by Chloé Allyn
When I first became serious about writing, I could write anywhere. I tapped my baby soul like a keg, raw and gurgling onto the page. It feels like the quick, cool air before a summer storm or a séance, a ghost-come-over-you. The drivel of a teen enraptured in the hallway, in math class or at home, words expelling in between painting my nails. With luck, I’ve lost track of my high school and early college writing, hoarded somewhere with early figure drawings, shoe-box dioramas, and a glowing array of high scores on stupid standardized exams.
I slowed on filling high school diaries, letting go subconsciously of the dream that my most private, frivolous thoughts be published one day.
Letting go of adolescent melodrama and winking at history, college saw me as a café writer. I would spend my unemployed days, in-between classes, feverishly drinking at Gallery Espresso—on the sidewalk or in the window—writing poem after poem while listening to Chopin or human music. I had graduated to café sounds, though a headphone escape is sometimes necessary.
Yet the sweet spot is engrossed in the mind’s ear, impervious, as life speaks, honks, and clamors around one.
I find myself, at quarter life, a writer of more skill than before, but with velvet still on my antlers. I also find myself a writer who prefers the silence now, over anything. In one more lifetime, I’ll be crotchety, at 50, a grump. For now, it is cherished silence, not hoarded or protected. When I find the room quiet, with only white or faraway noise, I want to write. I want to roll the words around on the tongue in my skull. I want to hear the rhythm of the truths I’ve collected to share. I want to read as I write what friends and strangers will read when I’m done. I want to read along.
So, I’ve got to come home from Georgia, again. I listen to my writer now, the tongue inside the airport of my mind. It’s a hard world for an artist today. I have a hunch it’ll be hard tomorrow too, which is why I’m heading north for the winter. As only a Yankee fool in the dog days of a Southern summer would say, I’m looking forward to the cold weather. I think in general, masochists are on to it: when in misery, sort yourself out with gut punching, breathtaking pain.
See, I’m entering my 25th year and I finally made it down to Altanta and one year later, I miss my family, I have no job and I’m graduating college. I find the city alienating when, in pain, it tears itself apart in front of you and you can’t help but stare at the gaping imbalance of wealth and happiness. Where’s the space for me here? Every morning some dog wakes me up, echo barks through the neighborhood as an alarm. I miss waking up in my nana’s blue bedroom, how happy she is to see me in the morning. That dog sounds too alone. What a sad society we are, when the unconditional love and support my family gives me is a luxury, something no one is guaranteed.
It is a hard world for an artist today. It has been the whole time—it is not easy to be an artist. It’s not easy to be anything, let alone yourself, wherein true art lives. There’s no glamour in the balance of doubt and confidence within an artist’s life; the yin and yang of keeping yourself in the running. The outside world is a void and a vacuum, a culture vulturous hole in which contemporary artists grapple money, greed and power for a short witted audience’s entertainment.
What saves the quarantined soul? Escapes the anguished mind? The life force of artists and their making.
So now I’ve got to move home, I can see shadows on the amenities of this city; the coming ruins of germ and moral decay. In moving back home, I’m not first or alone, I’m not ashamed—shame is for the guilty, for the transgressors, for the squanderers with no reprieve. I am only one home-comer in a gust of moths, searching for the guiding light of truth in the chaos of dark dismay. As an artist like these others, I will do what I have to (aiming for unwaveringly) to keep my head afloat and creating.
I am lucky, I repeat that I am lucky in love. To be loved. That there is more than one home kept warm for me. What happened to generalizations? What veil was the language of living under that has made so many sentences exclusive and ill fitting? On coming home means that I have a home to come to.
How, in a nation of excess, built on the very promise of unrelenting bounty, do so many mouths, minds and dreams stay empty? If the colloquialism goes, “we are only as strong as our weakest link,” then we are broken, we are evil, we are bloated. So, I move home thankful, I move home humbled, I move home with tools to unlock someone else’s doors. Strip shutters from other’s windows.
My mind works to the tune of ambience now, most verbose with the crickets at night, a leaf blower during the day, or the chug of the mail truck at 7PM, anything banal to cut the silence.
That’s why I’m coming home to Wisconsin. There’s clear writing in clear thinking; and there’s problem solving in that, or at the very least, relief. But I know, doing this, listening to my writer, returning home in retreat, is best. It means a lot, but it is not a big deal. It means I’m going to miss Atlanta. It means that I won’t renew my membership to the High in November.
It’s a hard life for an artist. You can’t live off sweeping it under the table anymore. I’m coming home carrying the truth my writer has known all along. There’s something about writing, something about Wisconsin, and there’s something about coming home and righting what’s wrong.