The other day I had an interesting conversation with my mom. Lately we’ve been having some random conversations, including the conversation about the dead man being loaded onto the ambulance a few nights ago. I’ve seen a lot of things in my life, but seeing a old White guy loaded onto a stretcher and hearing his daughter yelling at the paramedics, is a sight that leaves an eerie feeling.
I woke up to the sounds of loud screaming outside and finally looked out the window of our hotel room. My mom said she had been up for 15 minutes and heard the screaming. She wondered if someone was getting raped and was contemplating calling the cops, but she realized the screaming sounded more like a panic than of sheer fear and violation.
Her assumption was correct, the girl was panicking because her father had just died. I still don’t know how he died, but I could hear the pain in her screams. The paramedics told her to come down and she started screaming that she couldn’t calm down, how could she calm down when her father just died? She tried explaining to the paramedics that she couldn’t believe her father died. Mind you, I didn’t see any of this. I could only hear what was going on and I could see the loading her father into the ambulance. It was all a mysterious tragedy to me.
Listening to her screams, seeing her father being loaded into the ambulance, and watching as other people came outside, I began thinking about the city. Not a specific city in general, just that overwhelming atmosphere of strangers. I grew up in the suburbs and never lived in the heart of a city, so I’m not accustomed to that non-stop lifestyle. I might consider giving it a shot maybe next summer, but it would have to be the right neighborhood.
As a writer and a down to earth person, I don’t think I could deal with that pressure of living in a city unless the vibe was just right. It’s not the fact that all my neighbors would most likely be strangers, it’s the reality of death, ambulances, crime, partying, and a bunch of noise that keeps the city alive. It’s fun to be in the city and have a night on the town, but it’s unlikely I’d live in the heart of a metropolis.
I suppose it can be attributed to the anti-social nature that writers often retreat to in height of their creativity. Take J.D. Salinger for instance, the author of the American classic Catcher in the Rye. He lived way off in the woods of Cornish, NH as a recluse. Nobody barely ever saw him, but his solitude perfected his literary prowess.
Writers all have that quiet space, that zone where they can become one with their words. But getting in the space can often cost their social status. Ernest Hemingway put it best, “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”
The loneliness that comes from being a writer, is refreshing in my opinion. I have this amazing ability, sort of like a superhero, to be extremely popular and the life of the party. But when I go home and write, I become this knowledgeable recluse for the moment. The field data I collect while on my exhibitions of life come in handy for those quiet days in my writers sanctuary, but I still know how to have a healthy balance and not be an anti-social cat lady. That is definitely not going to bring my mom grandchildren one day, so socializing is a must!