I don’t know why I didn’t bring my laptop. Perhaps it was my recent inability to write that left me believing that I would not need it during my time here in Indonesia. I was sitting in my hotel room, addictively reading Patti Smith’s book, “Just Kids,” when the familiar, frantic compulsion to write started penetrating my nerves. It’s a maddening feeling. Shortness of breath. Blood pulsing through my body so that the veins on the top of my hand rise above the flatness of my skin. My fingers shake and my mind races. I know I must write. It’s not a choice. Like a drug addict going through withdrawals, the only way to calm this feeling is to feed my addiction. I know that this is not the correct analogy to use. My writing is not comparable to a drug addiction, but the symptoms when I am called to write are much like a drug-induced state.
I close my book without finishing the sentence that I was reading and without inserting my bookmark. I pace back and forth my hotel room grabbing things I cannot forget before leaving…my room key, my cell phone, my wallet. I open the door and step out. Crap…my shoes. I go back in and force them on without untying the laces. I lock the door and begin a fast-paced walk to the elevator. It says it’s currently at the first floor and I’m on the forth, so I look to my left and decide that scurrying down the steps would be faster. I slow my pace as I hit the floor of the lobby and without looking at anyone I walk straight out the front doors of the hotel. Once I am sure I am out of sights, I begin running in the direction of a shop that I passed yesterday that has computers that you can pay to use. I see the entire piece of writing in my mind. Each sentence is formed with ease. Euphoria and excitement fill my body. Clarity fills my mind. Expression becomes easy, and for those who know me, emotional expression has never been my strong point. In fact, it’s the one thing I can be counted on to falter at. Verbally, I’m awkward. My mind is so manic that my mouth cannot voice my thoughts at the pace that each flighting thought passes.
“Sit down, I have something to say,” I said to her in our last encounter the night before I left.
We sat facing each other and my mouth was half open, my eyes staring into hers, but I was saying nothing. I had rehearsed the entire conversation in my head. I knew the main points I wanted to make, but as always I couldn’t verbalize them. Finally, I spoke.
“I want to say that…that…I am somebody who has always been here…I have never left. I do anything for you. I have never given up on you and I’ve taken your crap for a month now. So, what I want to say is that…you need to stop because I’m somebody who has never left you.”
The sentences were marked by awkward pauses where I was trying to find the words to finish my statements. I was making my point, but not in a poetic way. I was repeating myself and stumbling over my words.
I finally raised my eyes to hers. She was smiling.
“Okay,” she said as she leaned in and kissed me. “Okay.”
Normally, I would be irritated at the fact that she replied to my display of vulnerability with a one word response, but her eyes and kiss said more than anything she could have spoke. This was one of the few moments that I verbally, face-to-face, expressed my devotion and love to her.
I have always had a wrenching disjointed feeling of my place in the world. Intellectually, I have met very few people who connected with me and understood my thought process. It’s a lonely feeling that I have lived with my whole life, but within her I found mutual understanding. We shared the same pain and we eased each others.
Growing up, my great-grandmother and father would tell you that I always had a pen and paper nearby. It’s true. I was always making lists. Wish lists. To do lists. I would write down the amount of money I had and make a list allocating how I would spend it. I contributed to deforestation more than any other 10 year old I have ever met.
Up until I was 22 years old I had never wrote though. I remember the first time I did. It was a letter to my girlfriend, Elizabeth. She was my first overpowering encounter with love and loss of self-control. I was young and made many mistakes with her that I regretted for many years up until making my peace with her recently. I wrote her a letter once explaining how I had fallen short of my own starring role in the fairytale movie of us. I remember her loving that letter, and for the first time someone told me I was a good writer. As we fell apart, she gave me the letter back explaining how she could not keep it because it would be a constant reminder, but I have kept it throughout the years.
That year I began writing letters to my biological mother, who I’m estranged from, as a way to release my frustration and feelings of abandonment. My moods swayed with each letter. Some were filled with anger, blaming her for my inability to trust people and my failed ability to sustain a healthy relationship, while others were sympathetic and forgiving and noted our mutual struggle to survive in this world. I never sent any of the letters, but I wrote them.
After my relationship came to a final ending, I slipped into the darkest place I had ever visited. It was so dark that even time, which should have allowed my eyes to adjust and see something other than deep black, didn’t help for many months to come. I learned that distractions were the only thing that stopped the crying. I’m not talking about distractions like hanging out with friends or taking up a hobby. I’m talking about distractions that completely monopolize your mind so that there is no possibility of feeling or concentrating on anything other than the task at hand. Television has that affect sometimes, but writing came to be my favorite distraction. Yes, to write about her was to think about her, however, I focused on the writing. Sometimes I would harness an emotion and would cry as I wrote, but most often writing would lift the weight that use to paralyze my body on the floor as I cried. I was clearing my mind of the thoughts that circled and I was letting my feelings escape my body through my fingers and onto the screen. I only did this at my lowest points when cigarettes and car drives would not help to ease my pain. Then I moved to San Diego, California.
The move was a good choice, perhaps even a destined choice that I was meant to make and was the reason I failed at my relationship, but I was still struggling to lift myself from the depression of lost love. I took up writing intermittently again, but never consistently. My writing was always about her. A year after moving I looked at the forty pages of writing stored on my computer. At this point, nobody was privy to my thoughts. I was secretly ashamed of them. I wrote with absolute honesty, regardless of how it made me look. That honesty scared me because I believed it painted a picture of me being selfish, crazy, manipulative, and codependent.
I hadn’t a best friend in the world until a few months earlier when Rachael and I forged a friendship that would later come to be unyielding and inexplainable to me. For the first time I let someone in. I handed her the pages and she sat in the lobby of my work at Starbucks for hours that night reading every word. I often glanced towards her sitting at the table, and each time her eyes were darting from line to line. I was trying to read her expression. Does she like it? Is she judging me? She finished it by the end of my shift and on the drive home she recited her favorite parts, recalling them as vividly as I had wrote them. I had moved my first person besides Liz, and Rachael’s confidence in my writing was the initial assurance that lead me on a path that would eventually leave me feeling as though I found my calling in life. She believed in me, and I found myself in the words that I wrote. I found myself in the way I moved others. I finally felt as though I fit in somewhere, and that somewhere was in the minds of readers. But I haven’t yet figured out how to do that.
I have always hated the belief that the world we live in is filled with arrogance and a who-do-you-know way of reaching the top. The one thing I love about art is that it’s an area that isn’t judged based on your education or resume. Instead, an artist is judged on his or her ability to move or inspire people, and sometimes an amateur can do that as good as a New York Times bestseller. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get someone to look at your writing, let alone publish it, without having something to give them.
“Where have you been published?” They ask. Unfortunately, a “nowhere” response won’t get you taken seriously. I guess even the art world is filled with the same obstacles as the rest of the world.
That’s when I formulated my idea this afternoon. When I get home I’m going to start up my own magazine. I was editor-in-chief for my college newspaper, so I have the knowledge of the publication process and the resources needed. I have plenty of artistic friends to help supply content. The beauty of the magazine is that it will be an outlet for all the local unpublished artists, whatever medium they use. There will be no arrogance, only beautiful art to move readers.