of all the job descriptions for a writer, of any artist really, one must surely be “good at getting lost in foreign lands". sure a writer must read as many books as the daylight or the lamplight will allow, and sure a writer must simply sit down and put paper to pen, learning what works and what doesn’t over time. and surely a writer must spend enough time loving and loathing the sound of their voice to be able to finally realize they have been using someone else’s, so that they may learn by contrast the sound of their own. and yes, a writer must think they are brilliant, so brilliant in fact that others MUST read their writing or risk leading only half-lived lives! and yes, a writer must also think they are a joke, a talentless hack ashamed to have ever even entertained the idea that they may have something worth saying. and then they should fight tooth and nail/skin and bone/blood and tears finding their way back to their truth. their knowing. the truth that the will to say it is enough.
all these things, yes, but a writer that has never been lost? why would they feel the need to write?
writers are typographers, words are maps. what use is a map to someone who has never needed to go anywhere other than where they already are? what drive is there to draw a course, to find a way out, to explain the bend in the road to another weary traveler, if you yourself have not known that abandon? you could just sit, knowing full well the contours of your couch, the contents of your kitchen. no need to write anything down, save maybe a grocery list for more bread and beer. you could sit and get lost in the land of the glowing box. I've certainly done enough of that to know it is its own kind of journey. and while you may get a rash on your ass from so much sitting, you can learn a lot from a screen.
and then there are mormon housewives writing sexy vampire stories, that is its own kind of travel, that is its own kind of map. a map of the body, its secret caverns, its burning lands. from the comfort of your own home, kids playing in the backyard, you can leave it all behind and sit in the center of a blood sucking love triangle. you can disappear into another place, scratch the deepest itch with a well-layed sentence, get touched in places that are begging in the dark. so perhaps one does not need to get on a plane to travel to foreign worlds, but why the hell not? why not see what the body feels like on another continent?
why not taste new flavors, embody new desires? the experience of longing for something you one minute earlier didn’t even know existed, such exquisite bliss! that discovery-- the self through what moves it. oh, so this is what that is for?! -- to taste this, to touch that, to miss this, to long for that. new muscles moving. a new tenderness.
and then, the only option, to write. to draw a map, a way back, an explanation to yourself of how you got somewhere you didn’t even know you were longing to go but now that you have been, desperately need to make a record for a hopeful return. the people you meet, the way back to the street that led you to the secret path, that took you to the private room, that introduced you to the beautiful stranger, that opened up the conversation, that stretched the mind, that pried open the heart. that man on the train that you can’t stop thinking about, can he stop thinking about you? did you lodge enough of yourself in his chest? does he feel the poke of your elbows in his ribs? he is living in you, that slightest of curves to the right of his historic nose. the way the sunlight lit up the morning of his night train hair. how gracefully his hand held his toothbrush. his teeth. his eyes were amber, alive. his voice still speaks. you fell asleep as he was reading in a foreign tongue. tongue to tongue you wished for communication. silence. you were on top, he was below, so close, so impossibly close, but not touching.
we have to hold these missings, these missed things, these almosts but nots. what is so different about the having and the have not? the holding and the wishing but can’t? is the chasm so great? or just a hop skip and a jump between? I have longed for the love of a man whose limbs were laced with mine, but could not get close enough to sooth that ache. I did not know the man on the train, but I slept in a bed of honey that night. something was holding me so sweetly. and then in the morning, him letting me see him, unkempt, impossibly beautiful brushing his teeth, that was a closeness that sits like a babbling brook in the space between my hips. its unspoken intimacy tickles and delights, it makes me feel ever so slightly like I am not anchored to this planet, like our surrender to gravity is a decision made moment by moment. it reminds me that I, like the earth, am made mostly of water, water that is charged to rush forth, become one with the sea. to sit and wait is to deny my wanting. I must flow towards the body that waits to receive me, it is there for me, it exists so that I may become it, become me. it calls me to be what I am, a river, a moving, flowing, fluid body meant to well forth, meant to become an ocean. I must draw a map, for me and for you, to find our way back to the ocean. we forget so easily.