An Orchid's Soliloquy
I ran a search for writer's block before starting this. Gave up about three seconds in. I couldn't focus long enough to type the query, much less to go through the results. So, I resorted to writing about it.
It's been a few days now. I wrap up work, hang with the folks, and come back to my laptop. I put on a little soul music, lock myself in a room, and sing along. Cry along if I'm particularly feeling the vibe. Spin around in my fancy chair, put on fairy lights, move in the space. Dance occasionally, read the headlines, get cozy. I've tried every possible variation of the activities that I can perform with my limited bandwidth and energy. And patience, no surprise which one runs out first there. And yet, here I am, writing about writer's block. Not even in one go. It's taken me four days just to get to this sentence. And let's face it, it's not my best one either. What a cliché.
It's really not though, you know? I didn't wake up one day, suddenly drained of all my artistic juices. It's so exasperating, having so many notions and not enough words to describe them in. Not the right ones anyway. Because I do have them, the ideas.
I want to write about how life should be a little nuts, otherwise it's just a bunch of Thursdays strung together. I want to preach about how dying is the easy part, it's living that is tricky, because we've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen. I want to interpret human beings. How our hearts are fragile and how our minds are absurd. They yearn for some quiet, but they're so fearful of being alone with their thoughts that even a daily walk is incomprehensible without somebody singing or talking into our ears, just so we'd have something to drown ourselves in. I want to giddily ramble about how there's pink and purple in the sky. And that there's nobody, but there is the dream of somebody. I want to dole out advice about how you mustn't give your heart to a wild thing. The more you do, the stronger they get. Until they're strong enough to run away. And I want to scream about how `all is fair in love and war` is the most convenient excuse in the history of the world, designed to discount the follies and flaws of a merciless lover. Those we love most have the greatest capacity to inflict pain on us. And pain has never been fair. It always afflicts people disparately, leaving one unscathed, and the other, undone.
She stopped typing and distractedly stretched her aching back. She didn't prefer writing when the sun was out, but she knew that the brief momentum that presented itself that morning was a now-or-never deal. Things had slowed down lately, what with a new job, a strange city and the self-imposed exile from social interactions. Her career, now that she had one, took most of her time. That, and her blog.
Ever since she was a child, she knew that the best way, the only way, she could convey herself, was through the written word. All her life, from kids' diaries with little locks to an electronic screen, any time she had something important to say, she wrote it instead. Helped by a pandemic that shut down the world, she finally took the leap and started her website. It was the single thing she had going on that she was guiltily the most proud of. She often thought of talking about how it tormented her that this brainchild came into being because of something that devastated millions. But it always seemed like a first-world, elitist problem from a broader perspective. And besides, she'd always had other things she wanted to get out of her system. Until now.
Nothing disastrous had struck. Life was business-as-usual most days. She was happy. Just, unfulfilled. It had happened to her before, multiple times. With her, strong feelings usually had a physical manifestation. A knot in her stomach, a heaviness in her heart, a temperature to feel warmth when life got too cold. She knew that. She was used to that. But this time, to her consternation, she was stripped of her solitary gift. Her power to put down thoughts into coherent sentences was cruelly snatched away without warning. With her only outlet cut off, she spent her days out of her element, desperately waiting for the phase to pass.
She checked her phone. To look at the time, not the notifications. She seldom got any now. Fifteen minutes past her usual login time. She groaned, she'd have to finish the piece later. Saving the draft, tying up her hair and switching applications, she went from Creative to Corporate in an instant. She liked her role. It was no groundbreaking research, but her colleagues were wonderful, the pay was decent, and she didn't dread coming into work every morning. For her, that was good enough.
Her routine was more or less set by now. A status update meeting every other morning, followed by an occasional call with her immediate superior. The rest of the day was run-of-the-mill, spent in completing her to-do list. She wanted to get out of her shell someday, and explore her organization and everything it had to offer. But the day always got away from her, and she didn't want to take on any more responsibilities than she had already been assigned in her short stint. So, her current plan was to keep her head down, focus on task at hand, and imbibe as much as she could for the foreseeable future.
By late afternoon, she was knee deep in putting out fires that never should've started in the first place. It had been a long day so far, and she excused herself to take a minute and rejuvenate. She stepped outside into the cool, crisp air of December. That was one of the very few things she liked about working from home, not being confined on the top floor of some mega conglomerate's building. Nature was five feet away, ever so welcoming any time she wanted to tune out.
Just as she was about to go look for the strays she fed everyday, her phone buzzed. A familiar, albeit sporadically heard tone. It was an alert she had set up for whenever anybody visited her blog. She looked at the pop-up with inoffensive apathy. New visitor from . She had seen this before. It was the same visitor who had been frequenting her website since the past few months. She had no information about them, and didn't want any either. She had always maintained her stance on the fact that she never wrote for others to read. And when people smirked at her asking why she published her work online, she always gave them the same answer. To have a little corner on the Internet I can call my own. My house, in binary instead of brick. They scoffed at her unbelievingly, but it didn't really matter to her. Just like it didn't matter to her if she had any viewership. Conscious of the clock running out on her break, she left the phone on her desk and hurried outside, calling her three little pups to come get their treats.
It was dark by the time she got done. She usually worked well past dinnertime, which meant she often had to face disapproving parents as soon as she got off her last call. Not that she cared, this was the highlight of her day. Stepping outside that 14x14 prison of a room she was locked in for hours on end, and mingling with two of her favorite people. At an age where most people prefer their peers, she prioritized time with her family. Maybe because she knew that their time together was limited, and that she would soon move out to make her own way in the world. Or maybe it was because her parents symbolized companionship in the purest form. Having been together for over three decades, they looked as great as ever, basked in their camaraderie and intimacy. In their presence, she often thought she knew love.
After their ritualistic round of games, her parents settled in front of the TV and she quietly slipped back into her room. It was late. She turned the lights out and hit the bed, exhausted from the day, knowing she had to do it all over again the next morning. Her eyelids drooped and she was half-asleep when she remembered her draft from the morning. She woke up with a start. She was tired, and although all she wanted was to bury her face in a pillow, she couldn't help but think about her incomplete article. It had been weeks since she had posted something, and this was the first time in all those days when she had made any real progress. She had a train of thought, and if she didn't do anything about it soon, she knew she'd be stranded at the station forever, alone. She looked at the note taped to the wall, beckoning to her in the moonlight. It was something she had written a long time ago, but it always unfailingly reminded her of her roots.
Writing isn't fun for me. It's not cathartic, and it's not something I look forward to. Some days, I have to challenge myself to finish a piece; some days, I don't even try. I often find my most discontented self takes over in the process, and oftener, my words leave me embittered and overwhelmed.
But, words help me feel when people can't. Words teach me when knowledge can't. Words, they help me stay true to myself, when my faith can't.
I sit down, and I type one word after another, until it's done. It's that easy, and it's that hard.
It's darkness and it's sunlight, all at once.
That was the second time she groaned because of writing that day. Dragging herself out of bed, she flicked the note in childish indignation. Having splashed freezing water on her face to wake up, she settled down with her laptop and a cup of cocoa, waiting for inspiration to strike.
She was reading what she had down so far for the fourth time when her phone played the website alert. It was well past midnight, so she assumed it was a false alarm and resumed her reflection. She was reading a sentence aloud when she stopped midway. A little visitor sign showed up on her website. Curious, she pulled up the Visitors Section on her admin account.
Visitor #2300. New visitor from .
It was them. It was the visitor from the morning. Ordinarily, she wouldn't have given it a second thought. But then she thought over the past few months. Visitor #2300 had continually been looking up her blog. Slowly, she realized that they were always the first one there after the mailer with a new post update went out to all the subscribers. Even now, when she hadn't done any activity for weeks, they had kept coming back, at all times of the day.
By now, she had lost any new insight she had on the draft she woke up for. Visitor #2300 had piqued her interest, possibly the first person to do so in months. Luckily, she had sprung for the premium plan for hosting her website, which meant that she could see any visitor's activity, with their privacy intact.
She opened their profile. It usually contained the area they were operating their device from, the post that they were currently browsing, and a chat section. Strangely, no area was associated with this particular user. She attributed the glitch to one of the many mistakes she had encountered while running her blog, and moved on to inspect the pages they were browsing. She noticed that they were going through posts she didn't even remember she had written. The titles reminded her of a time she no longer believed ever happened. Spending a little time here, some more time there, Visitor #2300 navigated through most of her work quickly, as if they'd seen them all before.
She was miles away in her mind, trying to remember her life from a few years ago. Trying to remember what had changed, and more importantly, what hadn't. She was acutely aware of how her musings, which had started out as hopeful and buoyant, turned a little more somber than the past version of her would've liked. But, she was also aware that this was all she knew how to write now. Pensively lost in thought, she was brought back by a flicker on the screen.
To her shock, she read the prompt on her screen.
Visitor #2300 is typing a message...
She felt tingly all over. It was probably just a mistake. An accidental touchscreen blip. She waited for the prompt to fade away. But it didn't. She waited some more. Between no message and the prompt not clearing away, she stared into the screen for so long that all the words had started to mix up. It was only when she heard a sound that she came back to her senses. It was the notification of a chat message sent to the website admin by a visitor. It was a tone that she had never heard before in all her time of running her blog.
On the profile of Visitor #2300, lay a new unread message, displayed flamboyantly to attract attention.
"An Orchid's Soliloquy. What a breathtakingly beautiful name for a blog."