The only way to find the story is to lose the moment. Forget checklists, guidebooks, and maps. Stop asking for directions. Walk the crumbling footpaths and forget where you're going, where you are.
It never occured to me that losing my way would give me direction, but it did. The picture above was taken two weeks ago in the city of Pompeii. I had no map. My idea of Pompeii was circumscribed by a diarama I'd done as a child, and though I had to realize, I tell myself now, that the city was surely larger than a shoebox, I roamed Pompeii without care. I'm normally the navigator, the one who sees a landmark in an odd brick and files it away for later when it's time to find my way back. I'm normally more concerned with finding my way back than with the journey, which may be why I've been in such a writing rut. I've been so focused on what to write that I forgot to see what was in front of me, what lurkers were skulking at the edges of my attention, waiting for me to take notice.
Stepping into Pompeii was like flicking a magic switch. I couldn't take my attention away from the journey, the ruins, the actual human bones accordianed in the fetal position, the holes punctured in the blood-red walls of chambers as if someone had been trying to dig their way out of the ash.
Every corner there had a story. Pompeii remains a city of stories. Characters leapt, Vesuvius loomed, and suddenly I was in the center of a maze of stone. I took no more pictures. My urges to catalogue and organize and map were overcome by all the stories that were vying for space in my brain. I surrendered to not knowing what would happen, where I was going. The city is vast and I had no idea how to find my way out. I had taken in no landmarks. I roamed, letting bone demons, forgotten gods, pyroclastic urges whisper their half tales, tales that haunt me. Tales that I just may write down when I'm done noticing the stories I can't stop seeing since I left Pompeii's gates.
Get lost. If the words don't come, get out of your writing chair, get out of your city. Leave your notebook behind and meet new ghosts, listen to their stories.
KL Pereira's chapbook, Impossible Wolves was published by Deathless Press is 2013. Her fiction, poetry, and nonfiction are forthcoming or appear in The Drum Literary Magazine, Shimmer Zine, Lightning Cake, The Golden Key, Innsmouth Free Press, Innsmouth Magazine, Mythic Delirium, Jabberwocky, The Medulla Review, Bitch Magazine and other publications. Pereira’s work on fairy tales, sexuality, Wonder Woman, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are featured on Studio 360 and other radio programs, cited in numerous publications, and assigned in courses all over the United States and Canada. Find Pereira online on klpereira.com and @kl_pereira.See other articles by KL Pereira