––it must be an “r”. “STORYTELLER”.
I stand there for several minutes, just staring down at the little broken wood item in my hands, unblinking.
I walk to my apartment. Unlock the door. Sit at the table. Open my laptop.
I carefully place the broken pencil in front of my screen, so that the letters face me. I hear a small scuffling sound, and glance toward the window. Ginger sits there, tail curling about, looking at me with those dark green eyes with what appears as faint curiosity. I smile at her before turning back to the screen.
And I begin to write.