BY BLAKE BUSH, JMC3023

I’m not particularly sure how I managed to “become an aspiring author.” I mean, I’ve always had a deep-seeded love for language. Growing up, I had stacks of notebooks that had page after page of handwritten dictionary definitions. I suppose words were a solace of some sort, as obvious in the amount of time spent covering these spirals in my third-grade penmanship, which is equivalent to a mix of broken cursive and “chicken scratch.” Despite that, through puberty and the whole defining oneself rhetoric that every teenager falls into because of Hollywood’s pervasive and overused movie tropes, I’d be lying if I said I’ve “fit in” at any specific moment of my life; drifting between peoples and friends and ideas and trends have always been a recurring theme in my life. Truthfully, I am afraid of committing to a set group. Truthfully, I am afraid of committing to my writing. Truthfully, I am afraid of others connecting my writing to whom I am—I’d much prefer a distance; it makes it easier. Perhaps the anxiety that brims tears writing this stems from the vulnerability of commitment to others, to myself and to my work, but I still had one English teacher years ago push my emotional baggage to the side to reteach me to write.

* * *

I awoke to muffled noise outside my door. I struggle to maintain consciousness as I pick out the hardened gunk on the sides of my eyes. I had quite an unsettling dream in the night’s prior, although I cannot recall why it was so unnerving; I still found myself stitched to the fabric of the bed. I remember seeing the fan twirling its blades so effortlessly, so carelessly, so much like a child tugging at the tufts of her hair. I remember rolling my eyes to match the movements of each blade against the grainy, crackled-beige ceiling—much as I always do. I remember watching the rotating blur become individual, separated in all of its solitude. I awoke moments before the alarm, and hours before the siren.

Mother is as she always is: enchanting the room with tracers of faint perfume clouds as each click of her heels slaps the tiles leading toward my door. The hinges clatter, and the outline of a face draws in the blinding, fluorescent, hall light. The wetness of her freshly painted lips peel with each word as she watches her son doze in and out of consciousness. She speaks something of school and tardiness, but I don’t pay too much attention. I don’t think it would’ve made a difference whether I read into her lecture on tardiness or “taking my life seriously,” because, at this point, my future had two options: alcoholism and drug abuse, or suicide. Plain and simple.

The first bell sounds and the hallway traffic jam is underway. Hundreds of students scrape their shoes against the cheap carpet trying to red rover through the almost-interlocking, idle bodies. The uproar of indistinguishable words blending together contour each crevice of the brick walls splayed with my peers. They speak of the trite, fake “why didn’t we hang over summer.”  At this moment, I’m not keen on starting my first class of junior year, but anything beats hearing another “I miss you.”

* * *

I never quite understood my attitude. Up until a certain, indistinguishable moment in my life, I’ve never quite pinpointed the cause of my attitude; my style; my thought process. I felt less stream-of-consciousness and more against-the-grain. Perhaps it stemmed from the moment religion lost me, or perhaps it stemmed from a dispose of meaningless memories. I wouldn’t call this a transformation, per se, but rather I’d equate it to a third-grade science project of celery soaking in food coloring. And through all of this, I turned seventeen without so much as anything to say. It’s not as if I could not write; I merely had no reason to.

* * *

In the final seconds before the last ring, I awaited in a chair that chafed every inch of my thighs: a familiar setting. I may have yet to step foot within this classroom, but then again each room of this building was lain out the same. It was cookie-cutter, save for the random trinkets strewn about her desk, or the posters—I never bothered reading—clinging to the wallpaper, or the giant papier-mâché insect cowering atop the cupboards. Strange, I must say. The skin wrinkled with each paper glued against another, against another, etc. The antennae dangled over its head in an ironic handicap as if it were trying to sense whether the ground exists. Bizarre, to say the least. Upon my desk, there was a single sheet of paper that read a set of instructions, a rubric and a bolded title, “The Metamorphosis.”

The door closes, muffling the rummaging sounds from dozens of students shuffling toward class. Here stands before us a woman as silent as the day she will leave us. She opens the assignment with the beginning paragraph from the book she had clasped between her fingers. “When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin,” she said. At this moment, the book seemed as silly as the giant, paper cockroach that’s been eyeballing me since I walked into class, but at least its existence makes sense. I couldn’t focus much after that, especially considering this “critically acclaimed book” was about a man turning into a bug, like a knock-off X-Men hero.

* * *

In retrospect, writing an assignment over “The Metamorphosis” wasn’t too terrible of a task, but it was still bizarre to spend 10,000 words on a man that cocooned into an insect. And from what she read aloud to the class, I wasn’t impressed. Initially, I wasn’t about to spend my time reading a novel about an insect; I felt as if I could do something more productive with my life—if I ever wanted to, that is.

* * *

Days later, I stared at the clock hands inching forward to freedom, soon striking the hour mark dispersing everyone. She asked to speak with me about the progress of my essay, but, again, I didn’t have much to say. I told her I wasn’t so keen on the novella. She must’ve furrowed her brows because she went straight for the book and re-read that “pivotal” opening line. Her words are firecrackers telling of Kafka and his existential chaos—absurdism—the concept of meaninglessness, all within the span of about seven minutes. She probably could tell that I was overloaded from the shocked looks I gave throughout her speech. Following her explanation was as if I were trying to connect conspiracy theories with yarn in a backroom that hasn’t seen daylight in months.

* * *

I remember her asking me my professional plans for the upcoming future. Truthfully, I didn’t have any. It’s not as if I haven’t thought about what I want to do or where I want to go, but, like I said before, I can either turn to alcoholism and drug abuse or suicide. I’m not sure why I became so distraught in the situation at hand, but I do remember tearing up as she asked that question. Perhaps it was the vulnerability that caught me off guard. She did just ask a question with a loaded answer. Perhaps, I didn’t want to accept that those were my only two options, but I haven’t any credentials or talent or hobbies. I just had depression.

* * *

I sat beside myself, wrapped in a fleece blanket for hours that night writing. Indie music played softly in the background as I tried to focus on analyzing a book I procrastinated to read. Papers, highlighters and pens were scattered amongst the table; energy drinks littered the carpet; the book was overturned, its spine bending. My cursor flickered, taunting me, as I continued to write and write. My breaks were short; my hours were long; my night was somber; my morning was brutal.  I sat beside myself, wrapped in a fleece blanket for hours that night writing.

* * *

Throughout traversing procrastination-hell, the world appeared a little clearer in its endeavors. People are mundane for the sake of routine. And in that one line opening the novella, Kafka explained the existential chaos; the thoughts of meaninglessness; the emptiness that is as perverse as peach fuzz on the upper lip of an adolescent boy. And to think, that this began to dreary-eyed isolation in fear of others and in fear of myself. I will awake the next morning, in the same benign existence of pointless routine to start anew in the same habits I will keep until I pass. I will stare at the ceiling fan, once more, with the same thoughts, on a different day, over and over and over. But, in the depth of it all, I do have writing to keep me company in the darkest hours for the brightest of moments. And although I may hate writing, I’ve found my place within literature; within storytelling; within authoring; within words. I’ve found my place within words once again.

I may have problems with depression; I may have problems with anxiety; I may have problems with indecisiveness, but at least for tomorrow, I’ve found something that will occupy my time: words.

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