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The Elysian Muse

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The Trials of Rita Fahey

Written by Jyotsna Nair

 

Author bio: Rita Fahey is a twenty -three year old mass of chaotic energy. She loves mango
milkshakes, cups of tea and novels by Ernest Hemingway. She blogs at The Red Teapot.

 

The above statement is not a lie, but it’s not the truth either. Rita is a blogger, an author - and
a waitress- because you don’t get paychecks based on how many words you write a day , all for
yourself. She deals with the dirty dishes and the dirtier words her customers throw at her the
same way she deals with everything- a fake smile. She lives in a studio apartment she’s been
living in since her freshman year of college. (Don’t mention the word college to Rita, though.
She’ll start ranting about how she spent thousands of dollars on learning something she hardly
gets paid for, when she could have studied finance or molecular biology instead. And then she’ll
cry.)

 

She mostly cries at night, on the rare days she falls asleep on her bed instead of her laptop. For
the usual reasons- her inability to pay rent, her lack of social life, her recent weight gain. And she
cries for the reasons only fellow artists cry about- she has writer’s block, one character seems
like such a Mary-Sue, her worry that her voice is too imperfect, too childish, too dull. Because
sadly, Rita can’t just be a writer. She’d be fine if she didn’t have to worry about money and her
dentist parents who’ve turned up their noses at her M.F.A. She’d be fine if she could just write,
and find satisfaction in the catharsis it brings her. But no, she is a human, which means she has
to worry about a million other things other than writing. Rent. Friends. The aunt who has cancer.
Inability to afford Netflix. Parents . Inability to afford Netflix. Mean boss. Inability to afford
Netflix.

 

Yes, maybe she’d be fine if she was a robot - emotionless- free of bothersome feelings like self
doubt and sadness and anger . She could just write...and write...and write…(But what could a
robot write about? Circuits?)

 

Some days, the words come easy. They flow out of her and onto the screen. Her fingers glide
over the keys, as if they’re covered in butter.


Most days, it feels like she has to physically pare off each letter, each space, each comma from
her body with a knife, until she’s left with a pile of them. Most days, it feels like she’s pushing a
boulder up a hill- only to have it roll back down and crush her on its way. Most days , her fingers
are still and fat and hover over her keyboard until the screen flickers and dies.

 

It’s not that there aren’t victories. After all, sometimes, she gets okay ideas. Her blog gets a few
more hits. It’s just that they seem pathetic and small and insignificant compared to the glaring
mound of failures she’s collected. Because of course there are the rejection slips.

 

At first, she had kept all the letters , and had even faithfully archived the emails , believing (like
the little naive fool she had been) that when she was successful, she could look back on them
and smile ! She’d mapped her life out like the plot of a bildungsroman : first the rejections,
which were to be expected( they were part of the package, weren’t they?). Then she’d find hope
and rise into the climax of her story, having triumphed over the odds, with several illustrious
publications on her resume and phone calls from publishing companies begging to sign her on.

Now, she trashes the rejection slips. Hope is sickening.

 

Her parents sometimes visit, always with casseroles and Tupperware boxes filled with food,
certain she must be starving herself to pay the rent. They sit on the edge of the sofa, and relate to
her their own stories: her sister ‘s new car, her brother’s latest bonus. Their story about Rita is a
tragedy; the tale of a girl foolish enough to follow her own dreams, only to be crushed under the
weight of broken wishes.

 

Rita listens, and she wonders why the hell she does this, asks herself the same questions her
parents do. Why she’s chosen late nights and unwashed hair and cold cereal as her staple meal
when she could have had anything else. There are days when she wants to demand her seventeen
-year -old self why she chose creative writing as her major of choice . She doesn’t realize that
she knows the answer. The answer is in those moments when she’s trapped in a cocoon of her

own words and dead to the world outside. When she’s so busy building an imaginary universe ,
letter by letter, that she forgets the one she’s living in. She doesn’t know yet that she ‘s chosen
happiness, but she will one day.

 

Because although on most days it sucks to be human and needy and full of feeling, there are
days when she doesn’t smile fake smiles. Because although there are nights when her tears and
her cries are her lullabies, there are also nights when she ‘s wide awake, and dancing to Kelly
Clarkson , and from the way she’s waving those arms you’d think she’d won the lottery or
something. But it’s not that - it’s that someone left a nice comment on her blog- it’s that a
magazine accepted one of her short stories. Because right now she is human, and imperfect, and
full of a happiness no robot (and not many other people) could ever understand, and that feels
absurdly, ridiculously, wonderful.

 

 

Jyotsna Nair is a seventeen-year old currently  living in Kerala, India. Her work has previously been published in Canvas Literary Journal, Cathartic Youth Literary Journal, Ogma Magazine, and The Apprentice Writer. She is a firm believer in the power of banana bread, and has been known to consume copious amounts in alarmingly short intervals of time. In her free time, she enjoys exploring other worlds, both real and imaginary.