It's national novel-writing month, so here are a few hastily crafted words I wrote while under the influence of NyQuil.
Everything looks better covered in summer night. The newspapers half disintegrating on the sidewalk, the chipping swing set paint, my dull loneliness. The knot in my stomach loosens just a little as warm air wraps around everything like a blanket.
Night music follows me. My steady footsteps, rustling leaves, the distant sounds of cars growing close then growing far. As I walk, I paint descriptions in my head. Trees dripping leaves. Tire swings still echoing shrieking laughter. Shop lights creeping closer. As long as I can remember, I’ve done this. It’s the best way I know to bring the world sharply into focus, turning what I see into words to string about like Christmas lights. Without words, I find my mind floating, floating, floating, a boat without a rudder. It’s nice to float sometimes, but I ache for handfuls of concrete world most days. Breaths escaping like runaway children.
Up ahead, I see the bookstore. I stumbled upon it two nights ago and felt a burst of relief so sharp I almost wept. I’ve lived here three weeks and this bookstore is the closest thing I have to a friend. Before moving, I lived in the same city, same neighborhood, same house for thirteen years. I don’t remember how to make friends. I do remember how to fall soul-first into a good book.
A bell chimes as I open the door. The cashier, a red-headed boy with kind eyes, looks up. “Back so soon?”
I smile. “Live here if I could.”
He nods in a me too way before bending back over a stack of books.
I amble toward the realistic fiction section. Grazing my fingertips across rows of gleaming books, I scan titles, stopping occasionally to thumb through pages for favorite lines. Good lines are like pieces of candy you can suck on whenever you wish.
After working my way through four aisles, her. Toni Morrison. Writing that shakes you alive. Words that suck the air from a room.
I started with Sula last year and remember feeling like I had been knocked dizzy. My pen danced across the pages, underlining line after line. I wanted to guzzle her words. For a month I scrawled a different line from Sula on my wrist each morning. The first:“It is sheer good fortune to miss somebody long before they leave you.” The last: “I don’t want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.” I could have kept going but I let Megan borrow my copy. Plus my wrist had started to bleed purple pen onto my shirts.
After Sula, I read Beloved, Home, and Tar Baby. I’m going to finish all her words this summer. I pull Jazz, Bluest Eyes, and Song of Solomon off the shelf and sit cross legged on the floor. I read the first two pages of each and then place them side by side. I have enough money to buy two, but not three. I reread the first lines. No help. Finally I close my eyes and shuffle them about; without looking, I pick up two. Song of Solomon is the orphan book staring lonely from the floor. “I’m sorry,” I whisper, placing it reverently back on the shelf. “I’ll come back.”
I probably shouldn’t book whisper in a new city where no one knows me, but Song of Solomon just looked so rejected. I think the pages wilted a little when I put them back.
Walking home I notice just how many pieces of the world flew by without my noticing. A blue door, a crooked mailbox, a car plastered in bumper stickers. In my old neighborhood, I played a game with myself. Any time I walked somewhere I’d try to notice something I hadn’t before. You’d think eventually I’d lose after living in the same place for thirteen years, but I never did. Now my eyes catch on everything. Rooftops blinking through missing shingles. Windows framed by peeling yellow paint. Oil stains splattered across driveways like Jackson Pullock pieces.I string my surroundings together in fragmented descriptions until I notice, with a shock, that grass gleaming wet belongs to my house.