Back seat, squished between people. My face is against the window. Something about Disney music or something about going to Wendy’s is all I’m really picking up from the front seat. We’re going over the speed limit, but I’m staring at this sky surrounding us and engulfing us in its dim pathway, sitting completely still. Nothing is on this road, not even a blown out tire or a dead animal or anything noteworthy.
But that’s what caught my attention.
My head popped up from this hilariously melodramatic state, and I felt a sort of universe of something new hit me. Jitters ran through my arms and legs. A smile cracked its way, slightly, and just as before, I zoned out whatever it was my friends were talking about.
In my mind, I saw a man. He had nothing with him. There was no cell phone, or wallet in his pocket, or anything to keep him in contact with people. There was no light besides what the moon offered him, and each path forward felt like another look into the abyss. But then a light fades in quicker and quicker, smoother and smoother. Each second it forms a small shadow of the man, his confusion and comfort grew milder.
His tunnel of nothingness is now feeling like something of a manhunt — but it’s too late. He’s hit with something, and collapses. Whoever it was in the car, I thought, whether it be criminals or misunderstood anti-heroes, pick the man up, take him to the back seat and leave without a trace.
In some ways, this felt like I wasn’t even there in that backseat with my friends, bagned up against the window. For those few seconds, I wasn’t driving with friends, I was following this man – this faceless, nameless man – in a journey from an unborn crisis. And if I wasn’t with this man, I was this man.
First things first, I told myself, write this down now and work on it whenever I get home. Which, of course, I did. One note led to another, and before I knew it, I had already dedicated whatever that was that one night into a full-blown novel. Up until that point, story ideas were forced and sort of put in this creative baby making box. Nothing was fluid or natural in my writing, and I had no clear direction on anything I felt compelled to write about. It was a very large and influential moment in both my writing and life, seeing as that one stupid night with friends ended up changing viewpoints and creative processes.
I often wonder why it took so long to reach a sad, melodramatic night to have my brain connect the dots, but I’ve reached a point where I don’t care anymore. Why should I care what it was in life that led to that night happening? It happened, and that’s really all that matters. If it weren’t for that long stretch of road, I would still be forcing myself to create cliché tropes and working on manuscripts unappealing to me. What’s the fun in that?
There is none. It’s a bore, a monumental task and an ugly face to look at in the morning.
It’s been four years since that night. When I think of autumn, winter, rainy nights, lonely nights or old memories in Amarillo — that is what replays over everything else. It was the first time I stopped trying to make things happen on my own and instead let life rollout naturally. Sure, it was unintentional and definitely not what I expected when I woke up that morning, but again — who cares? It happened, and set the path for me.
Without a previously lousy evening, I wouldn’t have been able to accept my creativity flows not from anything else except when it hits. I know, I know, that’s mostly basic writing knowledge, but in life and in writing, something as simple as that goes over peoples’ heads. It leaves them unhappy and still stuck in that damn bubble of mystified sameness.
But, you know what? I am happy, and I love what life gives to me. In the end, I guess that’s all that really matters.
Also, I may be a little drunk.