I know before I get out of bed what kind of writing day it will be.
I know before I slip into something soft and pad foot down the stairs, quiet, so as not to wake the kids.
I know standing at the counter as the coffee maker spits.
I know when I take the dog out into the dew of the morning, watch the lid of the horizon lift.
I sit down and yawn open my laptop—slowly, like a cursed pirate’s chest. The white screen gapes hungry at me, as I hover my fingertips over the keys. I type a sentence. Or two or three. Form a paragraph of absent-minded foreplay.
In the sink, sits a cascade of last night’s dishes. To my left, a pile of cucumbers from yesterday’s garden harvest. To my right, a mystery countertop splatter, dried and highlighted in the slant of the sun.
I tap out another paragraph: zero plot, all poetry. It’s horrible and I take a sip of hot coffee to at least play the part. I could outline instead. Research. Edit. Submit. The business part of writing. Bleh.
At the sink, I turn the water to hot, slip my hands beneath its stream. I rinse plates, glasses, cups, spoons, marvel at how easily the water gives up its heat.
There’s a load of wet laundry to flip. A skein of yarn on the coffee table to wind. Tomatoes to pick. A bookshelf to clean. And dinner, what’s for it: relentless.
I place a hot washcloth over the counter splatter, watch its steam rise in the light.
I wash the cucumbers, slice them thin for refrigerator pickles, write “mustard seed” on the grocery list. I leave a note for my kids so they know where I’m going. I wipe the counter clean, close my computer, leave behind something blank and bright.
Back home, as the brine begins to simmer and the mustard seeds go in, the muse shows up, finally—surprise.
The moment I step into my office, my chest loosens. I have a ceremony upon arrival. Remove shoes. Pull out laptop. Hang up bag, keys, mask. Turn on desk lamp. Open window. And finally, lock door.
This space belongs to only me. Or more aptly, I belong to it.
At this time of the day—late afternoon—the light comes in at an angle, makes a pattern across the floor, my chair, the golden butcher block desk. It hangs in the curtains like something I can touch.
Here, there are city noises. Cars and trucks and ground rumbles. The hum of the industrial air conditioning unit outside.
There are no dishes to be washed. No deck plants to water. No dog nudging my leg to go out.
There is no washing machine turning. No children waking. No wifi. No phone. Nothing between me and the words.
I open my laptop.
Outside, a bird has found its way to the rooftop next to my office. I crumble up some of my granola bar and reach out to scatter it beneath my window. As it eats, I look away.
I begin to type, and marvel how easily my fingers give up their heat.
Meagan Johanson writes from her lair in Oregon. She has been published in Fractured Literary, Janus Literary, Emerge Literary Journal, and elsewhere. She loves music, books, new obsessions, and anything with butter on it. You can find her on Twitter: @MeaganJohanson.