The Writer

“You’re a writer? What do you write?”
“I don’t know….” I meant to continue with some guess at what it was exactly that I wrote but instead decided to leave it at that. They looked on apparently still waiting for an answer and so I made a face like I was still thinking about it, followed by a gesture that I’d finally given up.
“Well, what are you working on?”
“Um…. Nothing I guess.” I began to realize that I was beginning to look, in their eyes, less and less like a writer as the conversation wore on. It was well enough, for I didn’t really consider myself a writer. I never got paid for anything I wrote, which annoyed me; and recently it was more of a neglected hobby than anything else. Sometimes I would scribble out the beginning of an epic or the last stanza of a wonderful poem, but they would always join the ever expanding “works to be completed” file on my desktop.
I became worried though. People thought of me as a writer. Most people did anyway. What was to happen when this person talked to so and so who is a closer acquaintance of mine, and they bring me up in conversation? This person would say “I talked to Thom” and so and so would say, “oh yes, Thom the writer,” and this person would say “yeah right, writer my ass.” And so they would talk about how I wasn’t really writing, and it would strike both of them as very odd that a proclaimed writer wasn’t writing. Soon it would dawn on so and so, as it had on this person now, that I was, in fact, not a writer at all, but merely a thirty year old living in someone’s basement and working at the front desk of a motel, who instead posed as a writer in order to appear more successful than I actually was. Once realizing this, so and so, being the friend they are, would mention that Falkner worked as a security guard until he was finally discovered for the genius he was, in a suggestion that I might be similar one day. Still, so and so would begin to have their doubts, and would spread them to others.
“I was writing a story about a woman who was very beautiful who died after discovering her lover was an alien,” I lied. “Its just a work in progress though.”
“I would love to read what you have.” This person said enthused greatly at the prospect of such a story. Fantastic, now I had to actually write a story about a woman who died after discovering her lover was an alien. What a dumb idea for a story. I decided that the first three lines of such a story would go like this:

Miss. Jones was a cynical woman who wasn’t easily swayed by the concepts she read in books and magazines. There were no reasons for the way she had come to think of such things; she was merely a woman who had come to see the world for what it was. To a woman such as she, things like love and compassion were very, very foreign.

“I would love to have you read it.” I heard myself saying.
“So you write Sci-fi stuff then.”
“What?” I asked, having herd just fine what she said, but somewhat put off by the thought of being a sci-fi writer.
“You write Sci-fi?” this person asked in clarification.
“No.” I said flatly. Perhaps too flatly though. “Well, sometimes I suppose I do.” I was going to then say I try not to, but stopped myself.
“I like Sci-fi.” This person said, continuing this painstaking conversation. “Sometimes you have to leave a conventional setting to get across some of the more powerful themes.”
“No, I agree.” I said, trying not to make it apparent that I’ve never thought about it before.
“I once read a story about a man who walked on Mars and went insane when he returned to Earth.”
“That sounds really interesting” I said, not knowing why it would be interesting or what the theme of such a stupid story could possibly be.
“Its by a man named Jason Lahey.” This person was for some reason incredibly interested in this whole writing business. In my whole life I’d never met anyone who was so interested in my being a writer. Where was this person ten years ago when I was in college? I’d have so much to talk about then. I could talk their curious ear off about the all the writing I was doing for my Creative Fiction class and my Advanced Playwright class.
Meanwhile alarms were going off in my head. Some reasonable part of me was kicking the shit out of the more tangible part of me for having lied my way into writing a story about a woman who falls in love with an alien.

The man before her had no eyebrows and only four fingers. He looked like some real-life version of a children’s cartoon character. Now he was looking at her, and her heart skipped a beat. He spoke in a language she didn’t understand and bowed. She went flush. Something about him intrigued her. Something wondrous, something fantastic, something different from what all other words could describe except for one. He was something foreign, and was beautiful for it.

“I’ve heard of him. I’ve heard Lahey is really good.” I wasn’t lying this time, I had heard of him. Well, I was half lying, I haven’t heard anything about him, I just knew his name from somewhere.
“Oh he is. You should read his collection of short stories, Earth: The Infinite Frontier. I don’t think there is a bad story in it.”
“I’ll look for it.” I hate myself. There was a bit of an awkward silence during which I tried to bring myself to make up some excuse to leave but I couldn’t think of anything before this person said something else.
“So who do you read?” Why did I have no problem lying in conversations, but when it came to lying to get out of them I was all of the sudden a Saint?
“My favorite is Salinger.” I loved Salinger. His work had the most effect on me as a teenager, and was the reason I wanted to be a writer. Everyone says that though. Or do they? I’m guessing less and less as time passes, but call me old fashioned I guess.
“Catcher in the Rye, excellent book. What’s your favorite part?”
“The end” I said, almost as soon as this person finished the sentence. “The end is the best part of the whole book, the last few lines especially. That is perfection in my mind.” It was at this point I realized that this was the first genuine thing I’ve said so far in the entire conversation.
“Do you try to emulate him in your work?”
“Who? Salinger? No.” I said, shaking my head.
“Why not?”
“I feel like if I were to embrace his style I would just end up rewriting the book. I don’t really emulate anyone I guess.” I thought about this actually and this person stood and watched me, waiting for me to elaborate. “I guess I try to be genuine when I write. I don’t try to amount to anything with it. I just write the way I think, and if it ends up having some shadow of meaning then I’ve done a good job, but I don’t write anymore into a story then the words that make it up.” The person nodded and thought for a short time. I reflected back on my words, wondering what meaning could be gleamed from them. I was never any good at reading between the lines. I wondered now if I was missing a very important aspect of writing and hoped I was wrong when I decided that I was.
“Well, tell me when you’re ready to give me what you have, I look forward to reading it.”
“I will” I said, honestly looking forward to it.
“I’ll see you around.” Then this person disappeared into the crowded room.

She was dying. The alien was at her side, tears rolling from the round and strange eyes she had come to love. He held her hand in his, and she felt heartache through the pain. It was a beautiful and fantastic feeling. It felt as though everything piece of her was constructed for the purpose of one day experiencing this wonderful feeling, and it made her happy. The Alien was gentle and warm, and she felt safe with him. She no longer felt cynical and uneasy. She had no longer felt like an imposter in life; a foreign soul. She had love in her hand and with that missing piece of the puzzle, she faded away, leaving behind only the empty vessel she had been until that moment.

It wasn’t until after I wrote the story that I realized that I’d never gotten this person’s name.

The Writer

Chris Hubbard

New Jersey, United States

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