“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel like I should be doing something else.”
A dark smokey morning welcomes me, eerie and quiet, an orange halo wraps around my city. It’s been six months since the initial shelter-in-place order, followed by alternately relaxing and tightening the guidelines; I am no longer able to keep track of those. I drag myself out of bed and walk into the kitchen where my husband hands me a hot cup of coffee in a red mug, the word love is scribbled on it with soft white letters. The warm liquid revives my senses, I rely on it now more than usual to whisk myself into my work.
At my desk, still wearing my pajamas, my brain feels dull, the blinking cursor an endless reminder that I am at a loss for words, any words. Normal life may not return until 2021. Dr. Fauci’s words ring in the room like a nagging mosquito, invisible, whistling in my ear. On the edge of town, people are being evacuated to safety, some will never return home, fear is a normal part of our lives. We fear the virus, we fear the fires, the once-in-a-generation afflictions. I turn on Mozart Requiem, I don’t know what else to listen to while I’m trying to settle my mind. Mozart is reliable, promising concentration, but not too much stimulation. After six months of working from home without more than grocery store curbside pickup once a week, I miss the occasional eavesdropping in my favorite hipsterish neighborhood cafe, a steamy latte next to my open laptop, waiting for that one word from the adjoining table that will jump start my verbal exploration. But today, those small ordinary artist dates like taking myself to the art museum or a mindful stroll in the neighborhood have halted in the distant past. Our lives simulate a scene from Don DeLillo’s postmodern novel White Noise. A sigh escapes into the room, mixes with the laments of Mozart’s vocal lines , I take the last sip of coffee to rid myself of the smoke that settled in my throat, in spite of the shuttered house.
My brain is uncooperative, the routines of my morning ineffective, my fingers are frozen on the keyboard, even my expensive fountain pen reserved for such an occasion is not doing the trick. Outside, ash falls from the darkness, flakes of dreariness get lost in a chasm of denials. Requiem mourns the loss of logic. I need to switch gears, to escape a reality that is more bizarre than the fiction I will write today. I am depleted of my creative vitality, craving an external source of replenishment to breathe life into my work. And so I shuffle my index cards, a well of ideas to choose from:
My fingers are in position on the keyboard, energized, ready to go. I write, I print, I love the scraping sound of my pencil scribbling frantically on my WIP. Requiem’s dramatic final note resounds with a proclamation, the darkness and the rain of ashes stay out of my work for a little while, long enough to write a word, a paragraph, a page.