There’s a picture of a girl on my desktop that I wish I could be. She’s beautiful and wistful and smart, all the things that I wish I had more of in myself. The girl on the screen, there’s nothing wrong with her eyes, there’s nothing lacking in her spirit. She can do anything and make it look easy. She can promise something and you know that she’ll get it done. She never lies, and she’s rarely scared. She controls her anger, she controls her love, and she knows her heart better than anyone could.
It’s a cold July night in Colorado; if you can call 63 degrees cold. There’s a light breeze coming from the west and moisture in the air under a cloud-filled sky. There’s a promise of a good tomorrow in the darkness of 11 o’clock.
A girl in a red kimono is sitting on the second story balcony of an apartment complex. She’s put a navajo rug and beachtowel on the concrete ledge and sits with arm hanging over the empty space leading down the bush and bramble below. She has her hair back for evening sleep that she feels will never come. And inside and to her right her boyfriend is locked in a fantasy world far away.
She wonders, is this how I made others feel when I was writing of starships and swords for all those years? Why were they all so understanding, and why am I not?
A car pulls up just as STYX starts playing on her computer, “Crystal Ball” sings the song, telling the story of her woes better than any words could from her own mouth. She considers that she is very selfish, and then banishes the darker thoughts that come with such an admission. She tells herself this empty feeling in her chest is her own infidelity, her own fear. Of course she is loved, of course she has a life beyond the keys of computer and ink of her pen. Of course there is more than the gathering blackness of a sleepless night.
When did she start becoming so insecure, she doesn’t remember, but it seems like it wasn’t always thus.
A figure walks through the black on the street below behind all the parked cars. He’s got a limp, and she thinks “at least I’m not him.” She thinks he has a beard, some homeless old man with a vietnam ballcap and a worn windbreaker. Then she see’s him in the motion-sensored light, she see’s that he’s not old, not yet. And in the blackness she can’t see the lines etched in his face, marking out his history.
She wonders “how surreal, how strange, this could be a good story” and she begins designing a character around this person, a simple person walking down the road with no sense of purpose. She looks at him and says to herself “he walks as though he was born to walk, with no destination, just the ability to walk and so he walks.” There are those born to sing and they sing until they can sing no more or fame and fortune claim them. There are those born to dance and they dance well until the same black fate takes them into it’s arms, promising immortality in the “Michael Jackson” sense of the word, the “Elvis Presley” sense, the “JFK” sense. And that horrid sentence is passed.
But then there are those just content to walk. They do not dance in the street, they do not sing aloud, they just walk as passive as their feet allow. She begins to wonder “here is a man at complete peace.” And then “I should learn how to walk that way.”
But by the time she concludes this notion, the man is gone, and so is his walk, and there’s only the dark evening with it’s moistened breath, and she finally thinks “maybe…maybe I’ll sleep tonight.”
And she doesn’t dare whisper this thought for fear that the little sliver of belief it holds would vanish upon speaking; so she curls it up like the last crumb of bread in a depression, she stows it in her heart and says “I am strong enough tonight, I do not need sleep yet.” ANd she hordes the bread of her dreams until a day when she can finally slip into them, devour them, and never return.
And she thinks “maybe I’m a little like that girl on my laptop after all.”
Not beautiful, not intelligent, but maybe a little brave.
And the romances of the world tell us that a little bravery is all that’s needed to start an adventure.