Departures and Arrivals // Why I Write

I’m six years old, wearing grey cowboy boots with chewed-up tips, Army-olive Boy Scout shorts, and an untucked yellow t-shirt. It’s summer in Houston, and the pestle heat grinds the sweat out of me. I clutch a juice box in one hand, and the other’s being held by my best friend and confidant, Teddy McTed. I stroll down the block, down my street, toward the highway.

 

I’m running away for the first time.

 

***

 

It’s years later. Autumnal midnight. Mom confiscated Teddy McTed months ago, and locked him up in a cedar memory chest, “for safe keeping.” The house slumbers, the night is uninterrupted save for the headlights I see out the window knifing down the highway. I’ve got an army backpack stuffed with rations: cookies, dried fruit, bottles of water.

 

I also have the dagger Dad bought me at the Renaissance Festival.

 

I put everything in the closet, and crawl beneath the sheets. The dream’s been happening nightly now; I “wake” up, but my body remains in bed. I don’t have the vocabulary to call it my “spirit” or whatever. I don’t know what “lucid” dreaming is. What I do know is that, every night, some part of me gets up, and opens the closet door.

 

But instead of clothes and binders of comic book cards, the closet opens into another world.

 

My backpack’s there, with all my supplies. I’m ready.

 

I’m running away. This time in my dreams.

 

***

 

The morning mildew sequin-shimmers on the grass. You can see the sun’s yawns spilling over the horizon.

 

Dad’s in an undershirt and cargo shorts, his hands in his pockets.

 

“Call me when you get there,” he says.

 

I climb into the U-Haul, twist the keys in the ignition, and ease my foot onto the accelerator. Of course I look back and see, in the narrow lens of the rearview mirror, my dad slowly turn around and trudge back into the house.

 

I turn the corner before I can see the door shut.

 

I’m not running away this time. But I am leaving—for grad school, for New York.

 

I’m never coming back.

 

***

 

I write because I’m a coward. Because my love for this, the real world, isn’t enough. I want something more. I need something more.

 

I have an unhealthy obsession with departures. Heraclitus can talk shit all day about the identity of a river—but me? I want to chat about the flipbook animation of life, the way we bustle from one second to the next, discarding our pasts as we race toward our futures.

 

What was but never is, what is but never will be?

 

The you you were a millisecond ago. The you you are now.

 

Every second, there’s no going back.

 

***

 

I write because I am brave. I dash forward to every experience, lusting after the epiphany of an arrival, that feeling of, “Oh man I have never been here before—and I love it!” When I can make words coalesce into something meaningful, when I invent something with lasting momentum, something that elicits a reaction or an emotion, I feel the same way someone going home being greeted by their family feels. It’s my only moment of knowing what belonging is.

 

Then the page flips.

 

The feeling goes away.

 

I write because I want to create something that lingers in moments of arrivals.

 

I don’t want that feeling to go away, dammit, even when (especially when) I’m the one flipping that page.

 

***

 

I write because it won’t stop.

 

I don’t mean my fingers over the keyboard, the pen in my hand, the pages on my desk filling with words then flying away like a leaf blower bullying the excelsior of a sawmill floor.

 

My brain. My imagination.

 

It’s always leaving me to imagine new things–especially when I need it most.

 

It’s why, when there’s nothing to do, I don’t write. But when the chores, the work, the life starts piling up—BAM, I can guarantee that my brain is churning like a Cancun margarita mixer in an MTV Spring Break utopia.

 

How I teeter between the necessary and the necessary—to write, to endure going without; to not write, to live peaceably unfulfilled.

 

***

 

I write because I’m having a daughter. (In less than 4 weeks!!!) I am departing the world of, you know, not-having-kids-dom, into the world of dad-dom and (from what I’m told) high-velocity orange poo and more pink than a Kermit wet dream.

 

I am not satisfied with the stories being offered to her.

 

So I will write stories for her.

 

Ones where the women kick ass; where, if there are princesses, they’re saving princes; ones where there aren’t any boys at all.

 

I may be White Dude Prototype 1983, but I have a stake in diversity, and I’ll be damned if I don’t try and do something about creating and promoting diverse content.

 

***

 

But mostly, I think, I write because I love people. I really do. From the most vile Yahoo! commenter to the most well-meaning activist, I find each and every person I meet fascinating, interesting, necessary.

 

If my life is a series of departures and arrivals, then it is my belief that most of those arrivals are to people, and most of those departures are from people as well.

 

It’s hard to remain unaffected in the mosh pit that is humanity.

 

Writing… it’s a way to treasure those encounters, those transactions. Beneath even the wildest plotlines of fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction… don’t you really just have a person or people trying to do better?

 

It’s the same for me.

 

I depart myself to arrive at a better self.

 

I write because I depart.

 

I write so I can arrive.

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3 Comments

  • Todd,

     This paragraph is wonderful, and the last sentence in particular, is brilliant. I just thought you should know I lingered over it myself quite a while.(and continue to) In fact the last sentence stands alone on it's own merit in my opinion, as it is that powerful to me. To say "Well done", drastically undersells the impact that single sentence has had on me. I think that it captures the essence of art and expression. The essence of love and learning. Of understanding and sharing. " …I want to create something that lingers in moments of arrivals" evokes for me, an eternal, universal humanness and truth of expression.  It has been a long, long time since a single sentence has had such a profound effect on me. Thank you.

     

    "I write because I am brave. I dash forward to every experience, lusting after the epiphany of an arrival, that feeling of, “Oh man I have never been here before—and I love it!” When I can make words coalesce into something meaningful, when I invent something with lasting momentum, something that elicits a reaction or an emotion, I feel the same way someone going home being greeted by their family feels. It’s my only moment of knowing what belonging is.

     

    Then the page flips.

     

    The feeling goes away.

     

    I write because I want to create something that lingers in moments of arrivals."

    • Gee, thanks Dwight! Glad it resonates–I was a little worried I was being vague, so glad that's not the case 🙂

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