It's 12:01 a.m., and I'm still up on a Monday night/Tuesday morning waiting for Katie to call me back. I lay back in one of the commons' chairs and set my cell phone on my stomach as the sounds of Great Big Sea blare over Rodney's* speakers, and I look over at the couch where no one is sitting. But if I concentrate hard enough, I can see that someone is sitting there; he has nonchalantly stretched his legs across the chair in front of him, and as usual he's paying me no mind. In fact, he's munching on the chips and salsa that I left there, and he hasn't yet paused to brush away the crumbs that are falling on his faded blue 'NIKE' shirt.
I pause my music. He finally sees that I'm looking at him and, after he finishes his mouthful, he grins at me. "Hi there. Surprised?"
"Oh, definitely." I turn my eyes back to the computer screen in front of me. "It's been a while."
He says nothing more, and after a few moments the silence becomes too awkward for me to bear. I close Rodney with a tired sigh and look up again. "Okay, I give. What's the occasion?"
"None," he says, setting the chips and salsa on the floor. "Can't I just visit because I want to?"
"You usually don't. And besides, you aren't real."
He grins again. "It's not like this is the first time you've ever seen me."
"...well then, you'll have to forgive me. I'll never really get used to being able to see my muse." Not by yourself, I mentally add. Usually he is accompanied by my four other muses, and all five of them pester me incessently until I start writing with them again. It is in fact odd to see my muses when they are on an inspiration mission, but even stranger to see one by himself. There has to be a reason.
I look at my cell phone in anticipation of Katie's call, but to my dismay the screen remains blank. There's no convenient way out of the conversation that he undoubtedly wants to have with me. This doesn't make me very happy. "Okay, let's try this again," I say. "Why did you decide to randomly show up?"
I watch as his grin fades and, to my surprise, he begins to look very serious... and a little sad. Now I feel a twinge of guilt about being so abrupt with him, but he starts to talk before I can apologize. "It's been two months since you last wrote anything. We both know that isn't a good sign."
"No kidding." I mentally cringe at how harsh my tone sounds, but I continue anyway. "It's no fault of mine... I've been swamped with schoolwork. I'm sorry." I let my gaze fall to the floor, and he says nothing. I'm waiting for him to reassure me, offer a simple "No worries" to let me know that I'm not completely letting him down... but he says nothing. The silence cuts deeper than a verbal knife, and finally I can stand it no longer. "Look, I... I'll work on it, okay? I'm just having trouble finding time to break through the writer's block, that's all."
His voice is so soft that I barely hear him say, "you've had writer's block before, but never like this. You used to have time for everything you enjoyed..."
"Last year I didn't have to set aside time to write -- I was in high school." I grimace at nothing in particular. "...you know how it eats away at me when I can't write. Everything I start I never finish, everything I think of flies away the instant I touch a pencil, everything I write I erase or delete because it's just bad writing!"
"It must be so frustrating. I mean, to have all those ideas in your head and be unable to get them out..."
"Yeah, thanks," I sigh. "You're really succeeding in making me feel better."
He smirks. "What can I say? I'm a muse, not a therapist." When I refuse to respond, he lets out a sigh of his own and smiles tiredly at me. "Okay. If it'll help, I'll get the guys together and we'll scheme up something." Now he grins. "I could probably play a harmless prank or two to get things started."
I smile in spite of myself. "That would help. You're always up to no good, anyway."
He laughs. "Oh, I aim to misbehave."
The sound of my ringing phone startles me, and I awake with a jolt and scramble to catch my phone before it falls onto the floor. I rub at my sleepy eyes and look over at the couch, but I am alone in the commons. I sigh a little. It's always a bad case of writer's block that brings about dreams of my muses...
Rodney is still open and my music still playing, so I pause the music to answer my phone before it switches to my voicemail. It's Katie. I smile at the sound of her voice and, as I start to talk to her, I give the couch one last fleeting look.
On the floor in front of the couch, the salsa is still open.
*For those of you who don't know, Rodney is the name of my computer.
A Gift from a Friend
1 day ago