The Red X


I am sitting at my desk to type this post.  I am going to sit here and type the whole thing whilst on my less than comfortable chair.  I am not going to pull the laptop back to my lap and sit back on the bed.  I bought this desk for a reason.  I think I am becoming Quasimodo, hunchback-wise (his most salient descriptor, I suppose, aside from the ugliness we conflate with hunchbackery) and I think it’s unhealthy.   I know it is because it causes me pain in my shoulders as they wrap around me. I feel the straitjacket of my own ribcage, my own arms protectively surrounding me, squeezing my heart.   There are no breasts, there is no body, there is just a shape.  The shape that holds the phone up to the face and takes in cat videos and shimmies fingers to set timers that are inevitably ignored.  The inertia is profound and negligible.  When I can’t, I don’t.  There have been so many days when I don’t, though, that I stop asking whether or not I can.

I will stop when it hurts enough.

I am noticing today how much better my mind feels when I read, when I listen to intellectually provocative material, when I engage myself in an inquiry not just of self, but of the media I take in.  When I push.  Laying/sitting/reclining in the bed day in and day out has some sort of knock-on effect of relaxing my ability to coalesce thought.  I am not treating my writing as the honorable, necessary exercise that it is.  As the lover I love, who loves me so desperately that he calls to me at all hours, murmurs in my ear, pets my arm and says “Let’s just try, it’s only just for us.”  In response, I shift and turn my back and say, just one more video, just one more act of creative voyeurism, the release of looking at worlds made and projects lifted up to the light.   I know the muse feels the coldness, I know the muse feels regret.  We could be so good together if I could just let it in.

Every now and then, though, I sit up and I say.  Okay.  I say, if you’re sure we’re not going to make this a big deal.  If we’re just going to play.  The pilot light bursts forth in a shroud of heavenly blue, the shoulders release, the dancers stretch their legs.  The muse and I climb beyond the bay window and walk down to the water and watch this far-distant ship slowly turn and bring itself into the harbor.  After what feels like hours of waiting, it finally drops anchor and all of the pirates jump over the the hull and swing ropes onto shore.  The dancers emerge and guide them up off the beach and in the rough-hewn, thatched-roof cantina, we drink with them and listen to their adventures.  Their hungers, their thirsts, their old shanty songs and we take notes.  They don’t mind us eavesdropping, not so long as we let them dance with the dancers and drink all the mead.  Eventually, they drop, drunk, exhausted and drained of all their stories and we crawl away so as not to wake them.  There are only a few hours left until sunrise and they won’t be here in the morning.

Every now and then, the notes are readable, they make a sort of map.  And every now and then, the muse and I climb up over the bluff, and eastward, and south-south-eastward, and look for the stand of three threes that reach up as if in prayer.  We use branches and invented shovels, and sweat away just at dawn, just as the sky moves from its groves of oranges and violets to that first breath of heavenly blue and dig at the red x.  Deeper and deeper into the sandy soil, until there is a thump.  We’ve hit something.

Every now and then we open the chest and it is not empty.  It carries in it another map that the water and acid of the soil has not tainted.  And every now and then, though our arms are tired and we’re keen for a picnic, the muse and I will follow that map to the next.  We will go until once in a very great while, when we’ve forgotten the clever pirates’ great claims of riches and spoils and are only concerned over discovering the next Red X, and we’ll use our dirt-stuffed fingernails to claw open a chest that holds no map.

It will seem empty at first.  But we’ll sit still, blinking at it and at each other for a very long while.  It feels different, the muse will say.  It does, I will say. It feels like an ending.   Satisfied, aching, under a heavenly blue made dark save for its map of stars, we’ll head back to the shoreline and try to sleep.