In the five years I’ve been writing seriously, the only thing I’ve learned for sure is that writing seriously is perhaps the world’s most lonesome task. I’ve written on Wal-Mart desks in old apartments and on grand tables in attractive libraries; I’ve written caffeine-deranged in coffee shops and abysmally hungover while slumped in bed. But no matter where I am, and no matter the time of day or what it is I’m working on, or the condition in which I’m working, a single element remains unchanged: I am absolutely and without question all by myself.
But since last Sunday, when the four of us—Tom, Roger, Evan and myself—arrived at our long-awaited retreat in Chincoteague Island, VA—since we blew up our air mattresses and made ourselves at home at Zoe House, since we stocked the fridge with Bud Light Lime and became regulars at Chattie’s—well since then things have changed for the better. Now, instead of mornings alone with the Times and a cup of coffee, there is cereal and grapefruit and talks with Rog; now, in place of afternoons of endlessly crippling ennui, there are Trop talks at the bookshop or the Island Library; now, instead of brain-numbing New Orleans martinis, there are long talks over cheap beers and family-style dinners.
And, all right, yes, in fairness, the writing itself is still done by our lonesomes. And, yes, it’s still soul-crushing—still awful at times and unspeakably hard. And if there’s something on this planet that could make even a part of it better, well then, no, I don’t think I’ll find it. But for now—from this very moment until the morning we pack up our laptops and leave—writing here still feels better.
And the reason for that is this: each morning, when I’m by myself at my little desk on the second floor, gazing into the blankness of the page, gazing into my mind’s eye, stalling as I try to understand what comes next—each morning, when I arrive at that too-common moment when I might otherwise roll my eyes and say, “Screw it,” I am not met by the usual silence. Instead, as I sit there muttering to myself and shaking my head, what I hear is the click-clack of Roger typing. And then I remind myself that I’m not alone, and neither is he. And even if we are, we are alone together on Chincoteague Island—and that kind of alone is all right.
William Torrey lives and works in Baton Rouge. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Florida Review, The North American Review, Washington Square Review, Colorado Review, the Hawai'i Review, New Madrid and Zone 3, where his story "Trabajar" won the 2011 Editors' Prize. He is currently at work on a novel. @wshametorrey | firstname.lastname@example.org.