I have always loved the idea of living in a small apartment, my bed in an alcove, old blankets and quilts against the cold, getting up to shovel the walk, shoveling other people’s too, my job clearing the snow, just that, and then getting back inside to watch old movies and drink cold beer, thinking about my $11,000 gambling loss, how I could have spent that on a hundred bottles of nice scotch, a cruise in the Galapagos, an engagement ring or rent for half the year.
My failure as a writer runs deep, with successes few and far between. I won a short story contest in Grade Four, received an honorable mention in a Hires Root Beer contest, wrote film reviews in college, sports for community newspaper, ad copy for Toto toilets, was accepted to a Kenyon College writing program, and most recently serialized a speculative novel for which the publisher lost interest.
The failures are much more profound – nothing published, nothing at all, after 40 years – a few friends who bother to read anything. Not that I write this for sympathy but rather to underline the reality that despite all of this, I still feel the writer, still, as Highsmith says, only know myself when writing things down.
Coming to terms with who I am, remembering the pain and mistakes, not negating, just coming to understand the little wounds and think on the words that give those cuts dimension, not just typing to see the night to the end, but that essential thing coming out like riding my bike into the half dead forest, stripping down, throwing everything away and being naked. It’s the only thing. Or insufferable. One of the two.
Post-humous publication appears the best of chances – to be remembered by a species devolving into apps – and together we go into the ether..
Highsmith revealed that in order to get herself in a different frame of mind, by pretending she was not herself, moving herself into a state of innocence, free of the day-to-day worries and anxieties of life. Her favorite technique to ease herself into the right frame of mind for work was to sit on her bed surrounded by cigarettes, ashtray, matches, a mug of coffee, a doughnut and an accompanying saucer of sugar. She had to avoid any sense of discipline and make the act of writing as pleasurable as possible.
For your 2019 resolution, pretend that it’s 2123 and you’re on The Anori where living at light speed brings into question every arriving anywhere.
A distinct image of Lai flashed in Calli’s mind, not when she stared back, not her empty eyes, her thin pale lips, but her turning away, turning her body, involuntarily turning, choosing oblivion. “Lai should never have left.”
“Calli, I thought we agreed not to talk about that anymore.”
“She didn’t deserve what we did to her.”
Ashe duplicated the file and saved that to her Bearing. “It’s not worth arguing about.”
“Ashe, you need to accept what you did, what we all did to her.”
“No, Calli. She did it to herself. She did everything to herself. Everything, the exile, the trials, The Hive and The Hollow. Everything.”
“I knew her, Ashe. I knew her better than anyone.”
“I don’t agree, Calli. I think Em knew her better than anyone. She knew her for twice as long as you, maybe more. She did everything with her. And what did she say about Lai?”
“Lai created Em. It’s hard to have a clear opinion of your maker.”
“Em was very clear in her opinion. Very clear. She said it over and over again. Lai couldn’t stop herself. She was addicted to her power. That’s what destroyed her.”
“Don’t be such a simple human.”