I’m awake. Sorta. Others might take issue. A lawyer might argue “Your honor, my client’s sense of right and wrong...” and then as the judge rolls their eyes “... and as we’ve seen from expert testimony...” A neuro surgeon might debate brain structure and functioning and order more tests from the hospital whose website claims of its ‘world-class care’ reveals its own brain dead copywriter, ad agency and marketing department who approved the website. The lawyer might then use that brain-dead cliche’ as evidence that his/her/non-binary client is ‘ functionally brain dead, shows no sign of recovering and I ask the court to rule in favor of my client.’ A philosophy professor might ask a classroom of students struggling to maintain their own wakefulness ‘Who or what makes that claim?’ There’s always a Rene Descartes sitting at the back of this classroom who raises their hand, saying ‘I got the answer, I got the answer.’ The professor avoids an eye roll and points at their Rene.

What is your answer... Rene.

In the past, Rene might stand up beside their desk and say the answer but in today’s classroom they would lean into their laptop’s camera so that the other students, trapped in their Hollywood Squares reality of an online classroom see the recently scrubbed pores on Rene’s skin. This Rene is a germaphobe and answers:

‘I think therefor I am.’

Sneers pop out on some faces. Their thoughts so obvious that balloons rise above their heads with messages of ‘This is crap’ or ‘Sigh...I need this to graduate.’ Then they’d float away. Some Hollywood Squares blink out, disappearing their occupant’s face. ‘Not my fault,’ they’d whine to the professor upon return, my ISP throttles my speeds.’ Some’d look sideways at the world outside their window and wonder what’s that like. Or reach down for the dog by their side.

Seeing he’s lost the class again, the professor fires up a stale Socratic dialogue he’s designed to engage the young minds in exploring the ‘final frontier’ one smart ass had called it last week and hummed the Star Trek theme song. The goal is to determine the I who’s thinking and therefor aming.

But that’s not me, I’m not in that class, not in that hospital or courtoom. Instead, I’m lying in a comfortable bed in a small bedroom streetside on my small town’s main street listening to another pig hauling truck bang through an ever-widening, ever-deepening pothole on this side of the street. 5 hours later, they’ll bang through the pothole’s twin on the other side of the street.

I hear, therefor I am. I smell, therefor I am. Mr. Descartes would be so proud.

I’m lying on my side, facing away from the window. Eyes closed. Peaceful, cool as in temperature of the room and my mind.

This is a habit I picked up as a child, carrying it with me through college dorm rooms and teeny apartments, a few periods of sleeping in my car and two marriages. And now it’s just as ineffective denying the approaching day. Still, in crazy times we cling to our rituals. I do, anyway.

 So, the next step is to open a slit in one eyelid. See what’s up, like maybe the sunlight layering the wall with its promise. And I’m right. A soft pale light covers the wall, transforming it into a blank canvas waiting for someone’s strokes. My body’s silhouette runs at the bottom like a low set of hills. There’s my hip, my shoulders, my head resting on my hand and all of that resting on my one pillow. The night’s whispers fade away, promising to return ‘Tonight. We’ll have some fun.’ This is the part of the routine I like. Lying still, eyes closed again, waiting for the sunlight to crawl across the bed and the lie on top of me, then if I’m still ignoring it, peep under my eyelids.

I hear her whisper “Wake up wake up wake up.” These days I recognize her voice but she’s far away. Her voice is a recent bitter-sweet addition, ‘more sweet than bitter.’ I always smile. 

I’m getting up, I said out loud. That’s that, until tomorrow morning.

While I sit on the side of the bed, another truck bangs through that pothole. The oversized bulldog across the street wuffs, low and ready.No, turning back now.

The sunlight, spreading across the room all warm and soft, no hard edges. It promises nothing but goodness. Warm smiles, hearty greetings, positive emails and no spam or phishing or whatever the hell else bored minds and malicious hearts deliver to our doorsteps without RSVPing.

The next step of this ritual is water, lots of water, then coffee and a peanut butter sandwich with a drizzle of honey. Then I’m off to sit in the park, while it’s still cool and quiet.

The alley I walk in to the park is lovely, not dark and not deep. Its walls are 2 stories high, a few windows scattered about them. Apartments, unrented and forlorn in this pandemic. The concrete beneath my feet is broken but passable. Some graffiti lifts my spirits. Always good to see a little rebellion splashed across the most surprising surfaces. I hope the artists had fun.

I love every time I step out of the alley and into the street. Morning, noon or night. It’s like coming out of a stadium tunnel and onto the playing field. Granted, I’m the only player that ever steps forth from this tunnel. But here we are. And, this morning, the sun behind my back in the East and just below these 2 story buildings, it feels the same way. I’m stepping forth onto the day’s playing field, staring down, well not starved lions as the Christians did for the Roman emperors to distract the citizens from unemployment and no food and another military defeat... wait, what? This sounds familiar. No, I step out to meet not lions or tigers or bears or narcissistic bosses or passive-aggressive co-workers. Right there’s the Big Win. Every day. I step out into a full morning of awesome possibilities. Every time.

Every victory sets up the next challenge. And this challenge arrives every day too. Y’see with none of those folks interfering with me there’s no one to hide behind or blame.

Life sucks.

Yeah, but it’s a beautiful morning. No one’s in the park. The best seats in this ‘house’ are empty. And I’ve got a full Yeti of coffee, some great podcasts to listen to, the 7th book of The Expanse Series by James S.A. Corey and... damn... all morning to enjoy them. All of them together or in any combination. I can read 5 pages then listen to a podcast for 15 minutes or 45. Reverse order and slip in a sip or two of coffee. Live on the edge and watch the shadows shorten as the sun clears the building’s roofs.

Life of Riley, my dad might call this if my dad who never lived Riley’s life had survived his wife, my mom.

Living the Dream, My Friend is how we answer now when one asks ‘how’s it going.’ Then we all laugh. Sorta.

Except today I have an itch I have to scratch. A gnawing need. A thing I need to do. The morning is the right time to take care of this itch, this need, this thing.

Write. But write in a different way. Sounds simple. Too simple. Sounds vague. Y’ok, can I be more vague, I asked myself. And my self answered with ‘yes, yes you have been... Time to change.’

Y’see I’d written 3 short stories in 3 weeks for Reedsy. 2 of 3 had been approved and the 3rd one wasn’t approved I’m thinking because it dealt with um... sex and flirting and appreciating long legs in, well, tight jeans. I could be wrong but the writing was good, the story was kinda funny and the conclusion was sweet, almost romantic. I’m thinking the audience is too young, maybe. Live and learn.

Those writings had been a little... mmmm, what’s the word. Expository. Linear. Start with a well-defined Point A and end up at Point B. Narrow focus. Timeline’s short. I mean it’s why they’re called ‘short stories.’

But now, Friday morning, due date for this story’s birth... and forget the due date... I just want to write... open, more open, freer. Let ‘er rip.

All this slurps around in my pre-coffee foggy head, walking up the steps of our twon square’s covered gazebo. A mist has blown up and nothing kills a keyboard faster than water. One of life’s lessons.

I claim one of the park benches for my seat and drop my laptop bag on it. Then I drag one from the other side of the sheltered space and make it my coffee table and lay out the morning’s support system: coffee-filled Yeti cup, book I’m reading, phone, laptop. I boot up the laptop and wait. It’s over 10 years old, now. Human years. Like dogs computers age faster’n us. So, in computer years it’s well past a centenarian. I practice acquiring patience. I don’t practice too long before I’m tapping my leg and saying to no one ‘c’mon, c’mon, c’mon... for godsake c’mon’ oblivious as usual to the inverse ratio of patience to coffee consumption. Whatever, no one’s around. I’m not hurting anyone’s feelings and my computer’s already acquired its patience with me. So, we’re good.

I open up Pages... and wai-i-i-i-i-i-tttt. Bam, a new document opens up with, for some, a blank screen. Blank screens don’t bother me, not when it’s a cool morning, I’ve slept well and I’m coffee’d up. But not this morning. This morning I look at it and go... what. What. I wait and wait.

I could start as before but... I don’t want to.

I have no topic in mind. Reedsy’s prompts could serve as a crutch. But... there’s another ratio with coffee. Stubbornness. This one’s a parallel ratio. As coffee consumption rises... so does the level of stubbornness. I call it ‘determination and grit.’ I am... determined to start in a different manner.

Another sip, two. I scan the newsfeeds on the phone, check for updated podcasts. Close them down. Wait...

I start to ‘google’ something, a word whose definition I lack. Then I stop. I come back to the blank page waiting for me like a patient lover we read about in fiction. I honor that waiting with one word.


I know, right? What does THAT mean? I don’t know, don’t care, don’t ponder its profundity.

Somewhere in the back of my head a voice says ‘Just write. Just keep writing...’ And so, I listened to that little voice for once. Impatience and grit and determination and another 3 or 4 cups of coffee (Hey, let’s make it a party!) I wrote and wrote, wrote some more, and kept writing while my bladder started whispering “I’m getting full.” I wrote while a morning ambulance raced past and turned towards the hospital, lights flashing and sirens screaming. I wrote while the wind picked up and the mist sprayed across my back but NOT across my beloved keyboard. (See, I luv ya buddy after all these years... I’ma take care of you, not gonna throw you out.) I wrote when my bladder stopped whispering and started shouting “It’s now or never bud. ’m full, topped off, yep... no more. Ding, ding.”

I gathered my things and returned home, took care of that bladder (and yes you needed that detail). I listened to the same voice cajoling, insisting, reminding, demanding I keep writing. Just write.

So, I did. Kinda like I’m doing now. Just write. My belly whined ‘I’m hungry’ and I told it to ‘pipe down and wait your turn. Me and the old-boy, old-girl, old-non-binary pronoun, are busy.’

I wrote some more until my hunger pulled its go-to power move and dropped my sugar levels and I couldn’t think.

‘Okay, pal. You win.’

I ate.

Then I wrote some more. 

As I wrote a story emerged like an Easter Island totem rising from the fog of my mind. Coffee and carbs, baby. Every explorer carries plentiful supplies. And what is a writer if not an explorer?

It was 3 PM. I’d been writing for most of 6 hours.

The nose of that Easter Island... totem... emerged first. Then the eyebrows and the chin. I’m confident somewhere in my mental fog that the cheeks and eyes and all that headspace above the eyebrows will reveal themselves. They’re huge. I’ve seen their pictures - they’re 30 feet tall - and read their wikipedia pages. I’m an expert.

I know, deep down, this totem, this short story, is big. Big, I tell ya. Has to be big, it’s a frenzy in my mind, pushing and shoving every other impulse to the side and demanding to be let out. Right now. But my totem’s also a tease... Non-binary pronoun/she/he will only show me one sentence at a time, maybe an idea if I’m a good boy and haven’t stopped writing.

So, what do I do? Yep. I write.

My totem is kind, rewarding me with more sentences, as fast as I can type. And as I type, the ideas on how to develop the characters in 2-3 sentences form up, then the plot ( I know... it’s now 4PM on the last day and you’re just getting clear on the plot. True. And that’s why I keep writing... The plot’s there and it will reveal itself... if I just.keep.writing. )

5 PM. I’m over 3000 words. Now, it’s time for the tough work. Editing. That’s like sanding down rough edges on this less than 3000 word totem.

There’s material to work with, easy to spot, unnecessary. Stuff we as writer’s can’t or won’t see and stuff editors love ‘cause it helps them make the big bucks.

I start at the top, skimming at first, reading fast, wanting to keep the pace, the tone, the ‘psychedelic’ frenzy as one reviewer wrote on the eventual post. Skimming, skimming. Nope. If I start there, it’s gonna be a whole re-write. And I don’t have the gas, the drive, the mental prowess now to rewrite.

I decide to wait out this maelstrom. While I do, the stomach sees its opportunity.

Sure, you fed me lunch. But now what? Huh?

I drink a glass of water.

This will have to do for now, I tell it.

 A nap, some asanas, my TM program. They’re the comfort zone I need now. I give in to them for over an hour. Afterwards, whew. Feels so good. Relaxed, settled, happy.

I eat dinner. Stomach full, stomach happy. So, I wash the dishes, wipe everything down. An army may march on its belly, but I write on mine. As I close the last drawer, the totem seizes its chance.

Hey, are you done now, it asks. Are you gonna introduce me to your friends? It’s time. I’m good enough, aren’t I?

Yes. Yes, you are. I post the story “Hi, I’m Fred.” Reedsy people approve of ‘Fred.’ I’m happy.

I’m happy that I took the first step towards a new writing style. I don’t know where it’ll lead me. It’s just the first step.

Footnote: And today, as I write, another Fire Department rescue suv screams around the same corner and five minutes later an ambulance does the same... life in a pandemic living in a small town where the demographics skew towards the elderly, a group I joined a few months ago.

June 18, 2020 23:58

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

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