photo of Scrabble tiles and scrapbook letters

The Blank Page by Lisa Lerma Weber

I’m sitting in front of my computer, willing myself to write, but the empty white page keeps laughing at me. “I dare you to write,” it says in a mocking tone. “I dare you to come up with something that isn’t shit.” I want to punch the computer in the throat, but it doesn’t have a throat and I don’t have a job anymore. If I break it there’ll definitely be no more writing.

My words have gone into hiding, like they too were ordered to distance themselves. I go on long walks in search of them. I look up at the trees swaying in the breeze. I look in the bushes but find only empty, minibar-sized bottles of vodka, cigarette butts, and burger wrappers. People will keep tossing trash out their car windows until the end of the time. I wish they would toss some words out for me. Hell, I’m sure their floor mats are stained with unused words. Maybe the apologies or confessions meant for loved ones they’ll never see again.

I try to make myself exercise, maybe hit the punching bag, hoping that adrenaline will kick start my brain. I can’t get past a few push-ups, so I lie on the floor instead, unable to get up. I wonder if that’s what happened to my words. Eating is easier than working out. I’ve given up on the smoothies and salads I was consuming before the lockdown. I find comfort in burritos, burgers, and pizza. Maybe my words are stuck in a food coma, too full of saturated fat to get off the couch and make themselves useful. Or maybe it’s the Bloody Marys and beers and vodka tonics. Maybe my words are too loaded to make sense.

I try music in the shower, but the music sounds far away when I put my head under the water. All I get is muffled whispers, the ghosts of words.

In frustration, I turn on the television. I’ve watched more television in the past month than in the past 20 years, but what else is there to do when you’re trapped in your house? Mostly it’s news. I watch as the numbers move like a speedometer and we’re going to hell real fast. I wonder if my words crashed somewhere, if they’re lying in a ditch breathing their last. I change the channels aimlessly, watch movies I’ve seen a dozen times before.

Maybe my words are dead. Maybe the virus infected them right away and they didn’t stand a chance. Maybe they’re piled up in a makeshift morgue outside of an overcrowded hospital or nursing home. Maybe they’re buried in mass grave and I’ll never get to properly mourn them.

I don’t know what happened to my words, but without them, I feel like the blank page in front of me—empty as fuck.

Lisa Lerma Weber is sheltering-in-place in San Diego. Her work has appeared in Barren Magazine, Headline Poetry, Mineral Lit, Mookychick, Vamp Cat, and others. Follow her on Twitter @LisaLermaWeber

Lead image: “Scrabble Tiles and Scrapbooking Letters 3” (via Flickr user Barbara Mazz)