I know what to write.
Roy Smith sat with his fingers on the keyboard, trying to figure out the least awkward way to introduce his main character’s name. This writing thing wasn’t as easy as he had figured it to be, thought Roy. He removed his fingers from the keyboard and turned his palms toward his face to stretch his wrists. They were sore. Sore from being turned down, waiting on the keyboard for some instruction from his brain, and also sore from the long wounds running “up the river,” as they say.
Unfortunately, no instructions were forthcoming from his brain. The faucet of Roy’s inspiration hadn’t flowed full-strength for a while now. Instead, he thought of it like the faucet in a volcano movie, when the cool-under-pressure hot guy turns the tap and brown water comes sputtering and coughing out. And it smells like rotten eggs.
That’s what it had been for Roy for a while now. His inspiration, or motivation, or call it the wellspring of his spirit for life, whatever, had been choking out dark discharge that smelled. And Roy knew he had to get out of town before the volcano blew, before he was melted alive by a flow of molten rock or choked under the gradual weight of billions of tons of ash.
Although, in a way, he was already too late; the volcano had already blown, the eruption already destructive. He touched the bandage over his left wrist. It felt like he was just beginning to scab. It’s remarkable how fast we can heal, Roy thought. And it gave him gray hope.
He hadn’t been taken, hadn’t been destroyed, in the eruption. But it had been close. And Roy knew that as long as he stayed, another eruption was always waiting, trembling to explode, right inside himself. And Roy knew that he would not survive the next explosion, if it came. He would make sure of it.
Roy Smith sat. He looked out the window. There were no answers in the tree outside. There were no answers anywhere, as far as he could see. It was springtime. There were no flowers, but the leaves on the trees were the light, clear green that reminded him of daisies, he didn’t know why. Spring was just spring, as far as Roy had ever known, and he could feel the fresh grass, the flowers and the rain, the bright sunshine and soft, damp earth all at once. He smiled at the thought of suicide in the spring. Who would think of such a thing? Then he thought about himself, Roy Smith, committing suicide, and the thought made him laugh out loud. It was something he could never have seen coming. Never. Things could never get so bad, never so dark, so painful, that you would be better off to off yourself.
That wasn’t it, of course, and Roy knew it. The laugh was gone, and he rolled his eyes. Suicide was not a logical choice. Roy hadn’t reasoned himself to it, like he was reasoning now. It had just been the end for the course he was on, and he had no power to choose or reject it. It had been inevitable; it had just happened.
Except, of course, it hasn’t, Roy thought. Because I am not dead. And I’m not going to die. I’m going to leave.
The suicide note, which he had whipped up easily, seemed so vulgar to him now. He didn’t mind the juvenile, angsty feel to it, or the fact that it had been so easy to write. He just didn’t like how crude it sounded, how base, like the first time you heard about Elvis dying on the toilet or Marilyn Monroe dying from an enema. It wasn’t horrifying, it was just vaguely gross.
The whole idea of a note was unattractive at this point, which is why Roy had decided on a story. A story was really more like the way he thought about his life anyway. Notes, notes written “from me to you” seemed at once too direct and not direct enough. You could say something in a story that would be an insult in a note; but a vagueness in a note would be expressive in a story. A note carries more offense than a story and less meaning.
Roy didn’t really understand his reasoning, but it felt right, and when the world is tumbling down in heaps and shards, you hold onto things that feel right. The only problem was that he didn’t know what the story should say, or how any story he wrote could explain to a reader what he, Roy, was planning to do.
He had wrestled with the possibility that this idea, this half-plan of his, didn’t even make any sense for more than an hour now, and still the screen sat blank, the cursor blinking at him. The cursor blinked, and seemed to Roy both impatient and patient. It would wait for as long as he wanted, it would bear with him forever if need be. But while it was waiting, it would tap its foot. Kind of like a parent.
The main character was going to be at the train station, Roy knew, waiting with the sun in his eyes and a one-way ticket in his hand. And the story wouldn’t say which way the character was going, or how far. He might be heading into town or out of town; he might be on his way to Fairfax or Jackson Ferry or California or Maine.
But Roy couldn’t even think of his name. He picked his hands up, looked at the palms again, and pressed the butts into each other. The straight razor had been much easier to use than the keyboard. It sat to the Roy’s right on the table, sparkling clean. He had scrubbed it clean in embarrassed fear last night while he bled into towels tied tight around his forearms. Roy bet most people didn’t know how hard it was to tie a towel around your own wrist.
A bird darted past the window, very close, a glimpse of red and gray. It made Roy want to go outside. And right then, he knew what would be in his story, and how he would introduce the main character. And how, in spite of everything, he really wanted everyone to know that it was all right, that he had escaped the volcano, that springtime in the American Midwest is a beautiful thing. In ten minutes, Roy would be gone. He knew what to write.