Should I allow this sentence to create itself? What choice did I have? I imagine that this third sentence says to me that I will soon have to decide the course of this narrative that I think has yet to be born. An image appears, disappears, then reappears, which has been here in my mind an indeterminate number of seconds or minutes, and something inside of me seems to say that it will soon disappear again. I imagine that the image suggests I listen to it. How do I listen to an image? Another image appears, or maybe it appeared along with the first one. An inner voice speaks to me again: you’re not listening. What you think of as two separate images are in reality one image. I’m surprised that the word reality appears on the screen that I’m imagining as my mind. Everything that has appeared on this mental screen exists only in my head, no? I realize that I have yet to put either of the two images or the single one into words. Maybe the important image is of myself seated at my desk, staring at a blank screen.
It’s been a long time since I dreamed of pacing in an airport terminal, waiting to board a plane. These dream images from several years ago feel more real than what I imagine I might experience next month, a week before Christmas, when I’ll fly to Madrid for the first time in six years. I can’t remember what associations I had to that old dream. The image of myself pacing brings to mind the words risk and danger. Airports make me anxious and flying reminds me of death. Writing these sentences has made me anxious. Writing the words has been the easy part. I’ve been pacing this small room in between sentences. Two books have divided my attention while I’ve read sentences in one and then in the other (one is in English and the other is in Spanish), as if I believed that I must discover some truth in one of them before I can finish composing my thoughts related to the dream image of myself pacing in an airport. Perhaps the tension has been a good thing. I am afraid of taking risks here at the keyboard, which isn’t easy to admit in a sentence. Writing isn’t a neutral activity, is it? I don’t have time to wonder what that question might mean. I must catch a bus. I have fifteen or twenty minutes to read before I must leave, and I imagine that I’ll either choose one of the two books or spend most of the minutes pacing this small room. Then I imagine myself running to the bus stop. Or I could forget about the bus and remain here at the keyboard and take some risks.
The two books interrupted each other. How was that possible? My own sentence presented it as something that happened. Language created a subjective experience. Six words created a series of images. Or were the images present before the words? I found myself imagining ways that the two books alongside me, on my writing table, could have collided with each other, and I imagined something similar happening in my own mind. The laws of mind seemed in control, and I wondered what they were. I pictured my mind screaming: Write these things down! I touched the hardcover and paperback to make sure I wasn’t in a dream (how could I have known if I wasn’t?). Then I created a document on my laptop and started typing. Two books interrupted and collided with each other. I imagined the hardcover falling to the hardwood floor. Wham! I almost leaned down to pick up a book that wasn’t there. More sentences needed to be written. I wanted to reach the end. Minutes passed while images and words helped me to create sentences. One of the two books was on the painter Jackson Pollock. The other was on language and dreams in psychoanalysis. I realized I hadn’t been in control of my own words. They were responsible for whatever nonsense I’d written. I reread these sentences and was relieved that I hadn’t interrupted myself. I hadn’t done anything. My mind had been in control.
The black hardcover wouldn’t let me put it down. All of me was filled with something. Hope for change came to mind. It wasn’t a novel. It wasn’t a book. It was my own journal. My sentences made it sound as if someone else had written all of the words.
I was lying down on a chaise lounge that I imagined my psychoanalyst had suggested I buy. The black journal was in my hands. I read a few sentences. Something was amiss. I didn’t recognize my own sentences, as if someone else had written them. A few new sentences wrote themselves in my mind: You didn’t write it. A much younger you did. Haven’t the two of you met?
The writer in me knew what to do with these inner words. And I wanted coffee, or maybe even a beer. Alcohol would have to wait. I needed protection. From what, I wondered, as I glanced around at the bare room. Someone needed to protect me. Maybe “I” had written that in the journal. What journal? I reminded myself of the sentences in my head about a black hardcover journal. That’s where they were, in my head. Sentences kept coming. I got to my feet. More coffee would have to wait until morning. I needed a break from my own mind. A beer might help. I would have to walk to the grocery store. Maybe my mind wouldn’t follow me.
I felt as if I were watching a movie in my mind about moments, hours, evenings, and afternoons that we’d spent together over twenty years ago. The “we” in the last sentence surprised me. I’d never considered the two of us as a “we.” We never became close enough for that. Yet a “we” inserted itself into the opening sentence. Over the years she’d come to mind occasionally. But this was the first time that I was allowing the memories to remain a while, as if I had a choice in the matter, and I became frightened when I started to remember much more than I wished to. The inner experience was painful. I wanted to stop the movie. I was facing my own inner damage, and I wanted to turn away. Why didn’t I? We had been too anxious around each other ever to become close. I wished we had become good friends. Perhaps we had too much pain in common. We were damaged in some of the same ways. Seconds after writing the last sentence, I reminded myself that all of these sentences were created in my mind, where I saw lots of movies. But this one seemed to speak to me about a future beyond the buried past: the painful intensity of our moments together long ago could become transformed into something meaningful. Would I spend more time with this inner movie? A part of me that desired to experience the future in new ways hoped so. I seemed to know more about her than I’d thought. It was time to learn more about myself.
The old psychoanalyst said that he couldn’t respond to my question. I became so frustrated that I couldn’t remember what I’d just asked him. He had a book of mine, didn’t he? I was about to demand that he return it to me when I realized that I’d lent him the hardcover on telepathy in a dream. Reality seemed to be on his side. Maybe I’d asked where he’d left my book. I wanted to see it with my own eyes. My imagination was real enough to me. The word no, his no, wouldn’t leave me alone. I wanted to leave his office and never return. If he couldn’t return the book to me, which didn’t seem to exist in reality, couldn’t he give me something, anything, either real or imaginary? Maybe what frustrated me most was that he appeared calm and unconcerned about what was happening inside of me. I was falling apart, or maybe I wasn’t. Perhaps this incipient piece of fiction that I’d started to write ten or fifteen minutes earlier as I finished a strong cup of coffee was reconnecting me with creative energy that I feared I’d lost. Maybe the old psychoanalyst of my imagination didn’t have anything to say. Maybe he intuited that it wasn’t time for him to speak yet. Perhaps he was telepathic and somehow knew my unconscious need for someone to listen to me. Now that I’d written all of these sentences, I wondered what to do next. An answer arrived in the same moment: listen to yourself in silence.
I didn’t want to hear his kind words. These inner words felt like a secret. I imagined that they had been waiting for a moment when I would be able to hear them. He and I were communicating with pen and paper, and I was also experiencing an inner sort of conversation. How could I hear his kind words? We were seated across from each other. I imagined that both of us were immersed in our own inner words. No words were spoken between us. I reread the last sentence I’d written: I needed to hear your kind words. The sentence didn’t seem related to the one before it. Was I lost in my own words? Perhaps I was trying to discover something about myself in my words while I was struggling to be faithful to the writing process. Things were becoming complicated in my mind. I felt trapped inside my own head. My words appeared on the page without lines as if on their own, and I imagined that the free space helped me to create my own sort of inner order on paper. Perhaps having another writer seated a few feet away disorientated me. I reminded myself that I was alone in the room. I felt free in my own space.