Christopher Gajewski

The concept of writer’s block doesn’t hold much weight with me; I know that there are ways beyond that wall if I but choose to take them. Music lifts me over it, sex allows me to seep through it, letters to friends gets me around the sides, and simple determination makes me hammer myself against it until it shatters and crumbles.

I have not written anything for over two years.

I have begun writing this particular piece more than a few dozen times; it is the piece that I have to write before I can stumble forward.  I walk up to the wall, probe it, lean my face against it, and set my fingers on the keyboard. Then, I begin to hear the baby crying from the other side of the wall and turn away. I lean back in my quiet office, light another cigarette, click out of the word processing program, and open a video game. I’ve conquered the world a thousand times, and even created new worlds to conquer.

The baby is crying now as I stumble through the opening of this piece.  I can hear him/her in the background of my consciousness. They want something. Need something. But isn’t that why babies cry?

I’ve been working a lot of over-time, making retainers in an orthodontic lab, telling myself it is a decent enough life. There is a certain satisfaction associated with coming into a pile of work and leaving with everything done. Each day. Every day. A beginning and a concrete ending. Who wants to be a writer anyway? I’m not really that good, I tell myself, ignoring my published clips and memories of praise. Who wants to pay the cost of nights and weekends spent in front of a computer? Tapping away for a few cents a page?


I drifted towards the computer last week, unable to push away that need to create that gripped me in high school so many years ago. Like then, a certain song played on the radio.  Something about the song reached into me. Like fingers plucking notes on a great harp, my reality vibrated. Ideas spread wings and whispered to me of their shape and texture, of their souls and life. They fluttered up from my subconscious to my consciousness and took flight. Then, a baby’s piercing wail dived like a hawk. Feathers and blood swirled in the air, and the ideas returned to their coop, wings furled, while a shadow hovered above them. I went back into the lab to work the midnight shift.

Only a muffled cry and gasps as I page through old stories, old memories. Essays and articles. Short-stories and novel chapters. Disjointed wanderings and hurried scribblings. They are a succinct portrait of my life with more vivid colors and details than any painter could portray. If the portrait had a name, it would be “Endurance.”

I’ve endured, endured as a child my mother’s manic-depressive nightmare and the psychosis and neurosis it spawned. It was the usual, I guess: broken home, dysfunctional family, life on the streets, going hungry at times, depression, alcoholism. Doesn’t matter, I tell myself: I have moved beyond the self-pity. I survived it, used it to help me grow into the man that I have become, and know that it is a foundation of my strength and character.

A hungry loneliness was the inevitable byproduct. Still dealing with it. It was hope that brought me to my girlfriend over two years ago, but it was the hungry loneliness that kept me with her.  A one-night stand that lasted 18 months. –no, that’s too harsh. A month maybe. Three or four nasty arguments filled with venom and foulness should have kept me from going back to her apartment, but she convinced me otherwise—with a lot of help from that terrible hunger.

“You wouldn’t know about long term relationships,” she told me. “You haven’t had any.  I’ve had a bunch. Even been married. It is not like you beat me like my last boyfriend.” 

Isn’t this what you are supposed to do after college? I was far along the relationship curve with my extended stay in college. It was time to settle down like all of my friends. Having someone to share my bed was reason enough in my twisted logic. After the arguments, after the sex, after she fell asleep, I could go to the computer and seep my way through a wall that was growing ever larger. Thicker. More and more dense. Wrongness got buried under the illusion of satiety.

That hunger is now a welcome friend. Illusions have been stripped away, and within the starvation pangs that twist in my belly, I find moments of peace.

The baby’s crying gnaws at me.

I explore the wall, running my fingers along the smooth, marble-like surface. I put my ear against the milky coolness. The crying reminds me of a male—its got that huskiness in it that reminds me of my nephew. The son I’ll never know? I see tiny fingers grasping at me. Reaching for locks of my hair? Or just to be held, quieted? My heart begins to pound. A deep breath wells up inside of me. Not yet, not yet, but…

A writing professor once commented on one of my papers that what she loved most about the art of the personal essay is that we are able to transform pain into something larger, something beautiful. Maybe. Possibly. Or maybe what we create is a mirror more real than any that exist in this world. That tale she commented on showed a blue-eyed youth with the glow of possibility surrounding him and a deep reservoir of strength within him. He was far less cynical than what I had pictured him to be, far less haggard than what I expected him to be. But this story that needs to be written? How does selfishness get reflected back, and the murder of a child?

It is the same with fiction as it is with essays. Stripped down, without the adjectives, verbs and metaphors, all of my writings are me: my pasts, my presents, and my futures. Possibilities. Male, female, animal. If you scratch at them, B positive will seep out.

I crouch behind the quarterback with my eyes on the wall and my fingers digging into the soft turf. A simple play, the pigskin tumbling through the air into my arms as motion slows and we sweep left, to go around the edge…but I don’t even write to friends and family anymore. What’s there to tell them?  I work long hours. Head to the bar when I can’t sleep or just need some company. Play computer games. Pretty boring. Writing? No. Not anymore. Behind me now.


Just like the lie I told them more than two years ago.

The wall has to come down. Without the shattering explosion, without jagged fragments of thought ripping through me, the emotional pain dampening the effects of the necessary honesty. He wants me naked, defenseless, without music, sex, letters, or determination. He wants out. Wants me to face him. Hold him. Embrace him. Remember what was lost, and why it was lost. He wants the truth.

I’ve danced with my demons. Everything I have found foul in my life and in myself has become a character, an essay, a metaphor, and sometimes just a simple letter to somebody that never got sent. I know my demons. I know their names. I’ve raged against them in a sack cloth with a shiny gold crucifix raised before me. I’ve beaten the shit out of them, and then embraced them, as part of myself. I know them; I know me.

He cries.  A hiccupy thing, with long pauses in between. It won’t stop until I allow it to.

I sit before the computer.  The office is quiet except for the tapping of keys and the occasional muffled rumble of a passing vehicle outside my window. No music tonight. Haven’t had sex in a long time now.  There are friends that need to be written, but that can wait for another night. There is a story that needs to be told.

Maybe the story will end with me holding my nephew, finally without that heady joy tainted by the guilt of what should have been mine. Or maybe the story will end with me telling the truth, that there was no miscarriage. That the fatherhood I had embraced in front of my family and friends frightened the hell out of me, was like a trap being closed around me. That the terrible loneliness had been supplanted with an even more terrible togetherness—to be tied to this woman until the day I died was such a horrible concept that I fully supported her in “her” choice. 

Did I selfishly help to manipulate events and my own belief systems so that it was a choice? I had threatened to take the baby away from her so that he would not be abandoned like her other two children. Did the threat sway her from her wish to have another child and towards the clinic? Did I agree with her too much about the cost and trouble of a child? Did I disagree with her too much that maybe this was her chance, our chance, to finally do something right? Maybe……

I embrace him.

I never thought too much about redemption, never thought I needed it, until I realized that my whole life had been a journey along that road.  It is ironic because it came to me when I was further from that goal than I ever had been, sitting in a “choice” clinic, watching “Rain Man” on a television suspended above the waiting room, while my thoughts strayed to my girlfriend that was beyond a door I had not been allowed to walk through with her.  She had been crying for the act that we were about to commit.

%d bloggers like this: