On Autopilot

On Autopilot

It’s as if I’m on autopilot. Adrift at sea. Alone.

A deafening silence interrupted only by the repetitive clicks of keys. Every single one holding a different note, a different frequency. Depending on the letter and, more so, the intention at the calloused tips of my fingers, I rapidly, hopefully, formulate something coherent, something out of nothing, something with meaning.  

This is writing or, as I’ve come to utter quietly, self-oblivion. A full surrender to the subconscious. A total relinquishing of this body. I forget to speak. I even forget how long it’s been since a word fell from my tongue when I’m deep in a state of presence so pure it could make me weep like the first time I found out someone I held dear died and knew I’d be attending their funeral shortly but didn’t know exactly what death meant.

Time slips away like a loose ribbon as I forge ahead, believing in myself, believing in what I’m creating.

But then, a dreadful thing happens.

An interruption claims me like a ravenous sea. It catches me off guard like a swift turn around a bend only to find a roadblock for a terrible automobile accident. Emergency lights pull my gaze directly at the destruction, and I cannot look away.

It’s that sharp, unspoken utterance from deep within—What am I doing wrong? Why does it seem easier for everyone else? Why does this struggle choke me like a python?

Poisonous thoughts. A return of the self. The self I thought that I left behind in the luggage at the carousel. The self I intended to leave behind when I sat down to write. That broken bag of bones and blues I carry through every waking minute returns with its full weight.

I lift my fingers from the keyboard and tensely fall back into the chair in disrepair. For a minute, I stare. Still, no language crosses my teeth as the electricity that once sparked my vision turns into failed connections and the sound of dial up echoes in my skull awaiting an answer as to why this feels so fucking impossible to achieve.

Though I’m alone, I dart my eyes around the isolated shrine I’ve delicately built for myself and witness beautiful bodies, beautiful people in celebration of their stories, of their voices and triumphs. I see the success they’ve achieved, and I know it wasn’t easy for them either but this brings no solace. My unintended but honest selfishness integrates with my desperation to be accepted and gratified. The half-written page in front of my eyes turns to black and mocks me like a childhood bully who knows just the right pairing of words to scar me for an entire summer.

I sweat and spiral on the edge of giving up. I wonder why I began in the first place. I question my ability to formulate even the shortest and purest of sentences. I lose ounces of confidence by the second, and when I touch hot steel to doom-scroll social media, I invite the virus in like an unwelcome dinner guest.

I clench my white-knuckled fists to prevent a panic attack, grip the handmade desk as if the floor has fallen from under my erratically dancing feet and inhale a breath so deep I could suffocate myself and then I exhale, coarsely, with nicotine-laced lungs and whisper a soft mantra—I am human. I’m still here. I have a story to tell.

And in that moment, with a second natured reflex, I continue.

Because, before these bones enter the earth, I’ll tell a story about being human and all the things I encountered, whether they be about the wars waged within, or love that strikes like lightning, or swing sets covered in fingerprints from children yet to know who they are. Every detail. Every bond. Every pain. Every joy. Everything.

Never mind the panic, here’s the human condition.

*Feature image by Fran_kie (Adobe)

Joe Favalaro is a published novelist, poet, screenwriter and songwriter/musician from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada trying to fill the gaps between what pains us and what holds us tenderly.
More posts by Joe Favalaro.
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