So, everything below is just old little stories that never made it to the competitions. Since then I gave up on writing groups and creative writing courses that are full of people who's favourite phrase is 'I have no interest in reading (insert here any successful foreign book)' and who go on about some Fergus O'Driscoll from Dingle who writes about the rivers of Ireland or his grandmother. Turns out, learning writing technique is more difficult than I thought...people prefer to teach you their taste instead.
The library I work in is small. No old folios, green lamps or cosy tables. People are different too. Auld fellas taking out westerns and old ladies renting Mills & Boon stories where human organs have names like ‘jade sword’, ‘cherry cave’, and fireworks happen the minute a man drops his pants. Maude and I used to laugh at them in college. Now, looking at these perfectly permed, respectable women I can’t help but feel sadness for their lost pleasure. That might be me one day.
My days crawl. Things pick up only when school kids come to do homework. They are noisy, but I don’t mind. My secret joy is to put notes into the books people take or scribble messages on the pages. A title or an author, a song or a poem that relates to the story, or just my own thoughts. I like to imagine people finding them, wondering who left them. They are like silent conversations with strangers. I know it’s bad to write in books but it’s even worse to ignore them.
I’ve never had any reply to my notes until this old guy started coming in. He is grey and haggard, with a face of a cancer patient and hands of a musician. They shake when he takes books; his breathing heavy as he leans to sign the forms. The first book he asks for is Eugene Onegin and I’m surprised to find we even have it. I leave a suggestion inside for ‘Master and Margarita’. That one returns with ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’, as if he is laughing at me. I give him ‘Gogol – Nose’. It returns with ‘No, Salinger’.
He barely looks at me during his visits but the notes get longer. If he reserves books, I underline passages I like or put question marks next to ones I don’t understand. He writes a plus if he agrees or a page number next to my question mark; never a direct reply. We play this game for a month: ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ to ‘The Collector’, ‘Lolita’ to ‘The English Patient’, ‘Dr. Faustus’ to ‘The Little Prince’.
Until one day he comes to ask for ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’.
We don’t have it. I’ve never read it either. Then he speaks to me directly for the first time.
“Would you like a coffee?”
It’s not what I expected or wanted. What to say? I panic. My face must speak for me, because he quickly apologizes and leaves. I want to call in sick the next day. Maude laughs: “What is pity for you is a promise to him. You two are on different sides of the grave.”
He hasn’t come back. I read the book he asked for. I marked a quote, one that taught me something. I hope he is not sick or in the hospital. I might even have coffee with him when he’s back. If he is back.
I hope he knows it’s not pity I feel.
You know that joke? I have a body of an eighteen year old. I keep it in the fridge. In my fridge you could find anything but the kitchen sink. I push the door wide open and go through the shelves. Where is it?
Almost no food here. Leftovers of yesterday’s take away, half a sandwich, one egg, mouldy cheese, nail varnish, make up. Wrong shelf.
Where did I stick it?
While I am at it, open the drawer and pull out a special crooked knife. That’s to cut the ropes. Just in case.
A fresh towel. Bottled water. Plastic bags. Tape.
Handcuffs… Maybe not this time.
You’d ask me why I do this? Let’s just say, to better understand women.
“Should I tie her up with diamond shapes?” my assistant yells from another room.
“Yeah… Just don’t touch the equipment!” I yell back.
He is clumsy and it cost me last time we worked together.
I don’t like using my house for this little hobby. Too much cleaning up to do after…
Better finish before my wife gets home.
“Hurry up!” he yells again. “Our lady here is getting cold!”
For f**k’s sake… Can’t trust that guy to do anything…
Two rolls of Kodak and one Ilford. Next time I shoot an alternative model, I’m booking a studio.
Live and die under the motto of ‘Procrastinators unite…tomorrow’. Tomorrow that never comes. Tomorrow of multi-tasking, to-do list making, then Internet on, and Facebook checking… Cat videos, baby videos, share that with friends, oh god she looks dreadful in that photo, like, like, argue on chat with someone you never met, where is the dislike button, unfriend, report, block.Good old days of childhood. Summer holidays, all on the balcony, windows wide open, no TV, smell of paint and a tape playing. Days lasting forever. What to do? I have no time to be bored, Mom would say. Do something useful with yourself. I do. Reading, drawing, walking, dancing, watching the birds, talking to the cat. Multi-tasking.
Social networking, social onanism. Shouting into an empty space, sharing things no one wants to know, distracting ourselves to death. What was it again? Never before had so many so much to say about so little to so few. Or was it about blogging? I had sushi for lunch, I got flu, my cat is nuts, I got drunk here is a photo, I want to like people but they are so fucking stupid, what a quote from Ghandi, performed tonight at the show and was amazing, and on, and on, and on… Why are you telling me this?
I want my life back. I want silence back. Like in a bookstore. I want to introvert back into place where things are thought of in secret, where beauty is created, meaning is pondered on, ideas are realised, time is used and boredom not shared.