My name is Leigh and today is day 40th of isolation. I have just turned 36 years old, and by profession, I guess you would say I am an author, but my secret is that I have nothing left to write.
The days melt in together and I want to break the walls around me. The news is the worst part of my days, and every noise is in this small 2-bedroom apartment is a needle to the brain.
I have just set up my laptop; I turn on the screen and I aim to write to finish. I need to finish . I am a writer, this is what I do. I finish things.
“Shit!” I hear from the bedroom across from mine.
I am on edge. My finger is caught midair above the letter O for Once upon a time?
Is that how I should start my story, my story which I might set in the 21st century?
Ok… here goes.
Once upon a time.
There is a knock on my door.
“What day is it?” I ask without bothering to let the person in.
“It is Tuesday. Can I come in? I need the phone”.
“Yes”. I pull the cordless from its cradle and extend it to my mother. She closes the door behind her, and I go back to the screen in front of me.
Once upon a time in the woods…
“Why?” I say out loud.
“Did you say something?” My mother’s voice from the room next door spills into my ear.
“No… just talking to myself” I turn my gaze to the calendar on the pale green wall to my left. I set my eyes to the date, which is April 14. I have been in isolation since March 10, and there are some days that I want to throw bananas out the window, for no reason whatsoever.
I stop typing and widen my eyes at the screen. That precise moment, the sun comes out to illuminate what I just wrote. Seriously, did I just write that?
I press backspace and think mystery and suspense. I scratch my head twice.
“It’s all about quality, and not quantity, Leigh”. I mimic my sixth-grade teacher’s voice with added exaggeration. Yeah right. Maybe I just do not want to write? Or maybe I shouldn’t be doing this at all? I slap my hand against the desk at the sound of doors closing and opening within the apartment. I feel like a black cat whose hairs are always at end; a side effect of being holed up in one space for far too long.
The sun fades again, behind a blue-grey cloud. I do not open my window to see it, but I can imagine it. People have often told me I have a good imagination. Shocking, I know.
I get up and stretch my legs. I pull a book from my library: Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie. Maybe my main character should have amnesia?
“Why should she?”
“What?” My mother’s voice calls out again.
“I am not done talking to myself!”
What’s that smell? Oh shit, the pie!
Smoke is coming out of the oven and has engulfed most of our tiny kitchen. I open the window and pull out the pie. It is only then I realize I am not wearing an oven mitt.
With a sigh, I slump back down in front of my laptop. A clink clink notifies me of a new email message. I open my Hotmail. Three words: I miss you.
I slump even lower on my seat. I write back with a question: Now?
One and a half years ago, this odd love confession would have been fine, but… now it’s lacking within space and distance.
I down two bottles of water, maybe three, and ponder how his love confession/email can fit into my story. A clawing sensation of anger will not let me think clearly. Why now? Did the other one drop him? Am I an alternative? I look back at my unblinking screen. Should that be my title?
“You are such a beast,” I tell the screen and sit back down.
I start typing again: Once upon a time in the woods…
“Oh, I am such a loser!” I start pacing from my window to my wardrobe. Then I stop in the center of the room and smile wide. Saying that is oddly freeing; it’s a weight which has been lifted off my chest. All my life I have gone through with this arrogant pretence, in which I make myself believe that I am always in the right. When I am not really.
“Well, there you go” I assume the stance of Peter Pan. I want to write to finish, but instead, I go back to my email with a ready response:
If you don’t do something soon, you are going to lose me.
I lean back.
Night falls slowly as summer is almost here. Warm air has replaced the evening breeze and the ravens have been replaced by the chirpy- spring birds. My unblinking screen is waiting. The ‘once upon a time’ is still there in black, but not even close to ominous or mysterious. I have taken the word ‘woods’ out as I believe my character (boy in his 20s) has a secret. His family is extremely superstitious, and he has fallen in love with a girl who was born on Friday the 13th, and he wants them to meet.
I smile and toast my glass of nothing to the screen and begin to write. Wait, is there going to be a happy ending?
At that moment, a scream pierces the night and my hands freeze. Hesitating, I reach out and open my balcony door. Silence lies behind the lit windows around me. So this is what crazy feels like? And now, my ears catch a melancholy wail, very low at first. I move my head from window to window. Where? Then silence falls again.
I wait for a while, and then I sit back down to my screen. I am just about to write again, when the same scream pierces the night, this time followed by an utterance: MURDER!
I erase what I have previously written and have it replaced it with: And so it begins...