There are a few times in the life of a writer that they take on the stress of a mental block.
For me, it’s right now and I really hope that this is the beginning of the end. I find myself sitting at a picnic table in a dog park downtown Ottawa searching for inspiration.
It’s approaching midnight on a gorgeous Saturday night and I’m staring at my computer screen, searching for inspiration. Never thought this would be where I found myself when what I love to do, turning my thoughts into art, came back to me.
Almost as soon as I begin to put my fingers to the keyboard, the wheels start turning and I find myself writing again. I look around and think about everything that goes on in one place, in the span of a mere hour. One single city block holds millions of memories that belong to thousands of different people. That’s just one block out of the countless places that around seven billion people in this beautiful world get to call home.
Memories of people falling in love, others falling apart, someone taking their dog out for the first time, or the last time, someone racing to the hospital to bring a new life into this world and add a member to their family, or someone else’s. Another going to the same place to say goodbye to one of the people that brought them into this world.
Just under 24 hours ago, a 21-year-old man was stabbed to death about 100 feet away from where I’m sitting at this very second. His story ended there, far too soon, but it also created a memory for anyone who was there and anyone that knew him. It affected many people that will always think of that when they walk down this street, impacting them permanently.
It even impacted me. Thinking about what happened to him is what got me to start writing again, his dark fate was my inspiration. The end of his story was the basis for the one I’m writing now. I find myself wondering if Moka, my dog, who’s accompanying me as I embark on this literary journey, is barking because canines really can see things that we can’t and he’s still around. I’m just trying to make sense of it all.
I’ve lost a lot of loved ones and even though I didn’t know him, this is another moment of bittersweet clarity for me. A moment when I remember just how short life really is. Death can come knocking on your door wearing his dark, hooded cloak and wipe your slate clean at any second, without even the slightest hint of a warning.
You could walk out the front door tomorrow morning, thinking you’re on your way to work or school and get hit by a car or you could find yourself in the shoes of the poor young man (who will remain nameless out of respect for the family and the fact that I did not know him) that bit “the sharp knife of a short life” after a night out at the clubs.
Then you have the people on the other end of the tragedy. Where I’ve been many times; grieving the loss of someone they love. There are spouses that spend their days, rain or shine, wondering if their husband will come home from war. Children that spend their days wondering if mommy or daddy will come home. Parents that have to bury their kids before their children bury them.
I think about this and wish I had a nice, neat glass of scotch in my hand to accompany the dark subject that brought me back to this keyboard. Sitting in a dark, fenced-in dog park in the middle of the night, my face lit solely by the soft glow of my computer screen – I hear the laughter and sins of people on their balconies. I listen to the drunk girls loudly clicking their stilettos as they walk down Elgin Street, coming or going from bars with their friends.
Those nights out that we’ll take to the grave with us as our fondest memories can be taken from us, ever so suddenly. People grow old in the blink of an eye and if you really think about it, everyone is just waiting to die.
Walking down the street to bring the two bratty dogs, mine particularly bratty today, back to the apartment; inspiration seems to be surrounding me tonight for the first time in a long time. I look to the end of Frank Street and I see the red and blue flashing lights on top of an ambulance.
As I get closer, I see that it’s an elderly man being carried out of an apartment building on a stretcher. Not sure, neither nosy, nor rude enough to go ask what happened of course; but I can’t help myself from wondering what happened and if death was coming to knock on his door tonight.
After I drop the furry brats off, I begin to walk down the seemingly deserted Metcalfe Street aimlessly. Backpack armed with cigarettes, a sweater, and my computer. A few blocks down the street, I decide make my way to a pool hall that my friends and I have frequented it since High School. I think it’s a great place to continue this story – not to mention possibly find more inspiration through memories.
Moreover, that scotch is a lot more accessible here and definitely helps the words flow a lot better. If it does become the first story I’ve written in far too long, I don’t expect it to be a great one, (or even good at all for that matter.) I can definitively say that writing again after a block is one of the most relieving feelings I’ve ever experienced.
I turn down a side street and a woman driving a white Garda Security car passes me. Her car wheels turning about the same speed that the ones in my head are. I’m thinking about how, while it is of course good to have security around, they can’t always protect you. It took officers over half an hour to respond to the stabbing that happened last night. The scary part is that the police station is on the same street, only about five small blocks away from where it happened.
It’s crazy to think about how that left turn you took at the lights, or choosing to take the highway instead of driving through the city could be your fate. How that moment in your life affects not only you, but the person in the car next to or behind you. How you being in front of them and leaving your house at the second that you did could mean that they don’t run into someone while they’re grabbing their morning coffee. The conversation that they had that moment could have changed their life forever – in a good or a bad way. But the moments that changed your life, changed theirs too. ‘The domino effect of life’ is what I like to call it. It’s something that fascinates me and I think about frequently.
That being said, live your life how the people that you’ve lost would’ve wanted you to. Live for them and don’t waste a single second of it. Because as I’ve made very clear, life is far too short to spend your time worrying about money or material items or what you’re going to wear to prom. Don’t live your life in regret of the mistakes you make, live it making better decisions. Memories instead of regrets that you let haunt you. Your biggest regret will be not taking the time to appreciate the things you do have and focusing on the things you don’t.