Raw. Red. I hold up my hands in front of my face. Didn’t think to bring gloves. Who would need them on a tropical vacation? My fingers look like rare steak. What I wouldn’t give for a sizzling rib-eye straight off the grill right now. And mashed potatoes smothered in gravy. Or just a cup of coffee so hot my head snaps back when my lip touches the stinging liquid. And I’m a vegetarian who hates coffee.
I lean back and laugh into the muffled universe. The guffaw comes from deep in my gut. The sound of it fills up the narrow spaces between snowflakes and falls to the ground. I didn’t know I could laugh like that. If I get out of this, I’m going to laugh like that from now on.
I stare into the sameness before me, searching for patterns. Random. White. No matter what direction I look. After a while, the sameness resolves into Mandelbrot sequences of darker white against a tentative horizon. Bush-shaped lumps appear and morph.
There, a dancing ogre. That one looks like a giant bunny with twisted ears. They say the human brain is wired to see things where nothing exists. Supposedly, it’s a survival tool. The wiring that manufactures a forest sprite in the foliage also spots a lurking saber-toothed tiger more readily. Those with the best imaginations survived to contribute to the gene pool.
I don’t think my imagination is going to be much help now. I am encased in a bit of wreckage, just me and my imagination. My little bit of jetsam slid down a long hill before depositing me against a boulder. The rest of the plane is probably miles behind. Whichever way behind is.
Everything is so quiet since I regained consciousness. The spinning and screaming seems like a dream. Miraculously, my backpack is still with me, the result of intense paranoia. I had kept the strap coiled around my arm–just in case. You never can tell when someone might snag an untethered carry-on and parachute out with their loot.
I rummage through my emergency travel supplies, packed in case the airline loses my luggage. I unroll my all-occasion shirt and tug it on over my head, marveling at its wrinkle-free finish despite my hasty packing. I had been in such a hurry.
Did I leave the iron on? Images of the ironing board engulfed in flames seem comforting. I hold my hands out to the imaginary conflagration.
That was foolish. I tuck them back under my armpits. Once I can feel them again, I resume rummaging. My extra pair of jeans will never fit over my airplane pants–or my leg, which is skewed at a sickening angle below the knee. I can’t feel it, which is probably not good. Or maybe it is. Draped across my thighs, the jeans provide a haphazard shield against the gusting wind.
If only I’d done what I was supposed to do, instead of manufacturing excuses. If only I wasn’t so damnably afraid all the time. Afraid I wouldn’t measure up. Afraid I wouldn’t be the best. I can’t stand not being the best. Another gene holdover from my ancestors? First one there gets the biggest chunk of mammoth.
Damn, I’m hungry. At the bottom of my pack I find two mints from the airport restaurant and a grody-looking cough drop. It’s sugar-free. Figures.
Wait. There’s a fiber bar. Manna from heaven! Don’t know how long that’s been in there. Don’t care.
I should savor it. Probably my last one. Ever.
Screw it. I’ve never been able to eat slowly; no point changing now. I force open the resistant plastic wrapper with trembling hands. It’s gone in seconds. I’ve watched my dog gulp down food like that. This must be their world, never knowing whether there would be another meal. I’m sorry, Sadie. I’m sorry I left you alone.
My laptop glares out at me from the pack. I glare back. A voice from somewhere inside my head admonishes, “Shouldn’t get it wet!” Whose voice is that? My mother’s? I open it. It won’t start. My editor kept telling me to get a new one. A techno-treat to get me writing again. But I couldn’t retire the old thing. This behemoth witnessed countless stories, two break-ups, the painful birth of a novel, and enough email to bury an elephant. I slide it under my butt to insulate me from the cold ground.
And he said it was only good for a doorstop.
I laugh again. God, that feels good.
My editor will get a laugh out of this turn of events. He kept bugging me and bugging me about submitting my sequel. I kept procrastinating. I put it off for every conceivable and inconceivable reason. Right before I left, he stopped by. I was touched by his concern. I insisted the deadline was past. He pleaded with me, “I swear, it’s not too late!” I promised that I’d write from my hammock next to the ocean. We both knew I lied. I’d booked this trip to avoid his implied recriminations and my own guilt. What I really wanted was to figuratively bury my head in the literal sand.
The wind shifts. I watch my humor disappear hand-in-hand with my guilt into the swirling white. Daylight trundles after the happy couple.
The cold has reached my bones. Those monsters that used to hide under the bed when I was a kid have found me. They hover around me, telling me to hide under the blankets. They’re bigger than I remember them. Good. Maybe they’ll block the wind.
I turn my eyes to my backpack for respite from the glaring white. One last rummage. At the bottom lie two forgotten friends, sacred relics of a lost age. A bent paper tablet and a pencil. I stare at them a moment. Oh, so gently, I reach in and lift them together, sliding my hands over the smooth, lined surface.
I squeeze my hands to get the blood flowing. On the first page, I print, all in capital letters. “WRITER’S BLOCK.” I crumple it up and throw it toward the looming throng. Whether the wind takes it or they do, I can’t tell.
My head fills with colors and images, forcing back the encroaching dark. I feel the words rushing down my arms and onto the paper.
I write and write and write.
Originally posted at dianadiehlpresents.com 2013