Monologue // Elizabeth Roop

            The clock is ticking.

            For some reason, the ticks are always louder for the first half of every minute and then grow quieter before progressively getting louder again. I never even noticed that until someone pointed it out to me, but now I can never help noticing it. It doesn’t bother me, really. It’s just odd.

            I fidget at my desk chair, my ankles crossed and tucked to one side, bouncing anxiously. Blinking twice, I realize that I haven’t absorbed anything off the past page and a half of my textbook. I just can’t concentrate.

            There are too many ideas for my story racing through my head right now.

            The clock keeps ticking.

            Exhaling through pursed lips, I close my eyes for a second and take a few deep breaths. In through my nose, out through my mouth. Four seconds in, eight seconds hold, eight seconds out, four seconds pause, repeat as needed. I clench onto my pen.

Turn a Blind Eye
Krista Waite // photography

            This is the annoying thing about “brainsplosions,” what I’ve long called the experience of what feels like thousands of plot details, dialogue bits, scene concepts, and character development ideas all rushing into being in my mind all at once. My ability to focus is trash, and the physiological symptoms are not far off at all from those I experience when I have an anxiety attack. Of course, just getting too excited or upset in general tends to trigger an anxiety attack for me anymore. I’ve trained my brain to associate all adrenaline with panic without even trying.

            Grounding. I need to ground myself. That might clear the ideas and allow me to concentrate long enough to finish this homework.

            Opening my eyes, I look around myself and count five things I can see. A handmade poster bearing handwritten lyrics. The white wall. A stack of textbooks. The bookcase, stuffed with books and Kirby collectibles. A Hello Kitty plushie on the dresser. Now. Four things I can hear. The clock (it’s quieter at the moment). The air cleaner. The washing machine across the hall. My pen nervously tapping against the desk.

            I grimace and make myself put the pen down. My fingers start drumming instead.

            Another idea explodes onto the screen of my brain, replacing my less-than-half-completed grounding efforts with more plot details. Biting my lip, I stare straight ahead of me as my internal reality replaces my external reality. I’ve always been able to do this—fade into another scene to the point it’s hard to rouse me, to the point that the only way to force me back before I’m ready is to touch me or to say my name repeatedly. I can even do it when walking. Half the time when I walk somewhere alone, I remember none of the details of the journey. I was too busy traversing my own mind to pay attention to the world outside.

            The scene’s setting is a dark room. Concrete, or maybe linoleum. A sneering voice is scolding someone outside for not being gentler with the precious new recruit. This thing is worth a pile of cash to the dark lord. Project Starfall must continue.

            Next to me on the dirty floor, a tiny, young voice whimpers.

            As much as I want to continue this train of thought, another throws it off the rails, barreling it over in a wreck of incredible proportions. One small alien gripping another’s hand. Frenzied flight. A friend turned enemy. Guilty until proven innocent.

            As another idea tries to replace this one yet again, I can feel the web of ideas spreading once again, linking to one another. Opportunities for plot twists books later are coming to be once again, even if I can’t identify them yet. Everything ties together somehow.

            Sometimes I feel as though I’m not the one in control, like the story is writing itself and I’m just the vessel it uses to make itself manifest. These “brainsplosions” are just one facet of this odd sensation.

            Inhaling sharply, I shake the ideas off. My hands are clenched into fists. My feet continue bouncing below, faster now. Flipping my textbook shut, I stand up abruptly and start pacing circles in the middle of the room, heart pounding somewhere between my chest and my throat.

            Back to grounding.

            Three things I can smell. The leak-stained ceiling that still doesn’t smell quite right. The scent of shampoo over close to my closet. Unable to identify a third smell, I grab a plushie and shove my face into it. It’s a different smell, though I can’t really describe it. Still. It counts. Two things I can feel. The floor as I pace, switching between wood and fuzzy area rug. My teeth biting my lip. One thing I can taste. Shoot, I’ve bit my lip too hard. Never mind. I don’t want to label this metallic tinge.

            Sitting back down at the desk, I start breathing deeply again, trying to will the “brainsplosion” away. I simply don’t have time for this right now. I know the lack of writing time only makes these… I won’t say “worse,” just more intense. If I could write more often, the ideas would come more naturally as the story spread on. It’s because I can’t allow that to happen that it happens all at once like this instead. “Brainsplosions” used to only come once every few months, and they didn’t ever used to be so intense.

            Flipping my textbook open again, I find my page and scrunch my brow, commanding myself to pay attention. My eyes dart over to my laptop over on the other desk. Just a few minutes of typing might help the “brainsplosion” fade, part of me whispers. I’m not stupid, though. That won’t help, not now. Besides, I don’t have time right now.

            My pen starts tapping against the desk again. My feet keep bouncing.

            I go back to reading without absorbing anything, still trying to resist the ideas that are all pounding against the inside of my skull, begging to be acknowledged and breathed into written existence.

            Welcome to my life.

            For me, this is normal.

            This is why I can hardly imagine myself as anything but a writer. I’m almost positive I’d go insane, what with an eternity of ideas constantly begging to be allowed to live outside of my brain.

            I continue to keep my head above water, trying to concentrate on my homework, but the ideas and the urge to write keep fighting to drown me into thought.

            The clock keeps ticking.


Elizabeth Roop is a junior English/History double major. At Morningside, she’s active in campus ministries, ODK, and the Writing Center. She is currently studying in Japan at Kansai Gaidai


Krista Waite is a senior at Morningside College. She’s a double major in Religious Studies and Non-Profit management with an emphasis in Human Services.