Sunday, July 10, 2011

[this space unintentionally left blank]

I have spent an inordinate amount of time just sitting, staring blankly at the computer screen.

Once, I overflowed with ideas. I couldn’t put pen to paper fast enough. I couldn’t make my fingers move fast enough over the keyboard. But that was before.

Before the cactus.

It sits there, so innocuously, maybe four inches high, squat and spiky, and deep dusty green. It came into my home several months ago, a gift from a friend. I welcomed it to my bare apartment. It brought with it a feeling of hot desert summer, a blast of dry air that cut against the damp cold drizzle outside. I set it on my desk.

Over several weeks, I found myself talking to it. Perhaps I had been alone too long. It started with complaints, the random frustrated utterings that come from spending too long surfing the internet. “How stupid is that? What are they thinking?” and “That’s a ridiculous price!” These things, one says regardless of whether there is anyone listening; the audience is one’s own self. Over time, though, it grew to be more personalized: “They’re insane, don’t you think?” Or, “You don’t think that way, do you?” And later, “What do you think of that?”

The cactus never answered, and I didn’t expect it to. Over time, however, I talked to the cactus more and more. It was my best friend, my only companion. I told it everything I was thinking. It was a patient audience. It never interrupted, never contradicted, never gave “constructive” criticism. I tried out my ideas on it, and it sat in silent approval.

And then one day, I noticed that I was talking to the cactus less. It wasn’t that I had stopped telling it everything that I thought (I told it, as I carefully poured water around its roots). It was that I was simply thinking less. That was strange, wasn’t it? I thought back over the days and found vast blank stretches, where I was aware, but not thinking anything in particular. I asked the cactus, “You don’t have any idea why that might be, do you?”

I guess I wasn’t being careful where I poured, because at that moment, one of the spikes became embedded in my thumb. I yelped and pulled away, sucking at the drop of blood that had formed abruptly. And I sat back down.

An hour or so later, it occurred to me that I ought to do something besides just sitting there. Several hours after that, I got up and went to bed.

I still wrote, occasionally. I fed myself, bathed myself, clothed myself. But the apathy was growing stronger. I found myself gazing at the cactus, enraptured by the way the dark green near the base faded to a bright neon green at the top, how the dark high ridges of the ribs contrasted with the paler green of the valleys between. This was infinitely more important than writing.

Near the back of my mind, I could sometimes feel the ghost of an idea, that this apathy was abnormal, that a person like me would not normally sit for hours without a conscious thought. But whenever that idea came close to the forefront of my mind, my eye would be caught by the cactus, and the thought would vanish.

So I sat. I have been sitting. I exist. And so does the cactus. We exist together, linked in silent plant time, waiting for waiting for waiting waiting waiting wait

No comments: