The doorbell chimed. A visitor? I wasn’t expecting anyone today, I thought to myself standing up from my unfinished work. Unfinished work that had yet to begin. Though the visit was unexpected I’d been waiting for something, anything to take me away from my empty notebook. The blank lines stare at me and taunt me with their emptiness. My brain, as empty and as dusty as the lines, I scratch at it hoping the muse will come out to play. And so, when I heard the ring of the doorbell I willfully, quite enthusiastically, jumped from my chair pushing my ambitions aside and, ran to the door like Pavlov’s dog.
Too excited to take time to look through the peephole I swung the door open. I smiled, “Hello–,” to nothingness. My greeting echoed down the empty street like the useless plea I repeated all morning to the gapping abyss of my mind.
The trees rustled silently as a chilling wind snuck its way through the branches. I watched the limbs shake and I imagined they were waving hello. Its dead leaves falling, swayed back and forth, back and forth to the cold, asphalt ground. Nature, it seems, is the only thing that will respond to my hopeless cries for solace. I took form of one of the free flowing leaves. Brown and decaying I began my journey towards the ground remembering what I once was: green, vibrant, alive. I float slowly, dead, but I’m free.
Abruptly I’m taken away from my imagination by a shaking sound at my feet. A strange box of some kind writhed there and stopped, and writhed some more. I scanned my arms and legs to ensure I wasn’t still a leaf. Did that box just move? Surely the wind could not be that strong. The wind blew stronger, pushing me off balance in response. More importantly, I hadn’t ordered anything.
My heart mimicked the box. Thump-thump, stop, thump, stop. Someone kind enough to leave me a gift perhaps? Shake-shake, shake, stop, shake. Yet my day of birth was months away in both directions and no holiday was near. Shake-shake, stop, shake.
With my heart at a halt, I grabbed the box firmly and threw myself inside my house with it as if the outside air was poison crumbling my lungs. I gathered my legs and stood above the knee high box with my shirt wrinkled and draped over me.
I took a moment to catch my breath and scratch the miniscule hairs that were like thorns on my chin. I always marveled at those who could grow thick beards. For me, a month without shaving only brought about sparse growth, like some sick kind of desert, with one cactus standing tall in the vastness and only a few smaller bushes here and there.
Away from the wind and nature the box persisted in its odd movements. Maybe an unwanted kitty litter awaited me inside the box. I thought about the kittens, all squint-eyed, innocent little creatures, not knowing the outside world and its horrors, all stumbling over each other gasping for air . . . Gasping for air!
I reached down quickly to tear open the box and as I was about to release the constraints that kept it closed I thought of other possibilities. I stood up again, stepped back a little putting a finger on my lips, feeling the box’s sticky tape residue. This is dangerous, I thought. At that moment I longed to be back at my desk, my safe place, and to forget all that has happened, all that has ruined my routine. I dashed away and dove into my reading room. Only when the door was shut did I check behind me to see if anyone, or anything followed. To my relief only a white door stared back at me.
I scanned the room slowly. Quaint and warm, this room, lined with brown walls was meant for reading and writing. It was meant for exploration. I remembered all the adventures I’d been on sitting on the arm chair, feet up, caffeine in hand. Like little Frodo and Bilbo Baggins I loved adventure. But adventure from my own home.
I say safe but I remember the dark nights spent in this room and the danger that arrives with night. The hauntings my brain gives me, every night. And every night it was the same thing, me laying on the floor, my salted tears soaking the carpet. An ocean of thoughts but only a puddle of sleep.
I shivered and looked behind me, only to find my back was against the wall. I soon found myself creeping towards the corner, wishing the thoughts would go away.
“Go away!” my voice echoed, “Go away, go away! Go AWAY!” I strained my throat yelling at the thing that would never go away.
“Away, away . . . away” I whispered, defeated, the mucus of my emotions choking my breath “go . . . awa—” my ears caught something moving downstairs. It’s alive, I thought. It’s alive. Whatever is in that box, the mysterious box, mysteriously delivered, is a mysterious creature, alive.
I hadn’t realized until now that my face was between my knees, my pants covered in snot and tears, and I sat in the corner, crippled. I gathered my feet and thought about the box instead. Whenever I reached this position which happened often and I realize it, which didn’t happen often, I would either grab a pen and write or grab my headphones and listen. Anything to get my mind free. To free the thoughts. Now it was the box that distracted me. The box that was saving me from the silence.
I started to feel a sort of appreciation for the box. An affinity of some sort. But what’s inside? I didn’t want to know but I did want to know. For one’s imagination is always better than reality. One can imagine grandeur, millions and millions of wonderful things. But in reality it’s dark and not worth knowing. They say some things are better left unsaid and I believed this to be true about the box.
What’s inside the box could be a different world. I can’t help but imagine what it could be. Like when you meet a girl, and she is beautiful, like the comic books, and laughs the most wonderful of laughs at your jokes, she understands you, and you can’t help imagine what the two of you could be. You start building up the romance and think you’ll marry her, after the first date. It’s much like writing. Getting an idea during some unconscious activity like running or doing laundry and expanding the idea into a world with characters who have feelings and certain themes that they play out.
One can’t help but imagine these things. If one tells the brain to stop, it continues to build and build the romance, write the story, till suddenly you have this towering thing in your head, but it’s all in your head. The idea now is to ask her what she thinks, or as in writing, write the actual story. The problem is its physical rendering is never quite equivalent. More often than not it’s actually the exact opposite. She doesn’t feel the same way and the story’s words don’t paint what you see in your mind. You struggle and struggle, she must like me, I can tell, this sentence, how do I shape it to get the shape and angle of this world just right? And it rarely works out. She thinks you’re weird and “feels bad for leading you on,” you throw your pen at the wall and the story apologizes too.
But it wasn’t her, it wasn’t the story it was yourself. You curse at your imagination, the thing that led you too believe falsities. But sometimes everything clicks. Every piece of reality fits the imagined 1000 pieced puzzle and it feels the planets align. It feels like something else allowed it to happen. And your grateful for having the imagination, the idea to spark up the conversation or the idea to write the first word, because without it one sits in the backseat of the world, watching opportunities fly by. Watching what could be never be.
So, what’s in the box? What’s in the box is my and your, greatest imagination.