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By Angela Townsend

Writing makes me feel less alone than marriage ever did.

Writing makes me feel less alone than anything in this world. 

I first tasted this on the floor of a department store. While my mother shopped, I spilled my five-year-old rainbow onto yellow legal pads. All the words rose like sparrows, a sheltering cloud. Bored no more, bored never again, I had split the geode of the world with the point of my colored pencil. 

Middle school found me manic, running home to my word processor, running through the sentences in my head all day so as not to forget them. The weight of story was the sun on my back and the promise that carried me. Whatever happened, it was there for me, inexhaustible, with maple people and worthy endings wrapping my crackled life in wool.

I found a spaceship and learned to fly.

The friendship of fiction was its power to remake the world in mercy’s image. Self-indulgent “novels” (my mother gave them too much credit) rewrote my awkward phase into a languid love story, earnest with purpose and populated with gentle boys who hugged me. 

The fiction fractured on the way to college, too porcelain to bear the deaths and doubts that kept outdoing each other like pulp novels. But the words warmed my bird-bones, wrapping their hands around my fingers and rubbing them together. I essayed and I journaled. I prayed onto paper and mastered academic alchemy. I smuggled myself into theses about the Trobriand Islanders and economic hegemony. 

I suppose it was always a way of accompanying myself, even when I didn’t want my own company. Especially then. When I loathed myself and my forest the most, still I turned gentle and patient with the creature on the keyboard, the friend I became when my fingers flew. 

She’s a better friend than I am, this writing. She knows my hurts before I share them, and she holds me when I wriggle and shout “STOPPIT!” She accompanies me. She forgives me. She gives me sparrows and a sun to reflect. 

She gives me a spaceship. 

She is hungry but patient, and she gives more than she asks. When I worry that she’s gone, she’s as near as my decision to go to her cottage and bang on the door. I forget my manners, in the way of friends who are family.

She answers the door with pie. The more I write, the more I get to write. 

It is health and rebellion rising from my brittle bones and my brittle diabetes, the power and the glory I am allowed to ride when my legs are weak and my head is light, but my love is strong and my tree is heavy with plums.

The plums are a colorful lot, workday rumpus and pure sapphire pleasure on the same tree. They are medicine, and it is not discretionary. 

I don’t feel well much of the time. It’s not just diabetes, although she is the dowager duchess ruling lesser issues. But when I write, I am cheetah, I am free.

I am freer than ever in the virgin forest. I scale the trees and refuse to look down at myself. The writing must be relieved to feel my tenderness returned after so many patient years. I remember, on occasion, to bring pie, or at least flowers, or at least a wind chime from my hooligan garden.

I spend so much time with her, I bail on coffee dates with other birds.

I spend so much time with her, I don’t have time to think about men. 

For now, the world gives me a wide berth, but I know the time will come when everyone tells me to “get out there,” when they raise the specter of single-at-fifty and say ghastly things like “it’s good to do what scares you!”

For now, I delight. I write. I harmonize with my sparrows. I break off pieces of my life and dip them in plum wine, trusting they will feed other pilgrims.

I have a spaceship to fly, you know.

I have a landing pad in the forest, and I am not giving away my map.

I am accompanying myself. I am good company again. 

Angela Townsend is Development Director at Tabby’s Place: a Cat Sanctuary. She has an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and B.A. from Vassar College. Her work has appeared or will be published in upcoming issues of The Amethyst Review, Braided Way, Dappled Things, Fathom Magazine, and Young Ravens Literary Review, among others. Angie loves life dearly.

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