Another day in the life of a white, wannabe writer
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The greatest emotional struggle of my extended road trip has hit me a mere four hours distance from home.
Gas, groceries and gear seem to be eating through my dwindling funds at an accelerated pace, but that’s not the main thing I’m grappling with these days. No, the issues tying up my mind are much less tangible, and I’m beginning to see there’s never an end in sight.
To begin with, I’m not near ready to be back “home.” I left a life there and I fear a potential expectation that I’m going to pick up everything where I left off. I don’t know where I’m going next, but it feels wrong to discount so many of my recent experiences I’ve yet to digest by slipping back into an old routine that will soon have me forgetting all the things I meant to write down. Being so close to the tempting warmth of familiarity here in Moab has me doubting myself, wondering if I’m going to chicken out on a burgeoning transformation of self.
It doesn’t help that the soft, red dust of Utah canyon lands reminds me of a love I’ve left here so many times over the years. Candiss and I never had a chance to live in the same town, but we’d often meet in these valleys of crimson cliffs for short weekends. Those little bubbles of bliss were too short-lived to seem real, and we’d hug and cry before turning in opposite directions on Highway 191. She’s not here anymore, and it hurts to know she still cries for me as I try to find a path, somewhere out on these bumpy dirt roads that weave through tall sandstone towers. Flirtatious giggles coming from neighboring tents in the morning conjure memories of a feeling I’ve experienced so very little of, and I wonder if I made a mistake when I wrote those words of goodbye. Staring at the dirty, pink walls of the drafty hostel room last night, I told myself to be strong and press on with the journey.
But a journey is so much easier when I know where I’m going. Somewhere through time, I suppose, but that answer puts such an empty feeling on the human experience.
Just maybe, though, I can travel beyond my space and time.
An ancient handprint touched me the other day as I was walking along the base of a cliff. The outstretched fingers of the form seemed to press against the rock like a hand on the other side of foggy shower glass, reaching through some 12,000 years but falling just short of delivering the meaning it once held. “Hello” is basically all the form could muster, though it had managed to transcend so many centuries.
Still, that message seems more wholesome than the one in a book I picked up yesterday, titled “What White People Like.”
I was struggling to find the words for this column when the cover caught my eye. I opened to a random page only to be slapped in the face. “It’s no secret: White people want to be writers,” the chapter began. It went on, presumably joking about how white people are lazy and like the idea of sitting in cafes drinking coffee, espousing literary tripe in hopes of one day being hailed as genius.
I put down my coffee and slumped in my seat. Who the hell do I think I am, anyway? I’m a jobless 25-year-old with a laptop living out of his car. The published words under my eyes doused the fire of my enthusiasm.
That’s when one of my former co-workers from the Post Independent walked in and sat at the table. We hadn’t seen each other in months, and he didn’t recognize me at first because of the patchy fur growing from my dirty face.
Dennis Webb has been writing the news around Glenwood for more than 20 years. Just as I was thinking of giving up my ambition, he seemed to materialize from the wooden slats in the ceiling to offer encouragement. “Keep it up,” he said before walking out of the creaky little bookstore.
So here I am, a man more aware about the power of words, wondering what my lasting message to humanity could be. All I can do is tell my story, of love and struggle and dreams not yet realized, and say, “Hello ” whoever you are, wherever you are ” whatever you’re doing, keep it up. I, too, once passed through this space of life.”
Derek Franz is doing his best to add something positive to the world while he’s here. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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