"between the typeset" by mensah demary

my writing life is different. its previous state outlined in an earlier essay, here–now–is where i note the dissimilarities.

it is 5 AM and there’s no time to putter. the urgency to write is here–now–evident inside my blood slowly circulating and the morning breath in my mouth [toothpaste can wait]. i wake up alone–

she floods me with dread–

and i’m motivated to write as if my fingers were legs, as if these letters were the smoky jet-stream of a man in flight, as if i’m hunted down by truth and this entire exercise is a race to a safe haven, because no one said the truth is benevolent or benign.

i roll out of bed thinking, swearing off drinking, while my Amira gently sleeps

[i hope].

the coffee is already prepared when i exit the bedroom. delay timer delayed brewing time by five hours–back when i dumped the coffee and water into the machine–and ten minutes before 5 AM, its circuitry awoke and began the percolation process: scalding steam flutter above the coffeemaker while hot water trickled into a flimsy coffee filter containing store-bought ground coffee [arabica, maybe]. this makes it possible for fresh coffee to await me when i exit the master coffin to find myself.

what else can a writer do but write when all the shit falls down?

in my previous writing life, i needed a half-hour to get to work–thirty minutes plus a beige pill to ward off the demons–but now, in this new life, i take five minutes:

pour the coffee + creamer + sugar into my mug [stir];
find my glasses;
don a hoodie because it’s chilly and i, at times, like to write while wearing a hood over my head;
wake up my computer and light a cigarette and set the timer [T-minus 90 minutes].

in this new life, i worry about finances. this, my home, is an apartment with two in mind; its rent, with only one party, is daunting, though surmountable. who am i to complain? i am–as they say–the “asshole” in this scenario, the “douchebag, scumbag, and jerk-off.”

[run away with me, a stray thought says in my head. run away from me–or with me–or to me–or without me.]

at the computer, there is no hesitancy. truth stalks me and i’m still under the naive belief that writing is my lord and savior, or at least an armed defender [albeit with dented armor and a broken dagger]. and why should i hesitate? this space is mine

–where they can never hear me scream–

and there’s no one to placate or tip-toe around or sort of, kind of, ask for permission to write, or to feel as if i need to sort of, kind of, ask for permission to write because

to write is to be away

and sometimes, the most understanding of lovers wants her shivers spooned beneath the still-black slowly turning blue sky and amid the silence of a city blinking its eyes, wondering if it can rise once again–wondering if it should

–and lovers, particularly the most understanding of this class, feel and hear everything–

can hear and feel the city breathing heavily, its lungs rattling as if full of phlegm or coagulated tears choked back–and even in her sleep, she is troubled and would like an arm draped across her waist.

but to write is to be away and baby, i gotta go. i gotta run. sometimes, a writer’s gotta race.

yes, there is urgency, but there is no rush. this large, echoey space is mine to inhabit alone–just as this city is mine at this hour, excluding the homeless rising from their grated mattresses, their piecemeal clothes soaked by municipal steam. god help us for leaving these men and women and children and gay runaway teens out in the cold to fend for themselves–god help us for the words they write in their heads or on pieces of a HDTV cardboard box.

anyway–i’m alone.

the root word of solitude is solace: this is the bullshit i dredge up while writing alone which, remember, is occurring right now, right this minute, moments after waking alone which, remember, meant i slept alone and snored alone and wanted to spoon so i probably spooned myself

[this is sometimes called the “fetal position”].

with this train of thought in mind, why should either of us–writer and reader–be surprised by that little solitude/solace nugget? it oozes self-help. it sounds nice like the way an ugly pink polyester dress looks nice on a shapely body.

Will said something to the effect of “you blew up your life so you can build it back up” and this sounded nice and perhaps even true but the nicety only explains, as opposed to healing the damage from, the detonation.

Leslie said, “my problem is finding the energy to create” and i dug her sentiment.

and Amira said, “thanks to you, i’m writing poetry for the first time in years” and i stared at my shoes.

and i say now, “it is quite evident to me why i befriend and, at times, fall for writers. they have writing lives and it is so easy to become wrapped up in that blasted miasma versus, say, tending to my own shit.”

but it’s 6 AM now and i’ve written 1,140 words in an hour because typing is a slow go with a slow brain but the point is–the point is–i’m alone and the truth reads over my shoulder and i have nowhere left to run and hide. my writing life, now, demands i sit and peck at the keyboard, waiting for this disaster to end. or write its end into existence.

mensah demary, whose prose has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications, is co-founder & editor-in-chief of Specter Literary Magazine. For more information, visit www.inhelvetica.com or on Twitter @mensahdemary.

  • Mike Miner

    So difficult to write about writing, or read about writing, and not be bored. I was not bored. I wonder, I worry, if the demons are staying away. I hope they are. You capture the magic and minutiae of writing, the solitude mixed with an imagined (now real) audience reading over your shoulder, the need, the hope of connecting. Nicely done.

    • thank you for reading and commenting, Mike. indeed, writing about writing is difficult (and more times than not, boring to read). to be fair, i write about writing a lot lol…so i’m glad i’m showing improvement 🙂

      thanks again!

      • I like when writers write about writing. The “run away” part that’s bracketed – if that’s a word – is quite nice.

  • Baby I gotta go..the theme of my life.

    I love this. A lot.

    • thank you Shannon for your continued support 🙂