Sitting on a refurbished bar stool at the Forecastle in Little Creek, Virginia - with beer in hand and the synthetic glow of a computer monitor to keep me company - I was frustrated. Having parked in front of a particularly old computer, with God knows what in mind, I was typing. There was no grand design or deeply contemplated work underway; only the ramblings and ranting of a man made impotent by the imprisonment of his service. Other soldiers and sailors surrounded me in apathy, each focused on their own digital world. The dimly lit cyber café echoed with the forceful clicking of keys. My typing drowned out the muttered and mumbling keyboard strikes of the rest, as a stampeding elephant would the hoof beats of running horses.
“France? Fuck France.” I uttered under my breath, “They’re French and they do things different than us – Oooh, big deal! Who cares? The romance is lost on me. Trading gun fire for a four day Parisian romp is a poor deal...” The cursor on the screen would mirror my words a letter at a time.
This deployment the U.S. Navy would send me on was appalling. I cared not for the troubles of Somalia, nor was I thrilled at the prospect of visiting France on the way there. What hollow succor was that? To send people into harm’s way for pay that would make the common man cry was truly a sin, but to try and placate our anger by portraying a visit to France as ample reward for said action was insulting. In that moment, sucking down bitter warm beer, I had enough. I finally had something to say about my circumstances – my life – which I could not vocalize. I was done with the military, my duty and a second deployment immediately after the first was just about as unwelcome as it could get. In a frenzied writing fest, I vented to the All Mighty Lord of Illegitimate Text – a blog.
It was the first time words came easily to me. They flowed freely from my fomenting mind, with the eagerness that only accompanies a burgeoning word smith. Expectant fingers, attached to plastic and white painted letters on blackened keys, moved in a flurry - each letter punctuated by the staccato rhythm of strokes.
Through my frustrations that day I would come to love writing and learn one of its most essential principles – have something to say. That probably sounds a little simplistic, but in practice it is far more difficult than I ever realized. With a furrowed brow and a tempered fury I would stay at that terminal for hours, sucking in second hand smoke like it was my job to filter it out of the air one lung full at a time.
The clinking of ash trays, like wind chimes in a fire, made the melody for the cacophony of voices screaming at me from nine years of English teachers. I had heard it a thousand times in my brief early academic career – write what you love! It was - and is - never that easy though. Adjusting myself on the thin and inadequate chair padding, I discovered a way to force the words out of my timid metaphorical mouth – anger. It provided words where none could be found and with the proper mentality, could be shaped to inspire the writer in ways I had never thought possible. The desert-like desolation of the daunting white page suddenly grew fertile and the lush contents of its margins began to overflow.
In the absence of sentimentally motivated inspiration I reached into the trusty tool bag of those living outside idyllic lives. Love and passion were sick and fettered hallucinations in that café. I brought to bear the hammer of discourse, discontent and disillusionment. Pounding away at my native language with all the force of reckless intent and lacking the skill of a true craftsman. Yet still the words came.
Unbound by the hesitation of better judgment or the constraints of what may be said aloud – I ventured into unknown territory. I made the wanton, impolite and impolitic my prized possessions. Sitting in a darkened smoke filled room that stank of stale beer and old pretzels – I found my voice and motivation inside the eclectic clicking of keyboards.