“I love the way you write,” she said, and it was the beginning of the end.
It was the beginning of the beginning, but I’ve always fallen for easy compliments on things I’m self conscious about. My hair. My clothes. My voice and my writing. All it took was sincerity in her voice, perceived or actual, and I was overlooking a vast ravine and wanting to jump into the nothingness just to hear her say it again.
“Sorry, what?” Never take a compliment for a compliment unless you hear them say it twice. You may have misheard it and they said something different, or they were just being nice and will dismiss anything said previous.
“Your writing,” she held the piece of paper and shook it as if it had bells hanging from the edges, “I love the way you put words down. The expressiveness. The visuals. The oddity and randomness of it. I really like a lot.”
Does she really like it a lot or does she love it?
“Thanks. Yeah. I don’t know. I just kind of dump my mind onto paper sometimes. I don’t really know where it comes from.”
“Well its nice. You should do it more often.”
Now it’s just nice. I should have just said thanks and left it at that.
I nodded and smiled a closed-lip half smile and kept my head down. I wanted to write some more but nothing was coming into my head. Nothing except that she might have been staring at me. I was too nervous to look up and confirm it so my pen just swirled around the letters on the newspaper in front of me where I had been writing in the margins.
It was out of boredom really. Sitting random places doing random things. My cellphone was the high quality, super rare kind that could still only make phone calls. It probably could take pictures too but computers nowadays didn’t have the sophistication to handle the tens of hundreds of pixels it was capable of capturing. So busying myself like everyone else in the room with their necks crooked and faces glowing against the light of the tiny screen wasn’t really an option.
So I would grab a piece of paper nearby and entertain myself. Often times it would be a newspaper or a magazine. I’d never take a current one in case someone wanted to read it, but there was usually a day old paper laying around so I would grab that and paint the canvas with my nonsense.
Most of the time it was literally complete nonsense. I would keep my head down and listen to the conversations going on around me. I would start writing parts of them and then take off from there into a world of the bizarre pieced together with fragments of reality. When I was done, or my time was up, I would leave the little piece of brilliance on the table for someone else to enjoy or become perplexed by, either way it was out of my head and splashed across the page and I’d never even remember what it was a few hours later.
I wasn’t even sure anybody read any of it. I thought someone might read a few words and then furrow their brow at the oddness then toss the paper in the trash. I didn’t think people actually sat down and made it through everything. It was a chore, and I partially did it as a joke. I would sometimes end the writing saying that the reader has wasted minutes of their life they’ll never get back reading my nonsense. Yet, here she was seemingly reading every word.
I finally let my eyes come up for air and took a quick glance at her. She wasn’t staring at me but it looked as if she might have been side-eyeing my paper as the tip of my pen swirled along the words of the bold headline. Was she waiting for me to write more so she could watch? Strange.
When I brought my eyes up and not-so-smoothly took a look at her to see if she was watching me she noticed and caught my eyes with a smile.
“Well ran dry?” she asked.
I shook my head, “no just the right inspiration hasn’t come along yet.”
“Oh. What kind of inspiration do you need?”
I looked down away from her engaging smile and interrogating eyes, “I kind of know it when I see or hear it. It takes a hold of me and my mind unfurls like a flower. I don’t really control it.”
“Unfurls like a flower huh?”
“That’s kind of poetic. Those visuals I was talking about.”
I don’t know if it was being conveyed on the outside of my skin but on the inside I was feeling flush and blushing. I’m not used to praise or admiration in anything I do. It always felt fake whenever anyone would say something nice and I never know how to take a compliment. I froze and she kept talking. I felt like I was sweating. I completely forgot how to communicate with another person.
“I uh, yeah. I don’t know. I-, uh, uh huh. I’m like-, uh, heh,” I wanted to bang my head on the desk and groan so loud but she was still staring at me, or at least it felt like she was. She was still sitting there trying to engage with me and my tongue’s decided to swell three sizes too big and cut the circulation off to my brain.
“You know you could just write about me,” she tilted her head down and tried to catch my lowered eyes. I looked up with my mouth slightly open in surprise.
“Uh…huh?” I always gave the most eloquent responses when confused. This is why I preferred to communicate in written word, I could write a hundred times better than I could speak.
“Me. If you don’t know what to write about then write about me. Make me a character.”
She was smiling. Why was she smiling? Write about her? What?
“What would I even write about?” I had forgotten about my awkwardness and engaged in the puzzle of what/huh/what are you talking about.
“I don’t know. You’re the writer. I’m just trying to give you some inspiration. Selfishly of course. I want to read what you’re going to write next and if its about me I’m curious to see where you’ll take that story so, yeah. You can just write about this, right here. Our conversation. A back and forth and see where it goes.”
I wish she would stop making eye contact. It’s so annoyingly polite and she was being too nice. It felt like a trap but I couldn’t help it if it was. She was asking me to write. She requested my words written down for her. The abyss was long and wide and never ending and I was going to fill it with words for her. About her.
They would build a bridge from one end to the next and she could walk along it and peer over the edge to see all of the beautiful things I’d constructed below.
And all it took was for her to say, I love the way you write.