I want to say I don’t remember how we met. Like you just somehow appeared out of the shadows. Maybe the way things happen in real life are just as interesting. I do remember that day. The way you came in, slinging your life in front of me.
“I don’t have my ID with me and I need to get money out. They stole my wallet. I had the loveliest picture of Jesus in there. He was just so beautiful in it.”
I’m used to this, this overflow of information. Husbands dying. Cancer growing. People think because there is a desk that separates us it works like a confessional. Sometimes I can’t take the weight. They don’t understand that pain is a parasite.
“Um, you don’t have any sort of ID with you?” I say it in sort of a slow manner, with a sign of exhaustion. I’ve already grouped her in with the crazies I just have to patient with.
“Of course I do! What do you want?” And with that comes a heap of papers. “I’ve got all of my bills. Do you want the DVD of my MRI? I have epilepsy. My sinuses are completely gone. All of these tests and all of the drugs over all of these years and they are just gone. They tell me they are just eaten away. I have none left!”
I wish I could write a book of all of my inner monologues. The gems I think of when I’m dealing with these people, I’m telling you, gems.
“Um, I’m not really sure these would count as IDs. Do you have anything else?”
A bag flies up on the counter. I lean forward and see she’s been pulling all of these items out of a suitcase.
“Here are my pills. You think I would have all of these pills if I wasn’t me?”
There’s logic in what she’s saying. I’m also a sucker. I bend rules and cave into people. I hate inconvenience. When people begin to even raise the tone of their voice I’m ready to slide. All the while thinking, “Fuck You”.
“Ok. I think I can use all of this to do it for you just once. Someone stole your wallet?”
“Yes. You should have seen this picture of Jesus I had in there. I didn’t have much else in there. Everything else I keep in storage. I can’t even get to it. I have a brand new computer in there, if I could only get to it. I can’t write anymore. Back when I used to write these children’s books. But that was a long time ago. Back when I was married, living in Paris.”
Now I’m interested.
“Wait, you’re a writer?”
“Yes. I used to write, all of these books. Children’s books mostly.”
“Wow. Wait you were living in Paris?”
I’m staring at her face. I could never forget it. Bleached blonde hair that frizzed out around her face. She was older but her skin was tight and smooth. Bright lipstick. She wasn’t beautiful, but I’d come to remember her as though she was. She had rings on every finger. With a few unconscious streams of thought, I already wanted to know everything about her. But there was a line growing behind her. It was forcing me to rush even though I wanted to just sit there and be on the receiving end of whatever she wanted to throw at me. These people would just have to wait.
“You wrote books while you were there?”
“Yes, there. Other places. There were those 3 days with Bukowski and let me tell you, was he crazy. But those were 3 nights I’ll never forget. I’m sure he won’t either.”
Ok, now I know this woman is crazy. Bukowski, really? But I’m hooked. I wanted to be caught. I was searching for inspiration.
“That’s so crazy. I want to be a writer.”
“Good. You’re a writer. Just keep writing.”
“I feel like I get these blocks,” I say. “I feel like I just can’t do it.”
“You just have to keep doing it and keep pushing. We’re kindred spirits. I can feel it.”
She grabs my hand. Her hands are cold. I can’t help but just stare at her hand holding mine, at each ring on her finger. Each one of them becomes special, something she picked out. There must be a reason for each one.
“You just do it,” she says. “Just write. If I could still write I would. I have this special computer in my storage. Brand new I’m telling you! If I could just get to it I would write.”
“One of my favorite authors actually writes books that are considered teen novels. But they are so beautiful, they are more than just teen novels. Everyone should read them. I did a workshop at her house once. It was so amazing and it inspired me so much. I felt so motivated. But I couldn’t keep it going. That feeling died down.”
“There’s these books, her name is Allende. Isabel. You have to read her books, her writing is so beautiful. She just tells these stories of these people.”
I’m grasping for paper around me. It’s like she knows exactly the kind of drugs I want and need. I want to consume everything this woman gives me. I want to sit on a park bench and record everything she says. I want to write novels about her. This effect she’s having me, whatever I feel coursing through my veins, I want to feel it all of the time.
She grabs one of my business cards and begins to scrawl words across it, words that I could barely read. It was true, she couldn’t write anymore. She also signed her name on the bottom of it. I wish I still had that card somewhere. Something to prove that she existed, that I didn’t just make her up in my mind.
I went home that night and searched for her on the internet. I’m not sure if I was trying to see if she was telling me the truth, or if I really wanted to read her writing. But I couldn’t find anything. But she had made her mark. Whether she was telling the truth, whether there were novels to be read or not, I was a fan.