Awe in Austin

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Austin Days

 

I awake with a bit of dizzy lingering above me, and a rib cage that is sore from a too-soft bed. My emerald green robe hangs on its hook across the room, the white plain wall a stark backdrop to its regal pose. The mornings in Austin are crisp, hold the knowledge that it is still spring. I robe myself and shuffle across the white carpet and out onto the small balcony. The sliding glass door opens me to the hazy outside world.

 

There, my eyesight zones in on the two plastic green chairs. My body travels to their destination. Here, I plop down in one, raise my feet up to the edge of the other. The maroon metal railing borders my view as I look through its bars to the damp leaves of the tall trees. I do not know what kind of trees they are, but they are dependable in the way they sway in the wind.

 

But this morning it is not windy. The remnants of rain linger in the air, on the metal railing from the night before. Small brown birds and strong-voiced crows sing and cackle themselves awake. The mornings here are still, are in a reprieve from the muggy heat of the day before. It is in these mornings that my brain opens up to the world, that I bring my blue pen and expectant notebook out onto the porch with me. They fill up with my morning ramblings, with the words that start to crawl themselves out of my body.

 

I sit in my green robe, in my green chair, by the damp green leaves, and I yawn into the day, twirl my fingers around my knotted hair. This is me waking up, considering what all I will do with this day, the words I will face as I continue to spend my time writing, searching for the phrases that feel right on my skin.

 

*

 

The day has gone by in a swirl of writing and napping. It is now early evening and the experience of a morning in Austin feels so far away. What lingers from each morning is how the air hangs much cooler than I expect it to be, and the walls tilt in my head as I stumble out onto the porch constantly dehydrated. I have a cigarette first thing when I wake up for no other reason than routine. That, and I feel as if the nicotine will help to push my eyelids open just a smidge faster.

 

I realize in the evenings that there’s also a speck of dread that fills each morning, one that wonders what it is I will do with my day. Sometimes there is a sense of awe here, that I can do whatever I please. But mostly it is me looking up at gray clouds, wondering why I spend so much of my time working on something that does not financially pay. Words to keep me going, my day that always makes me feel dumb and useless by the time the sun goes down. I question what it is that has been achieved.

 

This is the dread with which I start each morning. Then I go buy coffee and plunge into writing—any words that get my hand, my head moving. And then I am at the small black table, smoking away at a cigarette, letting the blue ink drip words out of me. The chair is wood and metal, always stiff and rarely comfortable. Like my body before it runs. I tell myself each morning I will run before it gets hot, and each morning that thought lingers in my body until the sun is sweating and I force myself to go to the gym in the afternoon and strap myself to the dreaded treadmill. I move in the afternoons when the words begin to feel stifling.

 

But this is about morning and feeling the oncoming day hover in the air around me. This is about the morning expectations of some such and such thing which never feels quite clear. This is about wondering what will come out of me that day, how many hours I will spend reading my words on the page.

 

*

 

It is more into the evening, and I try to settle down to sleep. This could be the light of the gray early dawn, but it is the haze of the night stepping forward. I end my day considering the next morning, how I will sleep for nine hours and then wake again. And again, I do not know what it is I will do with my day. Decisions hang indecisively in the muggy air.

 

Perhaps I could say what Austin is like at night, how the day seems to stretch out later here than in Minneapolis, how the birds regain their nightly quiet. And the frogs continue to make their presence known, the strumming thrum of something that is awake with me.

 

The night descends, and I loose sight of these lines as I sit out on the porch with a pen, a cigarette and an expectant notebook. What I accomplished today was giving myself a break—only working for an hour to write these words. Instead of writing for ten hours, I read a book. Took 168 pages into my eyes. A love story processed in the brain. It reminded me how each night as I lie down with my lover, I think of all of those past loves, the women who have slipped out of my life. One loudly, one silently who is still slipping. Each felt like a scream.

 

This is night, when dreams run rampant and I do not know what else to do with my brain but just try to let it be. The night here is still, quieting. The apartment is dark, the bed hiding itself in shadows. How my knee always finds it, runs into the black metal bar.

 

But not tonight. Tonight I am couch-bound. Letting my sick lover reign over the bed, I will lie my body on the black leather couch and drift into something that hopefully feels like dreams.

 

*

 

I cannot sleep.

 

Here is my night as I yawn into its silence. The candle is lit because I know of nothing else to do. I write in the quiet that sweeps through the apartment, as if it is 4am and I am just now waking. The dark is what draws me in the most—the time when the world hides itself from curious, listening eyes.

 

I feel my pen glide across the page, and my eyes adjust to this rhythm. There is the hum from the refrigerator, one from the chirp of frogs outside. The sound of my sick lover is whisperless, his fever deafening out all sighs. He rests. I write because it is the only thing I know how to do.

 

And I worry about money, because I’m good at that, too. Between now and a potential publication, I must continue to settle into my thoughts, to nestle into what nudges me to continue this writing, this belief in myself. And it is not the fact of money. That is not what I hope to gain.

 

There is much here that has been lost. Life, love, body, mind. But the writing persists through the strength of the soul, pluralizes itself with each word recorded. I do not know what all I have done today but witnessed the world turn another page. Tomorrow I will read back through all I wrote and search for at least one word that will push me into the next.

 

I am surrounded by clutter on my desk, and it is clutter that feels like me, like the things I use to continue on with me. Music and cigarettes. Candle, water, books and computers. Something here tells me something about me. What it says is that I am still searching for this. Perhaps I always will be.

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