The laptop screen displayed an empty document, just like a piece of paper without words on it. Two hands on the keyboard started typing to
fill in the white void, but suddenly, they yielded. Then, by the
single stroke of a finger pressing backspace, the entire paragraph
disappeared. Usually he would write down an idea on a piece of paper
and then work on it from there , but this time his mind was completely
blank, just like the screen. He had eager hands and an eager mind, but
the touch of creativity couldn’t seem to find its way to him. What he
needed was inspiration and a genuine story. Every single story that
has ever been told has already been told. He sighed and started typing
again, but nothing innovative crossed his mind; he just wrote.
“All work and no play makes Ray a dull boy”
He looked at it and erased it. There it was again, an empty page mocking him.
“Fuck me,” Ray exclaimed and put his forehead against the table.
“No thanks,” a voice in background answered. Ray turned his head to
find his roommate awake in his bed, watching him like a bird of prey.
“God damn writer’s block,” Ray continued. “I can’t think of a good
short story to write.”
There was a silence for a few seconds; a comfortable silence between
both of them.
“What class is it for anyway?” Dave asked.
“English,” Ray replied, “should be a plain short story about anything.”
Dave nodded his head and put a hand under his chin; Dave looked just
like the thinker for a while, staring out into a void, stumbling in
his mind; trying to find an idea. Ray felt lost in his own purgatory,
trapped somewhere between heaven and paradise. Dave was truly a divine
character when he thought about it.
Ray looked at him curiously and asked. “Any thoughts or ideas to share?”
Dave shook his head back to reality and looked at Ray. “Oh, I was just
thinking of what to eat later.”
Ray sighed and said. “Thank you Dave, you’re such a muse. A true Mona Lisa.”
“Whatever Leonardo. Why don’t you Van Go(gh) yourself out of here to
find some inspiration.”
Ray looked at the screen for a while and then decided to shut off the laptop.
“Later Mona Lisa,” Ray said as he left the funky room full of the
scent of stress and angst. He heard Dave reply, “Later Leo….,” just
before he closed the door.
In the hallway he felt a bit more liberated, and stood for a moment in
front of a bulletin board looking at posters.
A bunch of obligations, rules and events, nothing appealing as per
usual, he thought, and left the hallway to take the elevator. Usually
the elevator was crowded with people, but since it was Sunday,
everyone had gone home for the weekend. Ray enjoyed the solitude, even
if he got The Shining vibes from the empty hallways and rooms. One of
these days I’m going to come across those creepy twins, he thought.
“Come play with us,” he said out loud as he finally got to the first floor.
He went through the eerie hallway to get to the lobby where people
usually passed by. He took a seat on one of the comfy couches that
stood about in the lobby. They all had different colors, and they all
looked dull and boring, but they won his respect with their coziness.
He embraced the first couch that he came across and spread his legs on
top of it. Ray closed his eyes for a bit just to let his mind find
“How’s life?” a sweet voice suddenly asked him.
Ray opened his eyes and a dizzy figure came to life in front of the
table next to the couch. The voice belonged to Cindy, a dark haired
girl, standing in front of him with a brown bag in her hand.
“Hey Cindy,” Ray said, “You snuck up on me. Caught me off guard.” He
cleaned his eyes from gunk so he could see her more clearly. She was a
looker to Ray and he really wanted to see her but not really hear her.
She was that kind of girl you wanted but not really.
“Why are you taking a nap here when you have a perfectly good bed upstairs?”
“It’s a free country isn’t it?” Ray countered, “by the way do you want
to help me out on a short story th——”
“No way.” Cindy cut Ray off in the middle of his pleading sentence,
“remember last time I helped you?”
Ray remembered it quite well, it involved a lot of vulgar words and
sarcasm. Ray clearly could not handle constructive criticism.
“Come on, water under the bridge Cindy,” Ray pleaded.
“No can do, Ray,” Cindy answered.
“Where is that, close to Kathmandu? Give a guy a second chance here.”
Cindy looked at him with arms crossed, and took off in the direction
to her dorm. She proudly deserted Ray and was not ashamed of it in any
“I won’t tell anyone what’s in the brown bag,” Ray said.
“Later Ray,” she said and left the lobby with a tight grip on the
brown bag as if it was her precious.
“Come back dearest, I’ll be good,” Ray acted out with a sarcastic
He was left alone again in the lobby and stared at the ceiling for a
while. Maybe he needed some fresh air to clear his mind. Conviction
elevated him from the couch and strolled out of the residence, and
outside, a blazing sun hit his face. He felt like a vampire for a few
seconds until his eyes were completely adjusted. His eyes scanned over
the scenery from where he stood: a panorama of dull buildings, a half
empty parking lot, a bunch of pine trees, and a single pond, which was
the only thing appealing to his eyes. He decided to walk to the pond,
he crossed a bridge and walked a bit along the shoreline of it. He
soon found himself looking at a couple of geese, ducks and a swan
couple bobbing around in the water. They were quite amusing, so Ray
stood there for a while, feeling free from all his obligations and
In my next life I want to be a swan. Such a majestic creature and what
a trouble free life it would be, he thought. He returned to reality
and told himself, what the duck now? The pond was like an oasis, and
it felt a bit like paradise. He decided to leave the pond in its
previous state of calmness and walk back to the stressful life of the
residence. As he walked back, he passed by a parking lot, and the
scent of pot filled the air between both low and high class cars. He
recalled the university policy of a tobacco free campus and chuckled a
bit. Suddenly his pocket started vibrating and he got startled, he’d
felt so liberated from the rest of the world but even so he had still
been a part of it unconsciously. He took it out and read the message.
“Cup of coffee?” – From Fredric.
Ray had never passed up on free coffee with the company of Fredric, so
he texted back.
“Shaken not stirred.”
Fredric lived on the fourth floor of the residence hall, and Ray had
know him from the first day of orientation. Ray was back in the
hallway waiting for the elevator and the wave of blood, but there it
opened up empty. The hallway of the fourth floor looked the same as
all the other floors: beige, dull, and tasteless. There was no sense
of fashion when it came to its interior: a fab 5 nightmare.
He got to room 412 and knocked on it lightly.
“Come on in.” A voice replied to Ray’s knock. Inside the room Ray
found Fredric holding a can of coffee in his right hand and an empty
cup in the other.
“Cream, sugar?” Fredric asked.
“Cream and hold back on the sugar. I’m sweet enough,” Ray replied.
“Careful, it’s hot,” Fredric said serving Ray the cup.
Ray blew the cup with his lips to cool it off before embracing the
golden black taste. Ray closed his eyes smacking his lips in pleasure.
“Good shit.” Ray said and raised the cup to show his appreciation to Fredric.
“Only the best for my privileged guests.”
Ray scanned the room for a moment and came to the conclusion that it
was just as messy as his own.
“So why the invitation?” Ray asked curiously.
“I needed a break from those bastards.” Fredric nodded his head to his
desk where a stack of books were lying open, waiting to devour him.
“Preaching to the choir,” Ray said.
“Amen,” Fredric said before he drank some more of his delicious coffee.
Ray and Fredric sat for an hour talking about random stuff that made
time fly, until Ray caught the time.
“Ah shit, I got to go,” Ray said and put an empty cup on a table,
“thank you for the coffee.”
“Why the hurry?” Fredric asked.
“I got this short story I need to write for tomorrow.”
“How far have you come?”
Ray held up his thumb and index finger forming a ring and said.
“Zero, zilch, nada,” he said, “I don’t know what to write about.”
Fredric gently put his cup on the table and then said.
“Well, write about that.”
“What?” Ray asked.
“Write about that,” he waved his hand and continued, “That you don’t
know what to write.”
Ray stroked a hand through his hair and said.
“That’s actually not bad.” Ray got up and walked out, thinking only
about what Fredric had said. “You’re welcome,” He shouted
sarcastically as Ray left his room.
When Ray got back to his room he found Dave sitting in his bed reading
a magazine about jet fighters.
“Ah, Leonardo returns, your canvas and brush await you,” Dave said as
Ray took off his shoes. Ray ignored Dave; he was in his writing mode
now. He took a seat in front of the laptop, turned it on and started
typing. The laptop screen displayed an empty document, just like a
piece of paper without words on it. Two hands on the keyboard started
typing to fill in the white void……..
By: Sam Philip Stenstroem