I used to torture her on almost a daily basis. It was almost to the point where I can’t forgive myself. I remember one sorry anguished moment where she was crying and begging me to stop but I couldn’t because I’m an addict. Sometimes torturers can’t help it. Whether its nature or nurture they feel the need to keep going at it.
I was 24 years old and I had just sent out my very first novel to about 20 publishers and 20 agents. I had misappropriated the copy machine in graduate school right before they kicked me out (cc: Merrick Furst, now a dean at Georgia Tech) so I could print up 50 or so copies of my novel. All of the publishers and all of the agents responded with a form letter rejection but I didn’t know that yet. All I knew was that I had to write the second novel.
Within hours of starting the second novel I had doubts about the topic. Was it boring? I started asking her. We were walking in the street in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has no people in it so its ok to walk in the street at all times of the day or night. I kept asking her about who she thought the audience was for the novel. I was skeptical of all her answers but I knew, since I had already put two solid hours of hard work into this masterpiece, that I had to finish it no matter how long it took or what she said. Finally she said: “will you stop talking to me about King fucking David for one second?”
But I couldn’t stop. For months and months thats all I talked about. I would write 1500 words in the morning, read novels for about four hours so I would stay in the flow, and then write about 1500 words at night. Any break I had I would talk to her about what I was writing.
She was working on her PhD in anthropology. What was her topic? I have no clue. We were a couple for three years. We lived together. Two of our bookcases were filled with her books and two with mine. I have no idea what she wrote her PhD on. Something about pregnant women in Sardinia. I think she’s a lawyer now. Or a mother. Or a lawyer/mother.
I took a break once. There was a contest where you had to write a novel in one weekend. I did it. About 120 pages. It was called: “The Porn Novelist, The Romance Novelist, the Prostitute, and They’re Lovers.” Not having any experience with anything remotely related to the protagonists I can now say it is unreadable. Particularly since I just re-read it a few weeks ago.
Finally I finished my novel and I gave it to Sue K. to read. I would use her last name except she de-friended me on Facebook about two years ago and so maybe she wants her privacy.
I sat there while she read it. I didn’t really move at all because its very important to read the facial reactions of the girl who you are going out with and living with who is reading your book. Like if she smirks a little I would need to know what line she was smirking about, why she was smirking, and whether or not she was faking her smirk.
About nine hours later she finished reading all 416 pages. She closed the last page, and said, “that was fantastic. I really really liked it.” She said again, “I really liked it.”
I asked her to describe to me how it ended. The final chapter that was like the code-breaker to the rest of the novel, without which the novel could not be understood. Because I was an artist.
She turned red. “It was great,” she said.
“But ok, just tell me what happened in the last chapter.”
“I’m tired,” she said. She had been sitting there for nine hours. I forget now if I fed her at all during this time.
“Just tell me what happened in the last chapter. How can you say it was great and not know what happened in the last chapter?” She started to cry. And so I began to torture her because she was deliberately ruining my entire life. I feel bad now. She’s a respected lawyer/mother/PhD somewhere in the United States.
“Please,” she said, “I read it but I’m tired right now. I just can’t remember this second. I’m on the spot.”
No, I said. I’M ON THE SPOT! Because you just read my novel and now we need to have a discussion about it.
A few years after we had broken up, we were still friends. We would talk on the phone every few months. Old friends who lived in distant cities used to do that in the late 20th century. She was about to get married to the guy she met after me.
“He makes toys,” she said, “and works from home in a workshop he set up.” That sounds neat, I said, he must be good with his hands. “Oh yes,” she said, and giggled, “he’s very good with his hands.” And, with just those words, she got her revenge.
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