Sun Sep 18, 2022 12:19

—In my experience, literary heroes are better left behind the curtain.

Now a proper smile. There you go. She’s not upset. She smiles back. For the first time he sees her. It’s a gift of clear-eyed perception. Beautiful was too insignificant a word. She was a vision of perfection, a minor masterpiece of genetics. Imperfect in all the right places but sweet, impossibly sweet. But he was already up on his feet. For once, he tried to be honest.

—Look, you seem to be…I’ll be blunt, I don’t like to think about my old work. Maybe I had promise at one point. Then I got lost in a fog of post-modern bullshit. That whole everything, everywhere, all at once thing. I probably took a more deserving writer’s place in the established pecking order. In any case, success was definitely wasted on me.

She guffawed and he registered a slight double-take in the tilt of her head, she smirked slightly before her eyes honed in on something stuck in his grizzled beard, perhaps the remains of his breakfast. Embarrassed but stimulated, he tried to control his nerves. She licked her lips almost imperceptibly while he wiped away fragments of egg and cheese.

—Here I was, about to ask to you to sign a copy of ‘Hauntology!’ Okay, mister. Have it your way! She said, sarcastically.

—Of course, any time. Do you have a pen? He replied.

It was his tendency, to take other people’s attempts at humour over-literally.

—No rush. I’m sure I’ll see you in here again, she said, defusing some weird tension between them.

It wasn’t like he was going to embrace her, lean over the table, right here and now, although he often felt uncontrolled urges to do things like this. She paused for effect and said, “I believe there’s another book in you, a great one maybe, even if you don’t.”

The innocent light that surrounded her, nimbus-like, eased out like a mechanical iris as Chuck glided away and out the entrance led by some protective spirit that edged him into stark city light, into the open, the unforgiving and unknown. Could it be Frankenstein that she we was referring to? Did she know? Had the news already leaked on anonymous message-boards where such things were discussed? Were such things still discussed? Did people still read? Like a nail in his coffin, the name Frankenstein hammered away at his frail ego. Frankenstein. The myth. The creature.

“The beast won’t leave me alone,” he said out loud, alarming a dog-walker and a furry brown pup that flashed an accusatory look at him as it skipped past his heels. He couldn’t be sure how much of this rambling inner-dialogue had spilled into the air.

Walking home, his steps regular and unhurried, his mood contemplative, he re-litigated what he could still recall of the brief encounter with the waitress. His novels had been mentally shelved for so long that he was weary on a deep-level of dusting them off and re-assimilating the dead weight of his past, his dead Love. That’s what it was. From the Swinburne poem:

Dead love, by treason slain, lies stark,
White as a dead stark-stricken dove:
None that pass by him pause to mark
         Dead love.

His heart, that strained and yearned and strove
As toward the sundawn strives the lark,
Is cold as all the old joy thereof.

Dead men, re-arisen from dust, may hark
When rings the trumpet blown above:
It will not raise from out the dark
         Dead love.

Once you fall out love with yourself there’s no going back. What a cliche, and a depressive thought at that, he chided himself. He was not his work. It took him years to come to this realization, one that finally allowed him to function like an ordinary person again and freed him of the extraneous literary limbs that had atrophied, shrivelled and peeled way from him like a serpent’s skin. It was painful to review this juvenilia which was merely a reflection of everything that he resented and loathed about himself. His books were never the unified works of art he hoped they’d be because he concluded that there was something missing in him.

—There I go again, cataloguing faults, cataloguing…catatonic…catalepsy.

Then a strange thing happened, it was as if the sky opened up and for once he was free to see a thing for what it was and not as a bridge to some other emotional plateau. He was finally able to catch a thought and observe it before it fluttered away. This brief moment of clarity, lasting perhaps only a few seconds, was like a state of grace earned after years of self-torture. He pivoted inwardly, turning back to his conversation with Jezebel. Her encouragement had touched him. Perhaps there were a few rough uncut stones in those old buckets of ash and coal, a few moments of light and epiphany that redeemed his book’s flaws. Maybe he could polish off this rough-hewn granite and make it sparkle if not glitter with the perspective he had gained over the years. Words were never quite adequate but he would be forced to make due with his own meagre lot. Words were never quite adequate. His words. Words, in general. The word.

  • Whoops (Part 2) Redjeans, Sun Sep 18 12:18
    Part 2 Every other day, Chuck ate a late breakfast at his favourite greasy spoon diner, the Apollo 11 restaurant. With photos of astronauts staring down at him over his coffee he felt suitably... more
    • Cont. Redjeans, Sun Sep 18 12:19
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