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…

No Victory

The soft shuffling of slippers on tile meant she was already up.

The faintest hue of a pink blush began to brush the sky.

Why so early?

I watch her, but don’t speak.

She runs her hand over her face as she walks toward the door, but she doesn’t turn around to see if I’m awake. I wonder if I would’ve closed my eyes again if she did.

The distances and silences were becoming longer, and more frequent, and attempts to begin conversations through small talk fell flat. Attempts to discuss what was going wrong and how to fix it, and whether or not it was something we really wanted to do, lapsed into a different kind of silence.

Love had settled into familiarity and comfort, but the kind of comfort that came from a raggedy, threadbare blanket full of holes. It was long past fulfilling its purpose, but kept around more out of a sense of nostalgia than anything else.

And we’d settled too, like dust on an antique table depreciating in value. Neither of us thought the effort of restoration was worth the price.

******************

The drive to the airport was silent, as if confirming what she was doing was the right thing to do. It didn’t even feel awkward that I was driving her there.

We were in our memories, just not sharing them, because that might lead to thinking we could salvage what remained. There was, if we were to be honest, a mutual sense of relief and excitement at the prospect of a new start.

It was early enough to find parking. I paid and we each carried pieces of her luggage.

“Traveling light, huh?”

“I threw a lot away.”

“Yes, you did.”

She stopped, gave an exasperated sigh. “Don’t start, love. You said you were fine with me going. You helped me pack. Please don’t make this any more difficult.”

“Any more difficult. It didn’t seem difficult at all.”

“That’s not fair.”

“Maybe not, but that doesn’t make it untrue.”

“We can’t stay together. You know this. Why be petulant now?

“If I had been petulant earlier, would it have changed your mind. Be honest with me, with yourself, for once.”

She started walking again, beside me now, her voice quieter. “I honestly don’t know.”

The new silence was awkward. She stopped again, and took my hands in hers.

“How about a break then, instead of a break-up?”

I considered it. “We can try that.”

“Good.” She kissed my cheek. “I don’t know how long I’ll be gone.”

“Or if you’ll be back.” It wasn’t a question, but she said yes.

“All right, then. Don’t ask if I’ll wait.”

A look of surprised hurt flashed on her face. “I wasn’t going to sleep with anyone.”

“You can’t say that with any certainty, since you don’t know how long you’ll be gone, or if you’ll be back. I’m telling you up front, depending on the circumstances, I’m not waiting.”

The silence grew tense again, but neither of us moved.

“Then neither will I.” Her eyes grew wet.

“Wait a minute…”

“I’m going to miss my flight. You’re lashing out, and you’re making me lash out too, at the worst possible time.

“What do you want to do? A break or a breakup?”

“I…I don’t know.”

She sighed, then told me. “That’s not an answer, but it is. Why now?”

“Why do you need to leave?”

“To stop…this. We keep doing this. I have to go…”  She pulled up the handle to her luggage.

I didn’t move.

“Are you going to help me?”

“Help you walk out of my life? No.”

I flagged down a handler and sent him to her, then I started walking back toward the car, wrestling with my thoughts.

Why couldn’t I decide? Why did I even bring her here at all? 

Why is everything so blurry?

I looked back, hoping against hope she’d be running toward me, and all would be forgiven.

But she was gone.

There would be no rom-com ending.

There never is, except in rom-coms.

Love just dies, like the king of Sparta in that other movie: defiant, loud, and brave, but ultimately overwhelmed, ultimately slain, and fondly remembered in glorious defeat.

No victory.