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I watched it fall from the sky. A black feather. I never saw the bird it came from. I don’t remember any being in the trees at the time. I bring the feather home, position it, take a picture, and send it to the tattoo parlor.

I check in for my appointment and have a seat in the waiting room. Everything is designed to be calm and relaxed. It fits with the name, Good Mojo. Incense. Chimes. Good vibes.

I didn’t know it, but my aunt is in a waiting room too.

While I wait, I think back to the last time, the first time. It’s only been three years, but I was so much younger then. Those years were long and full, even when I felt empty. Tried to be empty. Better off empty. No thoughts. Not of him. Not of them.

If I had known what was happening with my uncle, I would not have thought of him either. Live in the moment. Right here. Right now. Nothing else.

I want to focus on the pain—the only thing that’s real. I wonder how I’ll look back on myself three years from now.

The unusual and suspicious lack of snow in December came up in small talk and my mind drifted to the snow that night, how much it had snowed since. Boston had seen a record-setting amount of snow earlier that year, and so had I. January and February brought 108 inches of snow, all of which I shoveled from driveways and cleared from roofs.

The tattoo machine starts to feel good.

It’s becoming an old familiar sting. I try to focus on it, try to kill it all away, but I remember everything.

A distant relative who died just before the New Year. A friend diagnosed with cervical cancer in September. A friend diagnosed with stage four brain cancer in August, who gradually lost all his memories, before he died in December, leaving behind a wife and teenage twin boys. But time doesn’t matter because I don’t even know if my best friend is scattered ash or rotting in a box somewhere in town.

It feels like everyone I know, goes away.

As I sat there—watching the needles go into my arm, deriving a twisted pleasure from the pain—my uncle was having a seizure from which he would never recover; neither would my aunt. They were like second parents to me. They were always there when I needed them, but when they needed me I was an hour drive and a world away, indulging myself. It was an unusually warm winter until the day after Christmas when they pulled the plug. I wasn’t there.

I was still healing when it started snowing again.

I got the quill as a representation of my love of words, of reading and writing, of the ability to create. Yet all I could do was stare at a blank page, full of broken thoughts that I couldn’t repair. I felt like a quill with no ink. Empty. I was missing an essential part of myself. I needed something to make the quill useful.

How could I write if I had no words?

At my lowest, I met my muse. She lifted me up and gave me a renewed life. I am quiet by nature, but I cannot seem to shut up around her. She has this gift for making me gab. Words flow so naturally when I’m with her that it isn’t a conscious effort. She always lifts me up when I’m down and I know she will always be there for me, with more inspiration, waiting to draw more words and stories out of me. She’s my inspiration, my muse…my inkwell.

Ryan Fay

Ryan is an editor and semi-pro author with life goal of having enough money to buy the cool things people make in DIY videos.

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