Friday, May 13, 2005

she said don't

(Scarlet Street Diana Productions 1945)

This is not about writing. This is about fear.

Yesterday we went to the mountains again. I sat at a green picnic table while the wind whipped through me. Behind me was an abandoned ranger station with bunk beds and peeling maps. Before me, the mountain unrolled hills and goldenrod and apple trees. The wildfire danger was moderate. Bees purred as if mechanic. It was too cold to get any real work done so I read for an hour, and then gathered up my books and blanket and papers to walk back . Halfway down the fire access road I heard a motor putter, cut out, then start again.

Inside me said don't keep walking, but I kept walking. Under the orange fence, beside the highway, through a path, grass beaten down with stones.

In the dirt lot called "Big Flat," a motorcylist waited behind our lonely, tiny car, taking off his helmet.

I thought I was red riding hood at last. I thought I was in a Mary Hood story. I thought, why is there nothing for miles.

Inside me said don't keep walking, but I kept walking. Calmly to the car, my fingers fished for keys. Just then, really, my friend rode down from the mountain, where he was mountain biking, and met me at the door, and the motorcylist put back on his helmet, kicked the kickstand, and spun off without a wave, the dust snaking behind him.

I'm sure everything would have been fine. I'm sure he was a very nice motorcylist, and would have nodded or ignored me as I sat in the front seat with the doors locked. But why did the voice in my head gasp and my stomach freeze? Why did I ignore those those things and keep my feet moving forward?

Does the voice inside me have something there? When should I listen? It seems she is always whispering, always worrying. But what does she know? She gives me ideas, dialogue, characters, their insides blooming like science experiments, dreams like the one a few nights ago when I finally thought of the ending to my novel, the line popping in my subconscious, an electric bulb.

But she also gives me fear, reason to doubt.

I am sick of not making eye contact. I am sick of checking the backseat of my car before I get into it at night. I am sick of walking on the street-side of the sidewalk, one hand on my bag, gaze straight ahead. I am sick of having to be walked home by nice men, good men, to keep me away from the bad ones. I am sick of the dread that seeps into me, like a puddle of ice, cold spreading up my body through a hole in my shoe, when I turn the corner and see a group of city workers, or drinkers, or kids.

Where does the voice come from, the voice that says: don't keep walking. The voice that says: this may be your ending. The voice that says: you were born for trouble. Who gave her mouth?

I think I saw smoke spiraling in the distance, a purple cloud. I wanted to say something but she said don't.