From the Anthology 

Pandemic Writing

“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity," wrote T.S. Eliot. To help make productive use of our self-isolation and social distancing, Lit Cleveland is offering free writing challenges each week via our newsletter. The following piece is a response to the Negative Definition prompt.

Monologue of the Unknown

by Jerry W. Vandal

Why am I here? Where did I come from? How have I spread so quickly, so violently, so undiscrimanatory? I’m not sure. I just came to be. I’m not even sure what I am.  I think about it a lot as I grow and travel and reach into your lives.  I’ve met so many of you and you’re all so different. I’m struggling to find answers.

I can tell you what I’m not.  

I’m not a book whose pages you must fight through sleep to get the complete story.  

I’m not a party you’ve thrown and need as many people to show up so you can feel that euphoric pulse course through your insides.

I’m not a man with a sign and unkempt salt and pepper beard standing at the end of the highway for you to ignore.  

I’m not a chess piece for you to play against your ideological adversary as you feverishly type your comments online.  

I’m not a movie projector for you to show your hate and fear to the Asian woman you come across as you frantically fill your cart with soup and noodles.  

As I traverse through the cities, the countrysides, the mountainsides, the forests, and come to know you rich and poor, liberal and conservative, black and white (and all of the other shades), and all of the other ways you have divided yourselves, I find that I am not many things you are familiar with. So what am I?

Perhaps I’m a reason to stop.  

To stop hating.  

To stop wasting time.  

To stop taking those around you for granted.  

Perhaps what I am is a reason to stop and enjoy another’s smile longer. Perhaps I’m a reason to message that person who hurt you or that you hurt and figure out how to move forward. Perhaps I’m a reason to sit down with others you care about and find something to laugh about. Perhaps I’m a reason to sit on a chair, stare out a window, coffee or scotch in hand, and think about your life. Are you happy? Are you the person you want to be?  

When my life ends (it’s odd now that I think about that…I have an end) what will I have changed?  What will the world look like? How much damage will I have caused? How many will I have hurt? I don’t know.

I don’t know.

Hmm. That’s what I am.  

The unknown.