Henry Miller died a year before I was born. I read his words and I feel like giving up altogether. Here’s a man with a voice. Here’s a writer who was ahead of his time. I feel like I write in the past. Do I even have a voice? Or is it just a jumble of words and thoughts that only work once in a while, purely by chance?
This empty page stares emotionless back at me. My scotch glass is empty but I can still smell it in the air. Can I craft an image without just stating it plainly? Do I even have style, will I ever?
Am I a writer or do I just want to be?
We’ll drive to the beach and I’ll pretend not to be cold in the ocean breeze. Miller talks about the cancer of time, but I can tell you about the cancer in my bones. It makes your blood thinner. It makes you cold no matter where you go, and no matter how beautiful the sun shines down upon your face the hairs still stand along your arms and neck and you feel a chill.
My cancer is a slander against the midday sun.
So now to craft an image? Alright.
The salt in the air mixes with the odor of sun-baked seaweed. All around the surf is a chorus of ghosts waiting for the dark. People talking and seagulls looking to steal your unwatched picnic. Children laughing, building sandcastles, happier than I can remember being in years.
The sun distorts on the horizon. Someone peels an orange upwind and the mist hangs in the air for just a moment.
It makes me wonder, is it all fleeting?
I sit at the beach with people who love me, whether I deserve it or not. Later, I sift the sand out of my socks and shoes and look for my pen but after half an hour the page is still blank. None of this makes sense. We step over the orange rind as we leave and it has lost its scent.
The ideas flare up in my brain like fireworks, they shoot down toward my fingertips but fizzle, choke, die before I can move my pen. They suffocate and turn blue, then black. I write something down anyway. It’s an odd experiment I’ll likely not repeat.
I drink some scotch just to feel it burn in my chest.
I set to writing a story but they all begin to feel the same. It’s as if I’m stuck on infinite repeat, recasting the same conflicts like a mad lib, swapping out nouns and verbs.
I pour some chardonnay and wonder if anyone will remember me thirty years after I’m gone. Will anyone talk about anything I accomplished? Not that I want to be famous, I just want to do something, to be meaningful to someone.
Later, she asks me if we just had an earthquake. I say that I don’t know and try to keep writing but I lose my train of thought.
It’s okay, though. It was nothing. It’s all meaningless, but I’ve known that for years, whether or not I could admit it.
I swirl the chardonnay and it tastes awful after scotch. It was much better when we opened it, with the lemon-peppered fish. The scent of lemon zest floating out from the kitchen. The wine doesn’t taste good now but I hate to let it go to waste.
I read some more Miller, I read aloud to her and she doesn’t like it because it makes her feel something she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t get the words, but she feels the imagery, she gets an emotional response and that’s confusing.
And she’s right. It is confusing. It’s just like life, feeling all the nonsensical emotions and being scarcely able to put them into words.
I read some more Miller, then I pour the rest of the chardonnay down the sink. It tastes awful and I just can’t do it. I’m cold and I need to sleep.
I just want to live but I all I ever do is die. I pour another scotch and swallow it down but it doesn’t burn like I remember.
The wicker chair pushes its pattern into my back. My paper is blank and my scotch glass is empty. The world leaves an impression upon me and I cannot seem to return the favor.
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© Anthony David Jacques MMX