Sunday, October 14, 2001
I am sitting in the cafe at one of America's giant bookstores, sipping my coffee. It is a delicious, full-bodied African blend.
The paper lies unopened before me. Like most Americans, I've been overwhelmed lately by too much news. I'd rather try to find my own words, so I've pulled out a notebook and pen. Now here I sit, ready to write something profound and enlightening.
But the muses are quiet today--as they have been for the past four weeks. Four long, grueling, agonizing weeks. It seems I no longer have the power to summon them. If they come at all it is at their own whim. So as I sit here sipping my coffee, I let my pen fly aimlessly across the pages and I try hard to listen. The voice of the muses is there somewhere. If I can just focus....
There, off to my left, a machine whirs away as someone stands waiting for their cappuccino or latte or whatever it is they've ordered. To my distant right a string of cash registers click along, recording the latest sales.
I wonder, briefly, what books people are buying today. The latest murder mystery perhaps? Another Anne Rice horror story? And I wonder how anyone can read such tales now, when the horrors of reality are even more ghastly, more cruel, more damned than anything in print.
Mayber they're buying the latest magazines, ready to fill their minds with yet more stories of heroes and devils. Or could it be they're buying books about inspiration, meditation, divination, as they seek to banish the devils and think only of the heroes....
The rattle of dishes on a table behind me draws me away from these curiosities. I focus instead on the soothing serenade from the speakers above, the yearning strains of Pavarotti, his voice so warm, so compassionate. I don't understand the words, but it doesn't matter. Still he calls out to me, to my muses, helping them to guide my pen.
Still I don't know what to write.
I look up, to the windows just beyond the next table over, and I see that the rain has stopped. The day is starting to look a little brighter out there in the parking lot. A stray ray of sunlight has somehow found a foothold despite the thick carpet of clouds.
I know it is temporary. The light will fade again soon. That's just the kind of day it is. Gray. Bleak. The world outside is sodden, while I sit inside, dry.
I think for a moment how odd it feels not to cry. The tears have been such a constant. Yet now that the universe itself is crying, I am not.
Instead, I sit here in a giant American bookstore, listening to an Italian tenor, sipping an African coffee, glancing at headlines about Afghanistan and trying to find the words my soul yearns to say but cannot, words the muses simply will not release. Not yet.