Every writer I’ve ever met was scared to death.
“What are you so terrified of?” I asked Gordon (a writer).
“The world is terrifying,” he said.
“Could you be more specific?” I asked him.
His eyes got wider.
“I could if I had some paper,” he said.
We crossed the street.
“Coffee time?” I said.
Gordon grabbed my arm.
“I would kill for a coffee,” he said.
I could tell by the way his eyes quivered that he meant it.
Two men live below me, in the basement suite. They don’t go anywhere. Their conversations float up through the floor vents.
“Writing,” the one said, “is dying. Fast. By the end of the month, we’ll have no idea what to chisel into its headstone.”
“Bullshit,” said the other man. “It’s dying slowly. We have a few good years left. Then a few not so good years.”
I can sometimes smell marijuana coming up through the vents.
A man was lying in the street. I rolled down my window.
“Where are you headed?” I asked.
It was my friend Richard. Author of Payday Poems.
“Do you need a ride?”
Richard sat up. He took off his glasses. He cleaned them on his shirt. His shirt was filthy. He slipped his glasses back on. He lay back down.
“No,” he said.
I was about to drive off when my friend sat back up. He waved his hand. I rolled the window back down.
“What time is it?” he asked.
“Almost midnight,” I said.
“Thanks,” he said, lying back down.
I waited a few minutes. Then I rolled up my window and drove off.
Words floated up from the floor.
“I need peanuts, swim trunks, golf balls and coffee.”
“You can get all that at the bookstore. I need to go anyway.”
“What book are you getting?”
“I just need some hand lotion.”
No one said anything for over an hour.
“Why is it still 7:00?”
“I was wondering about that, too.”
I couldn’t even smell marijuana.
Richard’s funeral was a sad occasion. Two or three friends went. His publisher went, but left early. “I wish I could get this many people at a reading,” said the woman next to me. I laughed.
An important writer gave the eulogy. I’d never heard of him.
They passed around sandwiches, after. The woman next to me filled her purse with them. “These should last me all week,” she said. I laughed again.
“What are you working on these days?” I asked Gordon.
He crawled under the table.
I guess we’re all terrified. Most people bury their terror under houses and Christmas trees and wives. Not writers. They can’t afford any of those things.
“Beer o’clock?” I said, crouching down.
Gordon crawled out. He grabbed my arm.
“I would kill for a drink,” he said.
A few days later, he did.
Rolli’s latest book is The Sea-Wave.
Buy him a coffee.