I must arrive at the bookstore before it closes. It feels like a matter of life and death. I don’t realize it’s raining until I’m on the sidewalk. There’s no time to take the elevator or run up four flights of stairs to grab an umbrella.
Somehow I know that the book I’m running to NonStop Books to buy has yet to be finished. I’m writing it. I imagine the bookseller with whom I spoke on the phone before I walked out the door without an umbrella. She said she was in a hurry, that she had much to read and write before I arrived in the rain. After speaking with me, she sits down and starts reading a book open on the table before her. She falls asleep. Somehow, I know that she does her most creative work while she’s asleep.
I run in the rain. I dream in it. The question of what I’m seeking seems lost in the rush. Then I realize I’m still, except in my dream.
The letter B appears on what was a blank sheet of sketch paper. Then I write the number 8. I imagine the letter and the number becoming one in the center of the page. Something tells me that this sheet of sketch paper will need me for too many minutes and I will become disorientated. The following three sentences write themselves, as if I were observing the pen doing the work of writing. The sheet of paper imagines me using a different colored pen. I reach for a green one. The page in my hands feels as alive as me, and I imagine the green pen moving my mind across it.
“Stop!” This is the first time paper has spoken to me, even in my imagination. I read what I’ve written. B and 8 appear in different words. The green pen is no longer in my hands. Words now appear in blue.
I write B8, which I picture on the wall alongside the doors to an auditorium where one of my favorite authors will soon speak. Who speaks to us in our words is the title I imagine for the talk. These last few minutes have helped me realize that who resides inside of me. Now I want to imagine its names.
I arrived at her office with a stack of books in my hands. She opened the door. I had never seen it closed before when I arrived. I assumed that her door must be closed during most of the day. Once a week, when I climbed the stairs from the ground floor and walked the final few feet to her door, it was always open, and she stood alongside her chair. Perhaps I should have expected that things would be different today. This would not be a normal fifty minutes. I came here for supervision. We had decided last week that we would try something different next time. I was about to discover what different might mean today.
As she opened the door, she glanced at the books in my hands. “You can leave those on the floor.” I thought: she wished that I hadn’t brought them.
I left the stack of psychology books on the carpet, alongside the chair where I sat once a week, across from her own. Suddenly I remembered why I had brought them with me. We had spoken about this. They would be the toys we would play with on the carpet during the next forty-eight or forty-nine minutes. Time wouldn’t slow down for us, or maybe it would. She was speaking with her hands, moving my books around on the floor. “What have I created?” she asked as she stood up. Both of us looked at the books that she had arranged in the form of a cross.
One or both of us spoke the following words, before our hands became immersed in the work of playing with books on the floor: “This is what inner work is all about, coming to terms with the struggle of what it means to be human.”
Nothing comes to mind. Nada. Then I remember what happened yesterday. My life is ruined. Where does that come from? Images come to mind. They’re more than nothing, more than something. Right now they’re reality. Failure becomes fear. I imagine writing these sentences in my sketchbook. There are no lines on the pages, no limitations. My words are free to appear where they wish. In contrast, I’m not free here. I can’t control what does and doesn’t come to mind. A stranger awaits more of my speech. I chose to come to his office. I have not chosen to remain silent for what feels like minutes. Of course I’ve chosen. Maybe I’ve ruined this initial interview. If only it were real. The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst whom I’ve pictured myself seated across from died in January 2005. One of his books, published in 1975, is alongside the laptop on which I’m typing. I wish I could have met him. This particular book has to do with language and psychoanalysis. Several of his books on psychoanalysis are alongside each other on a shelf in this room, a few feet from where I’m seated, and I’ve read parts of each. Why not every page of each of them? My mind is not ruined. I’ve imagined my life as ruined. The initial interview I’ve imagined hasn’t ended. Time remains. Nothing has been ruined. Hope has also appeared in these sentences.
I imagined not coming today. I became immersed in what I was writing and then realized I had to stop. I can’t stop became I won’t stop. Without realizing what I was doing, I wrote these two sentences as if they were part of the story. Maybe they are. And it was the present tense of this thought that led me to think that maybe this experience in your office would also become part of the story. A memory comes to mind of another therapy session, it was 2000 or 2001, and I wasn’t prepared for the surprise I experienced when I entered the office of my Jungian psychotherapist: she had removed the couch from the room and two chairs faced each other. Those fifty minutes I spent across from her were filled with unusual perceptions. I remember imagining that I had taken a mind-altering substance before the session. All of this has become part of the story. The word story helps me realize that I haven’t arrived on this couch in my mind yet. I’m afraid of experiencing unusual perceptions in the present. I’m picturing myself not here, absent, and you alone in this meditative space, gazing out the windows beyond the couch. This is an unusual perception, so maybe I have finally arrived.
You do not work alone. Where has this statement come from? I’m listening to the other human being in the room talk about becoming better prepared to write creatively. An image of me alone at my desk at home last night feels too real. The word reality appears next and then the following sentence: I only work alone. I prefer the opening sentence: You do not work alone. But I know, as someone who writes in the evenings and on the weekends, that all of my words are important. The woman in her late twenties seated across from me wishes that she would become a more patient reader of her own work. I remind myself that’s what I imagine she thinks. What happens inside her mind, beyond her words, remains a mystery to me. And what about what happens in my own mind as I listen to her? Did she just ask me a question? I imagine that she did so in her mind. You are not alone. I’m listening both to myself and to her. She says: I wrote well last night. So both of us were creative on paper after work. A question awaits me in the present: how are you being creative now? We are in the room together. She speaks. I speak. I picture myself writing the word creativity on a notepad that appears, along with a pen, magically in my hands. She’s also writing on a notepad. In these imaginative moments, everything in my mind feels real. Reality can be magical on a notepad.
(It’s raining outside. Each drop on the skylight above my head reminds me that summer has ended today, this afternoon, a few hours ago, when I first heard rain outside. The silence on this island of two hundred some acres has become too much for me, or perhaps the inner noise has become too much.)
Come on, write me. I’m not ready. Sure you are. Just write. Isn’t that what I’m doing? How did you write when you were ten, twelve, and fifteen years old? I can’t remember. Come on, the memories aren’t outside of you. I don’t want to give you what you want. I didn’t write a short story until I was a teenager. It was based on memories of a weekend trip with my family. I always wrote. Something. Anything. I would start writing in journals, then stop, and most of the pages would remain blank. I lacked something essential as a writer until my early thirties: imagination. It was in me, buried, trapped, in nascent form. I wasn’t born as a writer until my early thirties. Who are you? You don’t sound familiar. That’s the problem. I’m an unfamiliar part of you. We don’t speak often. When have we met? How often do you write? You mean you’re part of my writing voice? I am your writing voice. If that were true, I haven’t been writing very well, since I’ve been unfamiliar with my own voice. You’re discovering your voice, like every other writer. When I was ten, twelve, and fifteen, I knew I wanted to write. Wanting to do something is different from doing it. One Christmas when I was a teenager, my parents gave me an electric typewriter with a small screen on which appeared each word as I typed it. I lacked imagination. I’m your imagination. I was here then. We just didn’t speak often. When did we speak? Moments while you wrote. I’m also your mind. You can’t avoid me. I think I understand. You’re me. I’m you. I’m speaking to myself.