Random little thing I wrote for myself.
To me, a blank page is one of the scariest things in existence. On the emptiness of a sheet of fresh paper stretches the infinity of possibility, where all the beautiful and terrible aspects of human thought wait to be manifested, to reveal themselves to the mind of whomever dares read. I put pen to fresh paper and begin to make permanent a transient version of myself, like a snapshot, a recording of who I was and can never again be. But perhaps this is all too serious and meaningful to start with. Let’s begin anew.
I was smoking a cigarette in the back of the restaurant where I worked. The sun was fading on the little patch of parking lot that was all my own. There was a vague smell of trash in the air, an unfortunate result of the dumpster’s presence just a few yards from the little picnic table where the employees would come out for a smoke. There were a couple of short trees and small stretch of grass between the little lot and the fence that bordered the neighboring community of apartments, an example of nature’s imprisonment under man’s concrete fist. The lamentable trees in their sad patch of grass were alight with the glow of the setting sun, as in some brilliant display of defiance to their captors. It was just me, the rebellious trees, and a cigarette that seemed to be dying faster than I would have liked. It was all so lonely and serene – only the smell of trash, which seemed to be a permanent addition to the environment, was around to keep me company.
My head was off somewhere in the clouds, probably doing something important, while I silently brooded over a blank sheet of paper. My professor had said to just write, to just get it all down and not stop, and yet, pen already to paper, I felt at an utter loss. I looked up at the defiant trees, hoping that any minute that they would sprout to life and impart upon me a tale of magnificent character and meaning, and as they were trees largely without rights, I would steal that story and publish it on my own. Perhaps the trees, upon springing to life, would take advantage of my surprise, crushing me with a mighty blow from their sturdy branches. Maybe I could write about that: the trees, finally tired of their silent vigil would shake off the dirt from their roots and march against man, weaving a terrible, splintery devastation in their wake, their war against humanity finally ready to be waged. But that all sounded implausible and kind of lame – I scratched the idea from my mental notes.
A new character came fluttering into the scene. A lonely napkin, carried by a breeze too slight for me to feel, danced its way onto the lot, its enticing twirls and flares drawing the attention of the lot’s sole inhabitant. Edna. It’s name was now Edna. Edna the dancing napkin. Edna danced across the lot, too focused on her wild waltz to take notice of the me and my voyeurism. I wondered where she was going as she pranced on the pavement and disappeared around the corner with a dramatic flip, the wind playing just one last hard crescendo for her dance. I thought about Edna’s past, about her sad story, about her memories leaving the greasy McDonald’s bag, she and her parents settling into the glove compartment of a little towncar. While all the other napkins were excited about the prospect of being chosen by the Great Hand, Edna dreamed of leaving this wretched place. Edna wanted to make it big out there, somewhere, doing anything. She didn’t want to be used to clean ketchup off of a shirt, or worse, end up all soggy with spilled ginger ale. Her parents never understood her: they said she should be proud, that it was an honor to save people from the many messes that seemed to assault their lives on a daily basis. But Edna could never be satisfied with this, and for a long time she had the small towncar blues. One fateful day, finally resigning to her destiny as the Great Hand clutched at her and her fellow victims, a gigantic puddle of Coca Cola zooming ever closer, a gust of fate pulled her from the grasp of the hand, setting her free into the night air. She was finally free to dance, to make it big out there in the wild and unknown world. By the time she had passed me she was already a star, a radiantly white napkin without a stain on her, dancing madly to the whims of the wind.
I smiled at the happy ending to an otherwise harrowing story, and was glad that I was around to give that life to her. I put out my cigarette and wished Edna well, wherever she was. I stepped back into the restaurant, the clang of clamoring pots, the smell of fried rice, and the vulgarity and rough guffaws of the kitchen staff reminding me that reality can only be put on pause for but a moment – with or without you, the gears are ever-a-turning.