Into the Light

Exiled from Main Street XXXIV: for S.B.

This is not what you wanted to read.

Normally, you wouldn’t. Most would rally, sweep this under the rug. All the same, for whatever reason, tonight it’s the cutting-room floor, the tail end of a month that demanded that you write three stories, collate a manuscript, apply to a festival, ready for a performance and now this, the dregs of a conversation.  

But isn’t that what you wanted? A ringing phone, paying gigs, deadlines to keep. To be viewed, finally and seriously, as a writer? And yet, a longer and quieter silence falls between each word that is written.  
You look for inspiration from more than one type of bottle. You try different degrees of alchemy, and then sleep it off. Try, try again. Something must break, but what?

You’re blowing deadlines left and right, spending too much time on each. You realize just how unbelievably inefficient a worker you have become in this realm, what with bellyaching more than you write. Suddenly, you long for the comfort of a boss, someone to tell you what needs to be done and when, implicit the cutting of corners and more decent pay.

This is not what you wanted to hear.

You remember that you have to attend a funeral in a few hours. Know already that you will arrive smelling of nicotine and no sleep, your hair tossed, your suit dusty. You will stand there in the cemetery with your hands crossed, reflect on life and find it lacking somewhat. You will contemplate and understand the true meaning of the word deadline.

You look at the clock. Wonder how you get yourself in such situations. More importantly, you wonder how to get out. Knowing that there will be no normal days ahead, no nights spent abed with your girl. Even fewer calls to your friends.

Your room is a cave, dark and quiet. There’s no music even, as if that too has lost its allure or has become just that much more interference. You don’t know if you’re depressed because of the change in season, or because of your general inactivity. You haven’t seen the sun in two weeks. You barely noticed.

You remember earlier in the week, when you sat here for the better part of three days to find that you had moved so little that your knees literally bruised. Something must break, but whom?

You figure it’s not writer’s block so much as writer’s fatigue. You’re uncertain about most everything. Tired of your shtick. Of your own voice even, which sounds flat and reminiscent of your outgoing answering machine message. You’ve become a parody of yourself without having starred in a single motion picture. Without truly ever becoming.

This at a time in which your confidence is flagging. In the recent past you’ve had one piece unceremoniously rejected, watched as another was gutted. You long to reinvent yourself but don’t know how. Actually, you know how, but you simply cannot do it.

You’re not out of ideas, you tell yourself. There are pieces to be written, pieces ready to be written, and yet you are not ready to write them.

It reminds you of a dream you had recently. You opened a door and found yourself in an old room, long vacated. Opened another to find the same thing happen. You looked across the way into a past neighbor’s window, seeing if she was home. Your old landlady made an appearance. You opened another door and found yourself back in San Francisco. Room after room gave way to other apartments, and the entire time you alternated between saying “There’s no place like home” and “You can’t go home again.”

You realize that you rely on dreams too much anymore. Then wonder what this says about you.What’s more, you notice that your words don’t have quite the crackle they use to. Lines aren’t nearly as crisp. You wonder, really, if you can consider yourself a writer at all. Then you consider each word as if you’re afraid to find out.

You got the shakes, can’t relax. You think of public figures with entire days scripted before they begin. You run the other way. You tell yourself that what you have to say no longer seems pertinent. You should be absolutely screaming about world affairs, starvation, AIDS in Africa — anything, you tell yourself, but all this self-interest. You long to distance yourself from sounding like a blog, make a point to eradicate the first person singular.

You realize this is probably the first piece in a decade that you’ve written while sober, if in fact, you can call this sober. If in fact, you can call this a piece.

This is not what you wanted to read.

But then you look at what you have written in just a few hours. You immediately forget, as one should, that it might have taken days to get there. And you forgive the fact that maybe it doesn’t scream or move the way it should, because you recognize it as something not heard everyday. Suddenly, you remember why you are here in the first place.

And when you come to that last period, you do so confidently, however difficult or painful it is to read or hear. Or live for that matter. You smile to yourself, say hello to him even, and then get ready for your funeral. And, sitting on the edge of the bed, putting on a pair of black socks, you even think to yourself,maybe it’ll shine? Yeah, you say, maybe the sun will shine today?

CONTACT MARK FLANIGAN: [email protected]

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