When I think of cancer I think of burnt marshmallows and Makers poured into jars of maraschino cherries.
I was toasting marshmallows over a fire made out of my notebooks. The pre-PVC free Moleskine notebooks made their way to the pile and the smell made its way into the marshmallows in a way I could taste. I kept eating them because I told myself I was going to drink and toast marshmallows until the last decade or more of my life was gone.
My life was headed in a new direction slower than I wanted. I told myself it was the emotional weight bending the shelves in my closet. The notebooks, sketchbooks, the cache of index cards and a few paintings went onto the pile.
The PVC fumes cleared or I absorbed them. I could smell the other things. My notebooks were better then, cheaper but full of unstructured life — the only real type of life. I smelled the twigs, leaves, dirt, and all the things that ended up between the pages from the hiding places I would drive hours to be safe in.
I felt connected and sad for the person who filled the paper and canvases that burned in front of me. That person was scared. They would panic. They looked at a dirty French press on their dorm room desk and had to drive to Austin to feel better.
Things like this happened a lot. I kept a wall charger and deodorant in my car. I would grab my pocket stuff and a notebook before leaving. It’s all I had to grab and it’s all I could grab when I felt like that.
Leaves I picked off trees and leaves I picked out of canisters to remember how beautiful tea is before its drowned.
Dirt. So much dirt. Clay I got with my hands and poured water onto. It would spread over a page in the way you wish peanut butter would spread over sliced bread. Sitting in state parks I walked to from the road because I didn’t want to pay to get in. It wasn’t quiet. The sun lowered and the volume of everything increased.
I wish it could have been even louder.
I found a small shovel on campus and put it in my trunk so I could make a desk out of a pile of dirt so I could write longer, but that idea and smallest preparation ruined it. I felt seen even thinking about it the next time I got in my car.
The memories of my stomach on the sand with the sea water hitting my back higher and higher until I had to move further up the coast are all peaceful. I didn’t need to look at the ocean. There’s nothing there, but beauty and danger I would never find myself in. Beyond the sand had danger that I would always find myself in.
My notebooks don’t have dirt or water damage from anything that isn’t a spilt drink. They sometimes have instant photos and receipts.
I go from one series of walls to another inside of rooms with wheels or wings.
There are parks I walk in, but my notebook stays in the walls that have no wheels or wings. It’s heavy and nags at me so it stays at home. I have some paper sometimes and if I really need something I just tap on the glass thing that make being inside bearable and addictive even though it will work outside.
What does this make me?
I was never seen without a book full of ink and graphite, but now I’m never seen with one — even inside.
Maybe this was the direction I was so eager to get to while burning those books and eating more than a dozen marshmallows when I didn’t want more after the third. Maybe I didn’t want a notebook in my hand or tucked under my arm wherever I went. It caused questions. It caused guilt for not using it more. It made me feel like a fraud.
I this who I wanted to be?
Did I just want to stop being the person that put leaves in notebooks or did I just want to stop being a person with a notebook?
I don’t know.
Maybe the answer isn’t in a park or on the beach. I feel like there’s an answer in a mountain. Somewhere it’s cold enough to slow all the things in my mind down or at least interrupt them with wanting warm hands.
I don’t know.
I’m scared to go somewhere and it’s harder to do now. I don’t have the freedom I had even though I could pay to go into a park now.
I need air that isn’t pushed out or pulled in through a filter. It needs to be fresh. I want to breathe the air hundreds or thousands of miles away.
I want to do it with a notebook in my hand.
Because if I wasn’t here it wouldn’t nag me. It wouldn’t be something I look at as a task I should have done a while ago and a few dozen times after that. It would be a friend. It would be something I find comfort in. I would get the mess in my head on its pages and put it back in my skull in the right order.
I can’t be sure it would do this. I hope it would. I hope it will, because I hope to do it. There are things here that are nagging me here that aren't my notebook and I’m ignoring them too. I’m not doing them, but I feel like I can’t do anything that keeps me away from them until they’re not there — until they are done.
I need a mountain, a beanie, and a flannel shirt that doesn’t look common or one that looks iconic.
I need out. There will still be walls, but those windows will let me see things I haven’t before. I could be looking at something I haven’t seen before in a few hours? Why am I not on my way? The tasks? The tasks I have aren’t being done and they don’t need me here to not do them.
Maybe I should go?
I haven’t focused on these thoughts until I wrote this. This focus will either fade or put me a hundred miles or more away in new air.
I don’t know which, but I have hopes for one.
Written for Plumbago, issue six