As soon as I wake up I feel it. At first it’s a strange discomfort, a disquiet, a confusion. It strikes me as a ringing sound leftover from a bad dream. But I had no dreams last night, and if I did they were so inconsequential that I didn’t remember even the most passing detail of them in the early hours of the morning.
I shake my head, and rise from my bed. I go about the business of the new day, seeking refuge in the routine of the morning. I stretch, brush my teeth, look into puffy eyes that stare back at me hollowly from the mirror, and though I can’t see it reflected in the glass, I still have the feeling.
I turn on the shower and step under the cold jets of water, and for several moments all thoughts are forgotten as the icy droplets drive all other thoughts from my mind, and I take great shuddering breaths and close my eyes.
But when I step out several minutes later, i feel the creep back, the slow onset. And I know that it’s here to stay. I glance at my backpack, poking its head around the bathroom door. It taunts me, challenges me, goads me. I walk past it and dress. Before I leave, I pause, and the thought passes through my mind if I could just leave it at home today, just forget it this once, and go on out into the bustling city and become another dot behind the steamy car windows, and a dark shape moving quickly along the side walks, coat collar turned up against the winter winds.
But I know I can’t. So I sling the backpack over my shoulder, and when I get to the street I raise an umbrella over shoulder, so that while the rain falls on my face, my hair, the contents of the backpack are kept dry.
Several minutes later I sit down in the coffee shop. It’s empty, for the most part. There is a woman sitting at a table, scrolling through her phone. Outside, her dog, a tall and slim greyhound, regards her her baleful eyes, but she either doesn’t notice or chooses not to. The barista’s chat behind the counter, the lull before the morning rush.
I seat myself in my usual spot, on the high stools in the corner, facing out at the street.
I open the backpack. I take my laptop from it, and set it on the bench in front of me, next to my steaming mug of coffee. I hover the cursor over my expired version of Microsoft Word, then remember, and open LibreOffice.
The white page faces me.
I check the recent documents, more out of hope than actually searching for something specific. All the files that pop up are old. All in the past, and either completed or abandoned with good reason.
I’m left facing the white page again.
The feeling of fear is now a feeling of resignation, a dull frustration. I haven’t filled a page in a long, long time, and I sit now in the face of the act of creation, and inwardly I tremble. I rage. I type a sentence, unintelligible, unusable, and I delete it. Forgotten. I sip my coffee. I curse under my breath. I start typing again.
Some time later, I look up from the page, and catch a reflection of myself in the window. I’m a ghostly form, barely visible against the lights of the traffic going by outside, but I can make out the basic shape of a man. And it strikes me that I look the same as I did when I sat in this very seat throughout the past year, and faced the white page, even danced with it.
I read back over what I’ve wrote. Several hundred words, nonsensical. But in the middle of it all, there is a sentence, a glint of dull bronze amidst all the rock and dirt and wreckage the archaeological dig has unearthed. And, as before, beneath the fear, I feel the faint thrill of discovery once again.
I roll my shoulders, and start typing again.