I stared at the lines I had written on the page that lay before me.
They didn’t seem right. They didn’t look right and they were not right. With a violent stroke of my pen I slashed across the page. The dark line ripped across, starting from the bottom of the page, ending diagonally opposite at the other end. I grabbed the page, tore it from the notebook, crumpled it up and flung it across the room. I picked up the pen again.
The phone rang. It was Nina.
I had been seeing less of Nina lately. She had been hanging out with some new friends that she had made and was quite excited about the way her days had been turning out in their company. She had been spending a lot of time with them in interesting spots around town.
The new sights, the new sounds, the new smells, the new feelings that seemed to swell up inside her – she soaked all this in with an urgency that sent vibrations up her body from the tips of her toes to the very top of her head. Everything seemed to be going just right and wonderfully well for Nina. Only problem was it wasn’t so good for me. For, whenever Nina wasn’t around, I just couldn’t write.
Nina was calling from Oasis, a bar across town. I looked at my watch – it was 8.30 in the evening. She was with four of her friends in a bar a good ways across town. She said she was looking forward to the evening with them and hoped I would find something to keep myself from getting bored. I could picture her with her friends. I could hear the animated talk and laughter as she described the bar to me. I could almost hear the beer splashing into their mugs as they emptied the pitcher. She promised to try and get back as soon as possible but couldn’t really promise me anything. I told her to have a good time and hung up. I picked up my pen and started to write again.
I stopped when I realised that I was not writing anything. I stared at the page again. Only this time there were no lines. I tore out the page carefully and held it in my hand. I turned it over a few times and then slowly started folding it. I folded it and unfolded it a few times and then folded it into a little paper boat that I carried over to the sink. I ran the water and held the boat under it. This was quite ridiculous. I squashed the wet boat and threw the soggy mess into the trash. I had to write. I wanted to write. I needed to write. But I couldn’t write. Nina, please come home.
I fixed myself a strong drink, hoping the alcohol would jiggle something inside my head and the lines would flow. I flopped down in front of the TV and flipped through a few channels till I caught the 9 O’clock news. I wondered if Nina’s friends watched the news. I wondered what they must be talking about right now, as they sat around that table in that bar, emptying their mugs of beer.
The newsreader disappeared off the screen and Nina took her place, humming under her breath, watching me as I wrote at a table across from her. I watched myself as I wrote, my pen flying over the page, covering it up with lines that just seemed to flow so easily from my pen onto the page. I could hear her asking me why I didn’t type out my work like everybody else and me saying no… this is the way I like doing it. The scene was perfect. Nina was around, happy doing whatever she was doing. And I was writing, pages and pages. The sudden ringing of the phone disrupted this happy scene. I watched as the pen flew out of my hand with a start and she looked around frantically for the phone. I suddenly realised that it was my phone that was ringing. I picked it up. It was Nina.
They were at the Independence now. The music there seemed a lot louder. She said they were having a great time and that she really wished that I had been there too. She said that her friends said hello and that they would have a drink for me. I asked her what time she would be back. From what she said, it didn’t look like she had any plans of coming back home very soon. I picked up my pen, sat at the table and wrote out the first three lines that came to my head. A dull ache started in my head and I walked into the kitchen and poured myself another drink. Nina, you better come home.
I looked at my work that I had done till now. It was all there, reminding me that there had been a time when it had not been too difficult putting lines together to form images that told powerful stories. There had been a time when I had been able to look with effortless ease and see wonderful pictures that I translated into magic in my work. There had been time when I didn’t need to rip out pages and throw soggy paper boats into the trash. And most of all, there had been a time when Nina was always around so that everything was possible.
And there was now. A now completely taken over by a restlessness that seemed to hover around everywhere I looked. I could feel it, almost taste it, yet it was invisible. And incredibly, that restlessness did nothing for me. I would think that I would be driven by it, use it like a skilful workman would his tools, fashioning ideas, images, that I could then pour out onto paper. None of that seemed to be happening. Nina seemed to hold onto it with a fierce possessiveness that I could not even begin to understand. She simply did not want to share it with me. She continued her endless fantastic flight across town, through mysterious realms that I could not even begin to fathom, burning up her energy with a ferocity that was alarming. An energy that I knew I would be able to use if only I could find a way to ground her. And I had no idea how to do that.
I sat back and stared at the walls, waiting for some magic to happen. Anything, that would help me put down my story on paper. And as I waited, paper boats piled up in the kitchen sink and my mind continued its fantastic flight across town.