I have never said a word about any of the secrets people have shared with me over the years. Not one, even when the secrets were out, I never told anyone that I was aware of anything. I’m like a tomb that way. And many other ways too. But to me it is highly ironic; most people seem to relish the fact that they can center their conversations and thoughts, or lack thereof, around my doings. Not that it should bother me as much as that, but the whole thing began to worry me a few weeks ago.
I met Harry down at City Hall, and he was followed by his old puppy. It took him ten minutes to get it to come and he yelled twenty seven times; I counted. He said hi and how are you and many other trivial and civil things that you usually hear and say yourself when you bump into someone you don’t really want to bump into, or care about for that matter. He asked me if I was still writing, and to that I said no. He said well, it’s not a bad thing I guess. Not a bad thing? What do you mean? Well, you know, no one lives off of the writing nowadays you know, unless you writing scripts or episodes or something like that. And you never did publish anything that exceptional now did you? NOT, not that I didn’t like your writing, I did like it. It’s just that, it’s not the same business as … say, I don’t know … Music, for example. Music, I said. Yes, music.
I had been writing scripts and episodes for small productions, and most of them had been flushed down the toilet before the second episode could see the light of day. I had written a plethora of other things, but for some untangible reason, I did not feel the energy to tell him anything. I couldn’t even have managed to tell him off. I nodded, peacefully, and waited for him to go on. He clearly got the signal and smiled. Envision something a bit more stable now? I don’t know, I said, I might get into teaching soon. He laughed a good and greasy laugh, one that you would only hear in very bad movies. I should know, I have written a lot. My expression remained the same and it took him a moment to understand that I was not messing with him. He cleared his throat and said, well, teaching! That’s a great idea!
He talked some more about his dear old life which was, in his own terms, akin to livin’ the dream. I heard about his promotion and his responsibilities, because in the real world real men do have some of those to deal with, about Bea’s replaced lips and her hips surgery, or maybe it was the other way around. I was gratefully invited for a drink some time over the next ten years, the precise actual date however still in flux. And eventually, after he had exhausted more than ten different subjects in under three minutes, Harry decided that it was time to move on. With a quick movement of the wrists, he did something with the leash which seemingly awakened the dog from some sort of walking coma. In a matter of seconds, both of them were gone, strolling towards another lamp-post to piss on.
This was life now. Random people bumping into you, cramming as much information as they could in one sentence, before focusing their attention on something entirely different for the next couple of minutes. I did not really mind that at all – for all I cared, my attention span was bigger than the now reglementary full two or three minutes, I could still read a book without getting too bored, I didn’t care for Games of Thrones and nor did I care whether or not Rick was about to have his hand cut, and I didn’t own an Instagram account. I felt safe and sound in the very own shelter of my remoteness, neither physical nor psychological per se.
A couple of days after my abrupt meeting with Harry, I sat alongside Joey on the train. As it happened, neither of us paid attention to the other until my bookmark fell down and I had to grab it from under his feet. These moments, if I could be granted the time to digress, are generally the ones testing my limits. The limits of my sanity, that is. There is a certain point in a man’s life after which a person goes crazy, full blown crazy. And as you hear saying this now you probably think that I am one of those maniacs, hyper sensitive and caring for everything and nothing at the same time – something, let us be frank and straight for a second, which should be considered to be the simplest definition to the term “folly” – but I’m not. I’m simply huge on respect, as the kids would say. Well, the kids would probably say something different than that actually, but I try to keep up anyway. And really, the fact of the matter is, I have a hard time understanding why and how people cannot not care about other people. Sounds familiar? I know, me too. So when someone steps on my toes, inadvertently sneezes on me, or scrambles my bookmark with their dirty shoes, I’m on the verge of losing it.
But anyhow, Joey saw me and apologized immediately. He then proceeded to extend his hand, but not to shake mine. This is another thing that I have a hard time understanding, but I will not delve into it as of right now. Let us say that he is the type of man who has a special handshake, if you can call it that anyway. I waited for him to do his thing, I looked at awkwardly and tried to smile. Before I had the chance to say anything, he began to talk. I saw Harry the other day, he told me you bumped into him! Yeah, I answered, feigning the amusement. That was fun. He told me you stopped writing – good for you man! Good. For. You. I didn’t say anything to that, simply waited for what followed, and smiled. So, teaching huh? Maybe, I don’t know. I haven’t figured everything out yet. Everything? Dude, you’ve got to get a real job now. It’s about time.
To be entirely honest, I phased out when he said “dude”. Any kind of man who still says that past his twenty fifth birthday should be executed, period. My life had been under a microscope of sorts and I had literally no idea? Is this what it feels like, to be a star? I gaze at him and could see his lips moving; no sounds came to my ears. Should I tell him about the novel I was about to get published, or about the short-story collection I am working on? Probably not. Over the past ten years, I had come to learn that being and calling myself a writer was something problematic. Not to me however – to me, it simply had to do with honoring the function for which I had been put on earth, or something along those lines. But it appeared to be problematic to other people. For some reason, everyone else assumed that being a writer, or simply “writing” was something of a travesty : after all, anybody could write. Anyone could pen a story, write characters, associate words and sounds and whatever else. That was the first thing – there’s no true craft in writing. The second one was – no one cares about it anymore. And it’s true – who cares? In a world where you can download and save your favorite TV shows on your mobile phone and watch them as you shower, nobody’s got time for writing. That’s another given fact.
So in a sense, writing became one old fashionned con. It was already a con before, for many other reasons that I cannot begin to fathom, but nowadays, telling anyone you were a writer almost felt like insulting their entire family. In such a context, I was quick to learn my lesson – I took a new pen name, and told everyone who would hear it that I had picked up my ball and gone home. Most people felt happy, or happier, for me that way. As if writing had been plaguing me like a cancer for the better part of my life. But I went home that night and thought about it all. My cat purred loudly in his box and it reminded me of the old ferrys I used to take. In some weird way, I was beginning to think that I, again, was exploring another country. But this time I wasn’t the one who move. In closing my eyes, or rather keeping them focused on something for a bit too long, I had failed to realize how much the world around me had evolved. Or degraded. That’s a matter of perspectives.
Two months later, Glitches came out. Sonia told me about it and said it was good, that it felt like something I could have written, and that I should check it out. I said okay, I will. Did anyone else read it? She said yes, actually. I met Harry the other day and told him about it too. He sent me a text not so long ago thanking me for it – he loved it. That’s too bad for him, I said. I’m sorry, what? Oh no, I said, I meant, that’s too bad ’cause it’s short. Two hundred pages, he probably devoured it. Oh, right. We drank our coffee and I felt something strange, some sort of unspecified turgidity in me. What is it about, I asked, the book? Oh, she said, it’s about us – I mean, the world as a whole. Assholes.