April 5, 2019

A Famous Writer I Once Knew


Most people pegged him as being moody or aloof, but he wasn’t...he was just unfriendly...he didn’t have a lot to say and most of what he had to say he put down on paper...paper didn’t ask questions or want explanations like people did...many a night, he made love to his typewriter...he wasn’t anybody growing up but as a young man with a gift for writing and with a little good fortune, there he was, a nationally known writer...and I, I was just a nationally unknown writer but it didn’t matter to our friendship...the odd thing was he wanted to be a writer his whole life and make that his job...then once he accomplished that, he spent the rest of his life running from it...he hated the fame and all that went with it...he told me that I was the lucky one...he said he couldn’t just write something on demand like his publishers wanted...he said his ideas were fine bourbon that had to age in a wooden cask for a long time before they became good...some people thought of that as an excuse for being lazy, but I found it endearing...I liked the metaphor at least...his hair was always unkempt, his pants were too short, too long, or too something...his shirts would have fit in with what the guys wore who worked at the local car repair...maybe not as nice...like a lot of writers, he spent a great deal of time alone in front of a typewriter or computer, which isn’t always the healthiest place to spend your prime of life...sometimes he sat there for days without turning out a page of anything, at least anything he considered worth reading...panic would set in and he would have to find a pain killer for it...he wasn’t always good at self-medication usually erroring on the side of overkill...he spent a preponderance of time on what would happen if he could never think of anything to write about again the rest of his life...I told him he should write something about that...he once had a woman who he trusted...she did her best but eventually she drifted away to the west coast somewhere, her whereabouts unknown now...he was becoming lost to the pages of his own disappearing and incoherent history...I knew him from our days in elementary school and we had always been pretty close from time to time, but selfishly speaking, I had my own share of problems now to do anything about his...his success began to ebb...too many pills, too much alcohol, and maybe too much introspection had taken their hammers to his glasslike state of mind...he was still writing now but it was nothing like the writing that had first propelled him to heights; heights that caused him to have vertigo and lose his sense of balance, his sense of purpose...publishers turned their backs on him...when he died not long ago, his death barely rated a mention anywhere...they thought he was just another anonymous drunk with no past or future who died in a cheap, dirty motel...and honestly, by that time he pretty much was...they didn’t know who he had once been...he was now just another corpse to haul away...when his obituary came out, the newspaper got his age wrong and made a few other mistakes...he should have wrote his own obit and in a certain unfortunate way, he did.