I'm a writer without a pen.
There's lots of chaos happening around me at the moment. I'm perched in a random chair near a highly coveted outlet in the Barnes & Noble on 86th Street. A duo of Upper East children are screaming for "more cookies!" to their nanny, who try as she might, cannot keep them at bay. Someone in a tennis skirt just tripped in the Fiction section, and a man is talking loudly on his cell phone while searching through the car lovers' magazines.
I have 18 unanswered texts, 36 new emails, 2 missed calls, and a handful of Slack notifications. There's a gunman in a movie theater in Germany. Trump's ex-campaign manager is speaking out! Someone nearby is coughing in the most disturbing way.
Ryan sends me a text.
"Ok I'm next. I love you, see you in a bit."
During book club one night prior, my typically social fiancé didn't feel inclined to participate. I found this odd considering he was hosting the event and seemed to enjoy our novel, though I didn't press. Long day, work problems, city living stress—it could have been a cocktail of frustrations.
But as people trickled out of his apartment, I discovered that Ryan's lifelong annoyance was behind his sudden shift in mood. He could no longer see out of a portion of his right eye, and we needed to go to emergency room. Immediately. He packed a Amaretto Sour to-go, while I hailed the Uber.
Hours later we learned what we already expected: There was a tear in his retina and if it completely detached he would be blind in one eye. Surgery was needed as soon as possible.
"Love you, too. Cya in a few!" I texted him and ignored everything else on my phone. The woman with the perpetual cough now popped her dentures in and out. Time to move.
As I collect my scattered belongings, my mind races in circles like a Ferris wheel of doom: Two of my close friends just got laid off. I'm supposed to move out of my apartment Sunday, and I haven't packed a thing. In fact, I may have laundry at the cleaners? My best friend has a doctor digging around in his eyeball. Our next book club novel (“The Count of Monte Cristo,” unabridged) is so dense that it won’t fit in my purse and, therefore, I cannot purchase it today.
Oddly enough, that last problem sends me over the edge.
I have no book!
I have no pen.
I tear up as I place “Monte Cristo” back on the shelf.
Idle hands, idle mind.
Ah, let’s walk.
Now I'm on the street, the first breath of summer caressing the back of my neck. It's not too humid today so I meander and wait for the call to come fetch Ryan from the grips of localized anesthesia.
Walking around New York has always given me a sense of peace. The buzzing of our brick and metal world is revitalizing to an extrovert who doesn't want to communicate, yet desperately needs to steal other's energy. As I pace the streets, I rejoice in the fact that I can see with my two healthy eyes. The wind picks up. It might rain; the smell of a thunderstorm is lingering. I take it all in.
I pass an orchid shop on 80th Street, which makes me think of Ryan. He'd sent me a text earlier in the day saying he was, "strolling down Lexington looking at the flowers." I thought it was an odd message at the time—but now I wondered: Was he worried that he’d never again be able to see a flower’s bright petals?
This thought made me sad so I kept walking, this time thanking God we have two eyes instead of one. You wouldn't have a lot of chances as a Cyclops.
And then it happens.
I find a pen.
It's dirty because it’s been dropped on the sidewalk, but this fact has never bothered me. I discover lovely garbage on the street all the time—candleholders, ancient books, etc.—and sometimes they come home with me. So without much thought, I reach down and scoop up my forgotten friend. Waves of anxiety seem to physically lift off my overactive brain.
Now, I can write everything down.
[Editor’s Note: After all this nonsense, Ryan wakes up from surgery and tells me there was a pen in his bag the whole time—oy! He goes back under the knife today. Thank you again for everyone’s prayers and support.]