The Writer and The Page

“Good morning, Page,” the Writer greeted the blank field of whiteness awaiting him.

“Ah, good morning, Writer. Come to challenge me again?”

The Writer smiled. “Not challenge, conquer.”

The Page returned the smile, though the Writer couldn’t see it. “A worthy, lofty goal.”

“It’s what writers do.”

“Oh? Tell me, Writer, is it worth the isolation, the distant look in the eyes of the person you’re talking to about what you’re writing, the alienation of family and friends, for the sake of justifying the most mundane of arts?”

“You think writing is mundane?”

“You don’t?”

“If I thought that, why would I do it?”

The Page smirked. “Because writers love to moan about their suffering. Dancers and painters alleviate their pain, or live with it, toting their equipment hither and yon. They don’t go on and on about it. They accept the pain as part of the price, but writers somehow always seem amazed by the cost of their craft.
“But the great ones, those artists who don’t write, embrace it. They are the ones who get remembered, the ones who last through the ages.
“Even musicians struggle with their demons, exorcising themselves through their instruments, but they’re on another level of suffering.”

The Writer found himself intrigued. “How so?”

The Page chuckled like a parent at a silly question from their child.

“When dancers have shows, they rehearse. When painters or sculptors have exhibits, they set about creating work that fill the spaces.
“Musicians? They daily spew their demons out into space, and those who hear and understand their gibbering respond to it. They’re taken along down whatever road  the music leads them, whether to perdition or redemption.

“Musicians are the eternal Pied Pipers of the times, destined to be followed even when they’d rather be alone.
“Only writers get to bemoan how real life plunders their ability to create. They say, ‘Oh well, no writing today then. I shall double my output tomorrow.’ And of course, they don’t.
“Every day they whine about their lives: children, spouses, and other family members who just don’t ‘get it.’ And my personal favorite: the pet who demands time and attention, or the kittens asleep on the keyboard.
“They act as if moving the animal is against the law! They let their creatures have their way over practicing their craft. It’s laughable.”
The Page laughed, and said when it was over, “My point is this: these are days writers don’t get back, but act as if somehow they will.”

“So what do you suggest?”

“Isn’t it obvious? Abandon this art, take up a trade and make yourself useful. Leave the writing to those already published. You are too undisciplined, lazy, and unfocused to make this work.”

“But my English teachers all said–”

“They were wrong. They deceived you.”

The Writer sat back, catching his breath, staring at the Page, who stared back, serene, but not smug, at least not outwardly so. The Writer honestly couldn’t figure out if it really believed what it said, or was just baiting him.

He suspected the latter, but he couldn’t let it go yet. “All of them?”

The Page stayed silent, content to let the seed of doubt sink in and hit home.

The Writer poured a shot of whiskey and took it with him, getting up to look out the window.

There were lives out there. Every one unique, going to destinations and fates unknown.
His book would be a droplet in the sea, in a world where there were better disciplined, laser focused, faster writers than himself.

Maybe his teachers were wrong. Had they smiled at him and lied? ‘That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain?’
His girlfriend said she always thought he should write, but did nothing to encourage it or support him. She read the occasional snippet, and praised it, but nothing more.

The whiskey burned his throat, and his flesh heated as the alcohol suffused into his bloodstream.

He held up the glass. How many of his kind had succumbed to this weakness. Or was it a weakness? Maybe not.Did the page back then, like this one, drive the writer to defeat as they drowned themselves and their talent, shot by shot?

He went to sit back down, staring again at the white silence before him, a white silence awaiting his words, subject to his imagination, unwilling to do his ready will.

The Page’s laughter was low, deep, reverberating as if they were together in a cave, and the Writer couldn’t see it standing in the shadows, drawing its knife.

Leave me, writer. I grow weary of your presence.

The Writer drained the glass, and put it back in his desk drawer.

Don’t you want another…?
The Writer didn’t answer, flexed his wrists and fingers over the keyboard.

You have nothing. You’re fooling yourself. It’s undignified, and beneath you. Stop it, ‘writer.’ Stop it, now.

The Writer sighed, and began to type: I am a Writer, and Page is my servant. A defiant, exasperating fool of a servant, but mine nonetheless…

Listen…(for Kofi B.)

I last saw cousin Kofi six years ago in Allentown, PA. at the Miller Symphony Center.  I’d heard that TTB was in town.

They’re an exciting, dynamic band that can play anything, and Kofi, being a co-founder and extraordinary composer and musician on keys and flute, helped to increase their library of quality music in their already impressive repertoire.

I went to see the performance, and it was stellar, as always.

After it was over, Kofi did his thing with the fans, and when that passed we went into the tour bus. He offered me half of his Cuban sandwich, and we talked about the show, the music, his performance in particular, and life in general.

When the bus had to get parked, we went to his hotel room, and he saw my brief three seconds of internet presence on a performance I was part of in Easton, PA for a Christmas special.

After he saw it, he beamed and said to me, “You’ve come a long way.”

Coming from him, it was more than validation.

Through the years, we saw each other sporadically, but whenever I was in DC we’d share some time in my uncle’s ‘music room,’ a space that ran wall to wall with vinyl from every genre, too extensive to ever go through in one sitting, and even more massive than my Dad’s.

During the summer of ’78, I spent long hours in that room, and spent some time with Kofi in there as well as we listened to music he’d written, music he was working on, and music he liked. It was my introduction to jazz fusion in particular, and he revealed to me his love of electronic music and its potential to break new ground.

I explored some jazz history on my own, never dreaming one day I’d get to see him play alongside some names that I was listening to at the time. What an even bigger kick it must have been for him.

Kofi once told me back then that a true musician ‘listens to everything.’ At first, I thought he meant different types of  music, but he really did mean everything. A car horn, birds, the pitch of voices, pipes hissing. His gift was so open, he was always literally surrounded by music: the music of life itself.

There were times, my aunt told me, that when he was off the road, silence was all he craved, once to the point where she had to take down her wind chimes. I understood that. The anointed need to have their own space of silence sometimes.

I would’ve liked to have seen him once again, and more than that, to play on the family  project that was a dream of his, but unfortunately it never gelled together.

It would have been glorious, but I understand that too; his workload was as massive as his gift.

The music that he left behind is extensive, and has touched the lives of many.

The music that he hears now is just for him alone.

I know he’s enjoying it.

I can see him now, eyes closed, little tics of expression and appreciation flitting across his features, and I know exactly what he’d say if I were sitting beside him:

Listen…