Litmus by Heather Fox Douglass
“No, of course not.” Actually, yes, you asshole. It bothers me immensely. It bothers me that I can’t sit and write and have my words ring with a modicum of truth because someone has decided they are going to take everything personally. Why? Why take what I write personally? You don’t even know me.
“And when was the last time you were inspired to write creatively?”
“I don’t know. Maybe a year ago? No. Well, I don’t remember.” Seven months, thirteen days, eight and quarter hours ago. That was the last time. That was the last time I was inspired to write creatively. Whatever the hell that means. Come on now, I know this isn’t all you’ve got. Ask me the hard questions. Ask me the questions that make me want to go out and order a whiskey in my night clothes just so I have a heavy bottomed glass to throw at a wall. A substantial glass; one with presence. The kind of glass Onassis would have hurled at Jackie’s head. Or was it the other way around?
“And what, exactly, happened the last time you wrote?”
“I shared it and it wasn’t received well. I was disheartened.” Lies. I shared it but it was well received and it fucking disinterred my heart.
“And this made you feel less confident in your abilities?”
“Um, maybe. Yes?” No. Not at all. You aren’t listening. I felt more confident than ever. I felt like I could go on and on and nothing would break my concentration. I felt the whole world split before me, an egg of a world, a fertile world within a world, the whites seeping out glossing my doubts with a shine. Nothing could scuff that kind of shine. No amount of bad could break the perfect sunshine yolk of happiness before me. Until it ended. Until all of that shiny fucking yolk was broken by the one I didn’t share it with. The one that haunts me. The wraith. The goddamned self-proclaimed Betrayed One.
“And what measures have you taken to restore your self-confidence?”
“…I felt the whole world split before me, an egg of a world, a fertile world within a world…”
“I’ve been trying to write a little each day.” Stop starting every question with ‘and’. It is annoying. I write volumes each day. Then I eat. Sometimes. I usually forget to eat. But I never forget to write. I never forget to do that because it is all I know how to do. It is the cause and the cure of all of my problems. How will I ever heal? My drive, my meaning, who I am, is killing me. Being who I am meant to be is tearing me to pieces, slowly with dull teeth. Is this normal? Am I normal? Can you ask me something useful now?
“And the writing you do now, does it feel satisfactory to you?”
“Yes; does it meet your standards? Would you feel comfortable sharing your work again?”
“Satisfactory?” Is this it then? Your litmus for throwing my heart and soul to the wolves is middle ground? A step above average but not quite qualifying my own expectations? When I reach the pinnacle of mediocrity I should share? Put myself out there so I can be built up with grand self-congratulatory gestures only to be left to rot like low income housing? Share again so I can have another take everything I write personally and distort themselves over it? Hurt themselves because my words moved them to do it? That is what she said. My words, my stories, ruined her life. How could that be? I’ve read the worst book in history and the best book and neither could have ruined me. But her words? Her words have. And she wasn’t even a writer. So we’ve hurt each other then. We’ve broken each other’s shiny round yolk. We’ve got nothing but a mess. And we don’t even know each other.
“And when do you think you will submit your work again?”
“When she stops haunting me.”
“And whom do you think is haunting you?”
“The woman I was before I loved him.” Truth. Finally. I think we are done here Doc. I think this is satisfactory.
Heather Fox Douglass spends her days exploring the world around her and reporting back through writing, photography, and over-analysis. She has been described as part poet, part philosopher. While she completely agrees with the assessment, she feels extreme anxiety over having to maintain that standard, but she’ll never admit this. You are welcome to follow her attempts to figure it all out (and laugh along with her as she repeatedly fails) on her blog http://www.pneumafox.blogspot.com.
© 2010, Metazen.