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The Writer's Reveries
Darrell Holland sat at his desk, his pen poised over a notebook, many of it’s pages torn out and littered across the threadbare carpet. After a moment’s thought, he scrawled a sentence along the top line of the fresh page, read it over, and immediately shook his head, letting out a sigh and absently dragging a hand through his hair nervously, glancing at the analog clock. It’s bright red numbering menacingly read that it was a quarter past two in the morning. Darrell squinted at it for a moment, as if willing it to be earlier in the night, knowing that once again he had spent the evening being completely unproductive, and that wasted paper did not pay the bills.
He pushed his chair back from his desk and stood up, walking over to the small kitchen with his usual slouched posture, feet not making a sound against the faded yellow linoleum. He pulled open the refridgerator door, as if expecting that there would be something in there besides a half full jug of milk and a carton with only a few eggs left. He shut the door quietly, as if it would disturb someone though he was, like every night, alone in his cramped apartment. He reached for a pack of ramen noodles stacked on the counter and opened it, tossing the hunk of food into a bowl, adding tap water, and putting it in the microwave. He waited, hands in the pockets of his pants, eyes on the window above the sink. As one would expect, it was dark out, save for a few streetlights. No cars went by, and the street was silent. He found his mind wandering to a time in the past, to a different street, one with houses with stereotypical white picket fences, green, freshly trimmed lawns, with safe sidewalks, and a well paved road, mailboxes lined up like military men waiting every morning for a new delivery, sweet repitition. Men in ties carrying briefcases on the front steps kissing their wives goodbye as they left for work, children walking to school. It seemed a different world then; a wish, or a dream. Darrell pulled himself back to reality, and pushed those thoughts out of his mind. The best way to get rid of them was to ignore them completely, to pretend that they did not exist and never had.
But they did exist, didn’t they?
No. It was never real. That is why she packed her bags while he was off at a meeting with a publisher, why she took everything and left with no warning, no hints. She did not leave a note, didn’t give him even a semblence of an explanation. She did not even give him a reason to hate her, to leave behind the life that they had shared, to find some way to move on. The publisher didn’t want his novel; his wife didn’t want him.
He was once again brought to the present by the microwave’s beeping, an incessant, annoying noise bidding him to open it and take out his now overcooked, soggy noodles. He grabbed the nearest fork and sat down at the table, looking across from him as he always did, almost expecting to see someone sitting there. There was nothing but the chair he had gotten off of someone’s lawn with a ‘free’ sign pinned to the chipped paint.
To drown out the thoughts that were now once again threatening to flood into his mind, he focused on the wall, on the way the white wasn’t white anymore but still called such because the landlord was too cheap to get it repainted before renting it out.
Darrell had known for months that they had been having problems. She was more and more distant, and whenever she talked to him, it was complaints about his lack of a job, about how his writing would never support them as it was as boring as he was and no publisher wanted anything to do with it, of how said writing was better marketed as a way to fall asleep than a work of fiction, of how he was a wreck of a man but she loved him, and that was enough. He loved her too, of course. More than the made up women in his books, more than his long gone female relatives that lived across the country and hadn’t called in years. Didn’t that count for something, loving her more than anything?
He halfheartedly stirred his now cold noodles, and took a bite, swallowing past the sudden lump in his throat, then felt sick to his stomach. He stood up and dumped the bowl down the sink, and went back to his desk. He needed to write something. But the words that had once flowed so freely from his mind and seemed like they were worth reading had fled, leaving him with, as his former wife and countless publishers had told him, pure literary junk that was better used as fuel for a fire than reading. What he needed was inspiration; something to work with, an idea.
He still remembered the day he met her. It had been his third year in college, and her first. She was going to get a degree in psycology, which was fitting, since she had a tendency to analyze every word from his mouth with all of the precision of a doctor. He, of course, was studying English, and it’s uses in writing. She was his muse; his inspiration. Every character he ever came up with had some part of the many nuances of her personality, some snippet of her. He did not just love her in those days; he worshipped her. She was attractive, smart, and charming, and she gave him the time of day, unlike most other women he’d encountered. She wasn’t interested in looks, she said, only intelligence. She wanted someone she could carry on a conversation over dinner with, and Darrell seemed like a good candidate. They were married as soon as she graduated from college, a year or two after he dropped out and struggled to start his writing career.
He was still struggling now, seated at his cluttered desk in the middle of the night attempting to think of just one sentence, a few words, the simplest of syllabuls. He stared at the blank paper as if from his eyes could spring something profound, something worth reading. Nothing came, and the minutes passed like hours.
A year into their marriage, she announced that she was pregnant. They hadn’t planned on having children so early, but both were happy nonetheless. They bought parenting books and read them as if they were the holy bible, furnished the spare bedroom, told all of their relatives and friends, exaulted in the fact that a tiny miracle had come from them and was now growing, day by day. They came up with names, but none seemed perfect, and they didn’t know the gender, either; she wanted to be surprised when it was born.
He stood up again, restless, and walked to the door, unlocking it and venturing outside, the cold night air causing him to shiver. He strolled down the sidewalk aimlessly, hands still in his pockets, eyes on the cracks in the pavement, counting them to distract himself. One, two, three, four… It was no use at all.
On a seemingly normal day in the middle of summer, he came home from the grocery store, with the usual types of food that she’d always been craving, and found her in the room that was to belong to their child. She was sitting on the floor, holding a baby blanket her mother had sent in her hands, sobbing as if she were an infant, and not the future mother of one. When she saw him come in, she got up, set the blanket down, wiped her eyes, and told him without any beating around the bush or sugar coating that she had miscarried and that she never wanted to try for another baby. He didn’t try to dissuade her.
Darrell stopped at a streetlight, peering up at the light. Moths were fluttering around it, as if they were in some kind of trance. They reminded him of people, with their endless, same routines, same failures, always reaching too high for something they couldn’t ever attain, struggling like insects to escape the spider’s web of inevitability.
That was when everything changed, when he stopped catching her smiling at him for no apparent reason, adoration in her eyes as if he were the sun in the sky. She barely smiled at all; and those rare smiles were not for him. They started arguing, before she just began ignoring him completely. He wanted to tell her that he loved her, that he wanted to make things work again, that he wanted her to be happy, more than anything. But he didn’t know how, just as he didn’t know how to write the perfect novel. And so, he didn’t.
He started walking again, as if the aimless steps forward could bring him towards somewhere worth being, to a future where he wouldn’t be stuck in place wondering what may have been if only he had told her. He raised his eyes, and then he saw her. She was walking down the empty street, wearing a dress that she knew was his favorite, her wedding ring she’d left on the bedside table on her finger again. She had come back, the love of his life. He walked towards her, towards the light behind her, almost blinded by the radiance of a newfound hope.
The car sped forward, the driver not noticing the man walking down the street until he was right upon him, headlights illuminating his face for an instant before the car slammed into him, sending him flying across the road and finally to the pavement. The rain had started coming down in a light drizzle, and there was blood mixing with the puddles, crimson against the murky water. The driver got out, and saw immediately that the man was dead; but he had never had a chance to realize it. His face was still an expression of hope, of happiness; his beloved had come back to him at last, and once again, they were together.