For days, you have chosen to stay in and write. You will continue to stay in and write from the wooden, green and brown thrift store chair you purchased for $8 until something profound gushes from your fingertips. An altruistic muse who will whisper secrets into your ear and give you permission to reproduce them in your own way and claim the original idea as your own will visit you. As she sings sweetly, she will cup her hand at your ear to be heard over the bleating smoke detector that chirps in a sequential tick every 36 seconds from a nearby, undisclosed location. It is either attached to the ceiling in the hallway of the apartment complex you have not left or perhaps it hovers from your neighbor’s ceiling like an upside-down bat that clings to the slick rooftop of a dark cave. Because you can hear your neighbor’s loneliness at work through a vent in your bathroom, you decide this is the most likely possibility. At first you feel embarrassed and ashamed for being witness to your neighbor’s audible rummaging. Then it occurs to you that in the past few days, you consumed only what was available to you, which was a total of four frozen tamales purchased at a nominal fee from Trader Joe’s on NW Glisan. You decide that suffering the consequences of your dietary imbalance grants you the authority to be stationed in your bathroom like a prism of light that dances on the wall at 1 PM when the sun hangs directly overhead and reaches through a crystal dangling from a suction-cup at the window like vanilla ice cream slurped through a straw in 1957 at the counter of a milkshake diner. As another 36 seconds passes and you stare at the cotton ripples of a hand towel that is draped over a rack as uneven as your thoughts, the hidden smoke detector chirps once again and you decide that it is the fate of your 4:32 AM sleeplessness to garner strength as your body hunkers further into the pull of gravity and your mind becomes nervously agitated and increasingly sensitive to sound. That is when you hear a diesel barrel down the 405 right outside your apartment unit. Its weight and velocity combined with its proximity to your fourth floor apartment unit makes the floor move in waves and you are reminded of the many tremors you have felt since moving to California in 2001. You think of how mighty your desire to flee the Midwest was and the close encounters you experienced on your drive West through the southern route that eventually led you to a barren desert where the white lines designating this lane or that lane streaked by to create a never-ending runway of road. It is with this memory that you decide you are a survivor and will dive back under the sheets and try a new sleeping position that will fit perfectly with your shot nerves and lull you quietly to sleep. You do not fall sleep immediately so you go back to lying on your stomach in the only position you know will work. You twist your neck like an attentive owl searching the night for prey from the frail branch of a tall pine tree. It is at least an hour later when you wake to find that you cannot move and are stuck in this craned position like the chalk outline of a suicide jumper on the busy sidewalk of the Financial District following the apex of an economic crisis. As you slowly peel yourself from the protruding coils of a mattress that might have been around to witness the alleged birth of Christ, you stagger crabwise to the kitchen window to stare out and try to guess what time it might be. The sky is a shade of deep blue you have not seen since you were a child mixing watercolors together with uncoordinated hands as you sat at the traditional flat wooden desktop of an elementary school classroom with speckled linoleum floor beneath your feet. You frantically spattered the worn V-neck tee shirt that your father gave you to wear when painting to protect the hand-me-down clothes that you would soon outgrow. Somehow, you managed to mix the perfect amount of black with blue and some other random color you mistakenly poured into the mixture and it became the same hue as it is outside now. It is not just deep blue; it is an otherworldly blue and you think of the definition of the, “blue hour” and decide that is what you are looking at beyond the screen of the kitchen window. There is something encouraging about this new color that you store in the part of your brain that operates on its own schedule and with a set of rules you cannot perceive to be logical. You decide this is where your muse must live and you feel closer to her than you have since arriving in Portland. It is that exact moment you realize you have hit bottom, which is an elevator ride up one floor from the unfinished, earthen floor basement where you have been spending most of your time. You step lightly out onto the surface of this new environment as if walking on leaves to sneak up on an unsuspecting deer and find that it is solid yet somehow fragile like you imagine the thick layer of ice was on the pond where you first learned to ice skate over frozen ripples that reminded you of an Atlantis globe that you rubbed your childlike finger over to understand terrain like a blind man interprets the nubs of brail as a string of words that make up a sentence. With light now trickling in through your blinds and turning your room the color of wheat flour, you smile and melt into the thought of being at one with the muffled sounds of a nearby city that once drove you to believe you would never know your dear friend “silence” ever again.
In the late morning, she will visit you. Your muse will tap you gently awake; you are sure of this. As you finally dose off, you are jolted awake when you hear what sounds like gunfire but is only a nail gun at the hands of a construction worker next door. It is now noon and the sun is out so you decide to walk into it. The day is calm and inviting and it occurs to you that your white room up on the fourth floor has made you insane so you begin to distance yourself from it. The further you stroll, the prettier the landscape becomes and you discover a place where people sit outside in wicker chairs and dogs stretch with front paws to hold themselves up to drink from water fountains that run all day. Everyone seems okay with this and it is right there on the corner you’re standing on that you realize all of what concerns you is made up and unimportant so you decide that you will no longer try to write. Instead, you elect to live while you still have a heart that beats inside of your candy cane ribcage.
© Benjamin Green