Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Writer's Block (Fiction)

The air was brisk on my face as I made my way down the uneven path. Clouds were rolling about in the overcast sky and I could smell rain coming. Small shoots of pain were radiating up from my heels each time my feet hit the pavement, but I kept on. I passed by a yard and spotted the Saturday Post. Saturday, finally. I started the day a little later and I was feeling off. I couldn’t tell if it was a physical thing, or if it was just that the sun wasn’t out, rare for late July in Swift Current. Whatever the reason, I felt anxiety raising the hair on my arms and neck, and I kept swallowing against an uneasy lump in my throat.

Determined to lose weight before my ten-year college reunion, I’d been jogging steadily for the past few weeks. The exercise had paid off—I was down nearly fifteen pounds by scale, and a reasonable bit by measurements, but I was still relieved the reunion was the following weekend and I wouldn’t have to maintain the pace. I knew I shouldn’t care what other people thought, but I’d been really thin—model like—in college, and the thought of showing up as an overweight divorcee was a hard image to bear.

Rain began peppering my face and I picked up speed, hoping to get in at least twenty minutes before I got too wet. Friggin rain. Ever since I worked as a television photographer, I wasn’t overly fond of the weather. Life as a shooter is much worse than a postal carrier’s; you don’t just have to just be out in the weather, you have to record it—make it beautiful for viewers to watch. On a typical “snow day” when everyone else has a slower day, or even stays at home, we’re busting our asses trying to get shots of cars stalled, people shovelling, any shit you would associate with a heavy snowfall.

The last snow day happened late spring, and I couldn’t find a single pair of winter gloves at the nearby deserted mall. I’d spent the day literally chasing ambulances, getting footage of them having to stop at the end of a snowed in block, paramedics trying to get to some senior who had chest pains after a vigorous morning of shovelling. After years of covering that, you really began to resent Mother Nature.

The rain was falling heavier now, so I decided to turn and head back. Being cold made me miserable, and I wanted to try and keep my sour mood from developing any further. My feet were clapping against the sidewalk when the truck came careening at me. There was only a surreal whooshing sound before it jumped the sidewalk to hit me, the truck continuing on without hesitation as I lay bleeding and blacking out.

I remember nothing of those first 72 hours, and remember even less now, but the noise often wakes me at night to leave me chilled and covered in sweat, unsure of my whereabouts.


My face was wet, and my eyes opened to see moonlight streaming through the curtains of my bedroom window. It took a moment for me to determine I was at my parent’s house surrounded by the youth of my old room. I’d been dreaming about the college reunion again. This time I was newly divorced with three children, and I’d not been able to get a babysitter. Coming through the doors of the college lounge, the kids were crying and former classmates were strange and staring. “My name is” felt hot against my bare flesh, as I looked down in a daze to realize none of us were wearing clothes. I started to cry and the scene melted before me, like paint washing slowly off a wet canvas.

I shook my head to dislodge the feelings and images and went to the window. Out in the backyard, I could clearly make out a few jackrabbits humping in the garden. Nausea welled up in my stomach and I had to run to make it to the bathroom, weakness pulling at my legs. Hot spasms gripped me as I slumped over the toilet. My forehead was burning as I gulped in stale perfumed air. My mother wore Obsession by Calvin Klein, and it was lingering, oddly heavy in the bathroom. I could hear the faint snoring of my father coming from their bedroom down the hall.

After minutes of laboured breathing, the cramps began to ease and I finally stood, my reflection a harsh reminder of the torment I'd felt over the last few months. Sunken dark shadows were a permanent fixture beneath my eyes and my skin was paler than ever. Green eyes were a bit too bright, and my expression was fevered. I couldn’t remember when I’d had my last bath, and my hair hung in greasy clumps.

I’d been at my parent’s since the accident, and was on long-term disability from my job at the newspaper. Guilt plagued me daily as I worried over returning to work. Depression had settled in nicely, but being unfamiliar with such a thing, I thought I was simply tired and lacking in motivation. Despite assurances what I was feeling was natural, expected even, I shut down during the support group meetings I’d been forced to attend by my parent's doctor. I was in a living hell.

The slam of a car door startled me and I headed back to the window. The gate latch clicked softly, and I could see my mother making her way quietly to the porch, gingerly side stepping loose boards my father never bothered to repair. After a final tilt of her hand, she was inside and a car pulled slowly away, gravel crunching eerily under new tires. I fell to the bed, stunned. Her footsteps were stealthy and I remained frozen as she made her way up the stairs, my heart loud in my ears. I strained to hear her walk down the hall. She stopped in the bathroom and made quick busy noises, before switching the light off to creep back downstairs to the couch.