April took another sip of her coffee and watched as the Microsoft document cursor blinked steadily on the screen in front of her. It taunted her as if it was laughing at her—laughing at the fact that she still had yesterday’s clothes on, laughing at the fact that she hadn’t written a story of substance in over a month. She moved to the city to increase her creative potential, not to squash it like over-chewed gum on the sidewalk benches. She looked over at the digital clock on the corner of her desk and let out a tired, frustrated moan. 1:37 a.m. From the looks of her empty document, it seemed like her third all-nighter of the week was in the near future.
The city roared outside her window like an untamable, wild creature. Down below her, she could hear the voices of the intoxicated Friday night bar goers on the sidewalks. She listened to the fights, the laughter, the obnoxious screams from women and men who have most likely maxed their credit cards on shots of tequila, and the beeps of frustration from angry taxi drivers or daring New Yorkers that chose to venture through the streets with their own cars. The alarms from parked cars rang throughout the street, probably as a result of the clumsiness and carelessness of the drunks that left the bar. These sounds echoed through her head like an overplayed record stuck on loop, taunting her, just like the wicked Microsoft cursor. She should be down there, too, wasting money on overpriced alcohol and walking tipsily through the sidewalk streets of New York City. Yet instead, she was on her fourth cup of coffee for the day, attempting to reclaim any last bit of hope that she still had her writing capabilities. Don’t these people have life-depending careers, too?
She rose from her spinning desk chair in frustration, breathed hot air into her lungs, and slammed her windows shut. The world suddenly fell quiet for a moment and April’s breath hitched as if she didn’t want to ruin the silence. Just as she was about to sit back down, a steady pounding sound began to hit the wall of her studio apartment room. The momentarily silent world April had created was now being corrupted by the muffled moans of the couple living in the apartment next door. April’s face filled with heat.
“Really?! At 2 o’clock in the morning?” she yelled into the darkness of her apartment.
The pounding grew lighter, and muffled giggles rose from the room next door. The memory of herself and the man that she loved tangled up on their once-shared mattress passed through her stream of consciousness, and she adjusted her blonde messy bun and glasses to shake the thought away.
April returned back to her spinning chair and her empty document, hoping that the noise had sparked even half of a coherent plot idea. Perhaps a star-crossed love finally meets again at the right time? Boy meets girl at coffee shop? Her mind soared with fogged frustration, thinking about every overused idea, and nothing of creative individuality all at once. Bits and pieces of an imaginable setting appeared transiently; she pondered on the worn out storylines for a moment before leaving her mind with remnants of dust. Nobody liked an outfit repeater just the same as nobody liked the same story twice. As the laughter outside the apartment slowly diminished into incoherent voices, and the rush of taxi cars and Uber drivers dwindled to occasional passes by, April thought best to shut her laptop for the night; she shut out the realization that she was in denial of how times have changed, and how her creative conscious was unable to mold to the ideals of a new generation.
* * *
She was awoken by the same city that lulled her to sleep each night—yet, this morning, it was the sounds of buses and cell phone chatter that snapped her out of her semi-slumber. The same city that never remains the same somehow managed to deliver the one source of consistency left in her life. The digital clock on the desk illuminated that the time was 7:56 a.m., and the stiff pains that made themselves present in the back of her neck reminded her of the unfortunate night before. She shot an evil yet depressed glance at the closed laptop on top of her desk and pulled her dead-weight body together at the edge of her bed. She slipped into her furry slippers and made her way toward the tiny kitchenette to brew herself a relieving, warm cup of coffee; before leaving her bedroom, she hesitated at the door for a moment before she grabbed her laptop and carried it under her arm. Her eyes hovered over the shelf where she kept her written novels and tiny achievement awards, and she blinked to break the tension between her and her old successes.
April sat down at her tiny dinner table for two and placed the laptop on the opposite side from her, hoping to stay as far away from it yet as close to it as possible, so that any plot ideas could conveniently enter her brain. She wasn’t counting on it at this point, though. Any pieces of ideas her brain had left had now been overdone by up and coming writers, writers that are considered the stars and geniuses of the new generation.
She remembered back to the times when her studio apartment was once filled with life that thrived on love as loud and as bright as the city outside and below. What was once a lively, decorated home was now a mediocre roof to sleep under in order to get by. A year ago, she sat in the same chair she sat in now to sign off on the apartment; her hands suddenly grew cold as she remembered the feeling of her now-ex-boyfriend holding it excitedly as they signed off on the beginning of their new chapter together. She learned a lot in college about subtle hints and foreshadows that would highlight sudden change ahead, yet she never learned how to pick up on it in her own life’s story. She was never prepared to pick herself up after her life spiraled into chaotic waves of uncontrollable change. Hell, she was never prepared for her career to burst into flames.
The horrid picture of it all came pouring back to her and flooded her mind with memories of the time she closed her laptop after finishing her first novel. She could remember being attacked with kisses from her lover, hugs from her parents, and support from her growing fan base. The words would soar from her mind to her fingers with such slippery ease; it was a second nature that convinced her she had it all.
She believed in her heart that she would never be plagued with the horrible case of writer’s block. Yet, now it was the cold storm of December, and she was stuck with stacks of unpaid bills, loneliness, and a stubborn consciousness that, for the life of it, could not birth any ideas worth writing about. Why did everything good in her life leave her empty?
April’s coffee was cold now, and she felt a migraine begin in her temples. It convinced herself enough that she needed a dose of fresh air, so she decided to get dressed and take a walk without any destination in particular, except maybe a possible beginning to a career-saving storyline.
* * *
She stomped down the stairs and breathed in the familiar smell of polluted air as she entered the sidewalk streets of the city. She searched in hope of bumping into her past lover and hoped he would cure her of this God awful case of failure. She cursed him under her breath for leaving her in this mess, for leaving her to drown in her own failure.
“Excuse me, are you April Waters?” a hesitant voice questioned behind her.
April’s body froze and she slowed down her walk to a slow stroll.
The voice continued. “I’m a… a big fan of your work. I want to be just like you. I’ve even started blogging a few of my own short stories.”
April remained forward for a few moments before turning around to the teenage boy looking shyly into her eyes.
“I’m so sorry, kid, I think you have the wrong person. Best of luck, though.” April turned back around and shut her eyes harshly for a few moments, pushing her hot tears back into her eyes. Maybe it was the wicked December wind that triggered her eyes to water, or maybe it was the realization that she truly has amounted to being nothing but a one-hit-wonder. Maybe all she could write about now was how bad her heart broke whenever she walked through the streets of a city that once gave her everything. Or maybe this was a sign from whoever was in charge of her universe to throw in the white flag, pencils, and papers and quit this life for good.
The leaves underneath her feet crinked and cried as she stepped over their dull-colored bodies. The occasional gusts of wind caused the leaves to pick up their belongings and leave, to spiral out of control until the universe plopped them back where they came from. April felt comfortable being amongst the leaves, their once vibrant bodies being so beautiful and unique. Yet, as they fell from the trees onto the hustling New York sidewalks, their beauty had been drained and their bones crinkled with each meaningless stomp. Just like her.
As she continued her aimless walk into the heart of New York, she read the colorful billboards and street signs. Advertisements for movies, for music, for television shows, for success, all pressed against her face as if they were laughing at her. She paid attention to the pedestrians that passed by the signs and gawked in awe at the sights of everyone else’s success. She could hear incoherent mumbling of people exciting themselves over the newest forms of online television shows and movies. Entertainment that didn’t pique her interest whatsoever. She cursed the universe once more for replacing her in the eyes of the audience. April could feel her knees buckling from beneath her; her emotional baggage was suddenly too heavy to hold any longer.
Her temples ached even harder at the overdone billboards of cheap entertainment that embedded itself into these humans, and she rubbed them gently as she shoved her hands back into her jacket pockets defeatedly.
It was around noon now, and the city hustled to stay warm under new restaurants and cafes that had previously been newspaper stands and bookstores. She decided to grab a coffee, her second one of the day. She used to call that her writing juice because it helped her birth new ideas during her sleepless nights, yet all they bring her now is addiction headaches if she stoops below her four-cup intake. April listened to the conversations of the people that sat on the phone, sat on first dates, and sat with friends. Girls were blushing shyly at boys that sat across from them, while some sat quietly on their laptops occasionally humming to the coffeehouse music that played lightly over the speakers.
April took a sip of her coffee and burned herself, feeling her tongue go numb. She hissed as the boiling caffeine slithered down her throat and hit her stomach heavily.
She reached her house and was welcomed by the sound of the couple making love in the room next to her again. Some things never seemed to change, yet nothing ever seemed to stay the same for too long. The couple would be moving out soon, pursuing a different life together somewhere greater than before. Maybe this was April’s ‘greater pursuit,’ and she was just coming down from the high, like the intoxicated drunks outside the bar each Friday night. Or maybe she was like the leaves, transiently losing their color before blossoming again the next year. Maybe she just needed some time, April pondered to herself quietly. Yet the realization that change was amongst her echoed in the back of her mind like the persistent beeping of the taxi drivers outside, and she swallowed another sip of coffee as she opened up her laptop for the first time today. She thanked the sounds of the city for having led back home, wherever that may have been.