So, I unexpectedly find myself in downtown Byron Bay, at a bookshop cafe, while I wait for a friend.
Except for a brief visit to a second-hand book store on the way to a friend’s funeral a few weeks ago it has been many months since I’ve been in a bookshop. It’s been too long since I’ve had my head buried in a book of any description.
And what I also realise as I sit here sipping chai, is that it’s been too long since I have lost myself in that world that is my own land of story. The characters sit languid, waiting, growing paler and more indistinct.
I have the usual excuses; life, health, family, a crazy schedule…
But it’s all bullshit really. I recognise a pattern sneaking back into my life where I make everything else momentarily more important that words on the page. How have I forgotten this basic fact – writing matters to me. Viscerally matters. I sit here in this bookshop space and it’s like an oxygen mask applied to a dying woman.
Stupid uncontrollable tears trickle down my face. A fat one plops off my nose and onto my keyboard. I love that I am in Byron. The woman at the next table doesn’t bat an eye. She hands me a tissue and smiles. I smile back. We grin dopily at each other.
“It’s the books,” I explain.
“I know,” she says in a hushed whisper. “So many books and I never give myself permission to just sit down and read.”
Yes, I nod. So many books and mine aren’t amongst them yet. It’s not a competitive thing, or a jealousy thing. It’s more like being heavily pregnant, waddling with the discomfort of a belly swollen beyond its measure, and ankles fat with fluid from an overburdened system. I’m writing all the time, but not the one story, not that one story that sings me to sleep each night and waits for me in the dusky dawn.
I’m bursting with discomfort and I know it won’t let up until I give birth to a fully-formed story. I need to sit here in this awful aching until I can hold this creative outpouring in my hands in some viable form.
The woman at the next table is sobbing now. But it’s Byron. I move my chair across and hug her. She hugs me back. And when we’re done, she goes off to buy a book, and I sit down at my laptop…
Just before she leaves, she comes back to my table, a bundle of books in her arms. “A book a month,” she says to me. “I’m promising you I’ll read one book a month.”
“Four hours a week,” I smile back. “I’ll write words just for me, four hours a week. We hug again. No tears this time.
Somewhere far from here, a bright speck in my imagination, a boy called James sits up taller and calls my name from the deck of his pirate ship. He remembers me. He waited. Together we sail off into unexplored waters…