The room grew brighter with a staccato of clicks as each bulb under the yellow lampshade lit-up in precise succession. The floor was littered with unread books and unwashed clothes. He kicked an empty bottle out of the way as his feet searched for the cold, unwelcome shock of the wooden floorboards. He did not find it. There was an unusual quiet about the morning. A thin ray of sunshine beamed through the silk curtains that draped the bay windows.
The idea was fresh in his mind. He had fumbled with it all night as he lay awake unable to submit to the sleep that flirted with him. When he did fall asleep it was as if he’d succumbed to the wounds of a battle whilst stifling the fervent exhaustion of his troubled fight. It was a peaceful, untroubled sleep and he was thirsty from it.
His foot caught in a knot of intense pain as he stood up to reach for the table. On the table was his flask, his pens and his recycled paper. He yelled a profanity stabbing the innocent silence that hung in the air like a fog, and the echo of his dark tongue fell softly on the sweet scent of that warm summer morning. A determination awoke in him with a fierce start and he knew- with certainty- that today was the day, his day. He felt his muscles relax and he twisted his ankle in a clock-wise motion. There was still a catch in the 6 o’clock position, but he chose to ignore it in favor of the thirst that was slowly getting the better of his lethargic disposition.
He drank a sip of water from his silver flask, this time reaching it successfully and without pain. A drop of water fell from his quivering lip to a blank sheet of paper below. He wiped his mouth on the soft fabric of his dressing gown as he picked up the paper with his right hand, his flask still clenched in the palm of his left. The quiver in his lip turned into a slow tremble. The first line of his book materialized within the folds of his mind. He heaved a sigh of relief as he set his things down and perched himself on the side of his bed, his feet firm against the ground.
He listened. He listened for the roar of an engine, the rustle of a dry leaf, the alarm of a mockingbird. He listened for the chirpiness in her voice as she’d welcome him into the new day. He listened for the sound of the coffeebean grinding against the steel walls of his beloved Cuisinart. He listened and he listened and he began to cry. There was an unusual quiet about the morning as his mind wandered the ghost town of his empty home. There was a staccato of clicks and whimpers as his tears commandeered the sinking vessel that his heart had become. Barring his own sorrow, which punctured the air with the pitiful sound of a profound sadness, there was still that unusual quiet about the morning, that summer, in the lonely street that wound up to the manicured terrace of San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill.
He broke into a cold sweat. He was bound to a chair in a cavernous room, waiting to be tortured until his pain gave way to his secrets. Time had stopped for him, time was irrelevant. This was torture. This transcended time. Pain always transcended time. He stared down at the blank sheet of paper knowing that every fragment of his imagination, even this one, could belong in some way or form on that blank sheet of paper before him. His pen trembled in his sweaty palms as he thought of the words that fashioned his unpleasant daydreams. He threw the blank sheet of paper down on the table and continued to stare at it for a few minutes in silent disbelief. The little drop of water had left a mark on it. The bud had bloomed into a flower. Full, but tortured. It was a delicate mark, a watermark if you will forgive the pun, and it lay there with a simple elegance, as if it belonged. He was agonized by the arrogance of that mark he had not made, that mark he had not even intended. The mark grew into a stain in the animated imagination of his tortured mind. His blood boiled slowly as he filled his cupped hand with water from the rapidly emptying flask. Drops of water splashed around his feet. It was not much, but it irritated him. The quirkiness of his behavior caught up to him in a crescendo of insanity that ended with him misdirecting the water that was meant for his face in a disgruntled, wet, slap across the face of that blank sheet of paper. He wiped his face with the moisture that remained in his hot palms, got up and fell face-first into the welcoming arms of his messy bed.
She loved him dearly. She loved him for his wild imagination and his wilder reality. He did whatever he pleased, whenever he pleased. He had the money to afford him that luxury. She loved him for his money, for it was HIS money. Money he’d earned doing what he loved. Money he’d earned before she ever loved him. She loved him with a sincerity that would even rival the promise of his money. She loved him. And he loved her. She was the first woman he loved. Perhaps not, but she was certainly the first woman he loved back. With her, he knew it would be different, and he had made his money, so, for the first time, with her, he took the chance he was always afraid to take. And he loved her for her song and her dance and the theater of her persona. They were happy together. They had everything. He had her and his writing; she had him and her music. It was beautiful.
He blamed her for everything. That warm summer noon in San Francisco, he decided that it was all her fault. She did not know. She was visiting her parents that weekend. He missed her dearly and in his heart he knew that she missed him too. She had no reason not to. She loved him. He wondered about her- she had a long train journey ahead of her. She was afraid of flying. But the very thought of her was beginning to crush him. It WAS her fault. It had to be. His happiness was her fault. This happiness was her fault. She had filled the void within him. His every reason to write. His every reason to be happy. She had made him happy without any effort of his own. The fountainhead of his inspiration was a lost, irrelevant faucet within the raging river of her affection. She had patched his yearning with her voice. She had plugged his pining with her love. He did not need his old friend anymore. He did not need a reason to write, and he didn’t. He had grown complacent. And it was her fault. It had to be.
He stared at the wet surface of the table. He extracted one sheet of paper from the dry stack. He stared at it. He held it near his face. He could smell it. He loved the smell of paper. The pleasure centers in his head lit up in familiar unison. He loved it. He missed it. He picked up his pen and drew a line through the middle of the sheet. It glided over the surface smoothly and left a wet line in its wake. He flung the pen into a corner in anger. It angered him that it was so easy. So easy to make a mark. He grabbed a pencil from his little Ikea rack. He fed it into the jaw of a sharpener and twisted it until the crunch of the wood against the blade had satisfied him plenty. He forced it against the paper and he drew a line. The friction was like a drug to him. The tension was almost erotically passionate. He loved it so much. The line grew into a scribble and the scribble grew into a practiced, calculated, cherished high. He wrote the first words that came to his mind. He wrote it without thinking. He wrote it, writing. He looked at the sheet of paper and he smiled.
It’s a simple life, an innocent life. A scribble at the end of a shaved pencil, unusually quiet in the San Franciscan night.