“That’s it?” she asked, storming away from me. “That’s all you’re going to do for me?”
“Five pages is a lot!” I protested.
“Not for you. I remember when I used to have to make you go to bed after you had written ten or more.”
“Look, I’ve got two pieces I’m seriously working on right now,” I said, standing up from the table and starting to walk away.
“Two pieces? Did you seriously just say two pieces? What the fuck, Rafe, or whatever your real name is? Do you know how many Stephen has done? Or William?”
“Okay, now you’re just trying to make me feel inadequate. You’re a muse for God’s sake. Aren’t you supposed to be inspiring me? Anyway, no one can live up to those two. They’re like the John Waynes of writing. Why don’t you just have a cigarette and chill out like you always do when we’re done?”
“What? Did you really just…? Excuse me, you pig,” she said, flipping her hair back so that it flew over her shoulders. “I don’t need a cigarette after five pages.”
“Are you trying to say that you’re not satisfied? Do you know how long it took me to finish those five pages today? Anyway, you said that length didn’t matter.”
“I lied,” she snapped, twirling around as she spoke. “Do you know how long It was?”
“You keep bringing him up.”
“Oh, I can bring up others. I smoked for days after War and Peace. Oh my God! That man could go on. Did I ever tell you about my drunken nights with Faulkner? I learned to sleep with cigarettes under my pillow on those nights. He inspired me.”
“You know what? I’m getting out of here, Musey, or whatever your name is,” I said, walking toward the front door.
“You seriously don’t know my name,” she said. “You’re not joking like I was. You really don’t know my name. Do you?”
“I used to know it,” I said, but then paused a little too long. “I knew it in college.”
“Oh, of course you did. You learned it when we first met, which was long before college, but I don’t expect you to remember our anniversary.”
“Hey, we’re both adults. We know what’s going on here. And let’s not pretend that I’m the first man to forget his mythology. Anyway, I told you. I’m not that into chicks.”
“Oh really,” she said. “You know who Barbra is don’t you? And Liza? Madonna? Beyonce? You know who the fuck Hillary is. Don’t you, asshole?”
“That was below the belt. You know I’m still hurting from that. Okay, I’m really leaving now,” I said, opening the door.
I paused and looked over my shoulder. I wanted to see her rushing to me, demanding that I stay. Instead, I saw something large, white, and round coming toward my face.
“Maybe that will help you remember,” she screamed, while I rubbed my head.
“Ow! What was that?” I asked. “Did you just throw an old food storage bowl at my head?”
She hesitated, obviously a little flustered.
“I’m still getting used to plastic. Life was easier back in Greece. Everything was ceramic. A big ceramic bowl, that would have really gotten your attention.”
“I’m seriously going now,” I said, opening the door, and putting one foot outside.
“You’ll be back. You live here, idiot,” she said.
I turned again. I wanted to say something profound and sharp, but nothing came to mind. I guess in this situation I couldn’t exactly expect her to inspire me with a witty comeback. I slammed the door, and went somewhere to forget her.
When I entered the apartment two hours later she was spread out on a divan in the middle of the living room. The Tupperware storage bowl was beside her and now full of grapes.
I walked over to her and tentatively took a few grapes from the bowl. I watched to see if she would bite my head off or smack my hand away, but instead she smiled. Something else immediately grabbed my attention.
“Oh, my God! Where did you get this divan? It’s incredible. Can I keep it?”
“It goes with me. It’s meant to be inspiring. My agent wants me to try it out to establish my brand. Anyway, I’ll try to bring it back when I’m here,” she said, slowly and seductively waving a grape at me.
“So we’re not through?” I asked.
“Please! Do you think five pages is the shortest I’ve ever had?”
“Yeah, but you said…”
“Five is average,” she assured me.
“That’s what I’ve heard,” I said, taking a seat on the divan next to her.
She began to massage my temples. I leaned back, letting my head rest on her chest.
“So you’ve had less than five pages?” I asked.
“All the time,” she cooed. “Does that make you feel better, Big Boy?”
“Oh, yeah. Tell me, who was the shortest? Tell me about him,”
“Oh, well some guys, they can’t even write one word. Not one,” she said.
“Really? Not even one?”
“Not even one,” she whispered in my ear. “But I still love them.”
“You do?” I asked, sitting up and turning to face her. “Really?”
“Oh, yeah, baby,” she said.
“But this has never happened to me before. Am I getting older? Is that the problem? I think I’m still rather youngish. Am I going to have to take some sort of pill?”
“Oh, no. There’s no Viagra for this sort of thing. As for age, you’re not old. Some late blooming authors are just getting started at your age. Of course, you’re never going to need a twenty-nine inch pair of black jeans again, but let’s be honest, that was a little hard for you even at twenty, and it was really just that one pair.”
I nodded, and said, “But I loved that pair.”
She started to respond, and then seemed to change her mind.
“Back to age, though,” she said. “Writers improve with age.”
“Like a fine wine?” I asked.
“Fuck wine,” she said. “A good writer is more like a strong Scotch. A good writer knocks you off your ass and makes you wonder how you got there the next morning.”
“Sounds like fun,” I said.
“The kind you could use a little more of, old boy,” she cooed, shoving the grape in her mouth and rolling it around a bit.
“You know, because you’re a chick that still isn’t really doing it for me,” I said.
“I know,” she admitted. “I just keep trying.”
“I get it,” I said. “You’re just an old, I mean really freaking old-fashioned girl, living in a big new world.”
“Please, shit was a whole lot more gay in Greece, although we had a different name for what you boys do, but I’ll just try to inspire you in other ways. On a side note, if you bring up my age again, the next thing you feel upside your head will be a smack.”
“Point taken,” I said. “But why are you back in a good mood?”
“Because I realized that we need to see other people sometimes,” she said, grabbing another grape and sucking the life out of it.
“Okay, that almost worked for me. It reminded me of that girl I liked senior year, the one I was attracted to even after I was pretty sure that I was gay. You know, the sexy one.”
“Yes, the one who reminded you of me, and Madonna, and Marilyn, and Tracy, and Ursula,…”
“Wait, which Ursula, the writer or the actress?” I asked.
“You liked them both,” she said, moving a grape under her chin.
“Yeah, you’re right,” I agreed.
“Anyway, what I was trying to say is that it might be good for us to see other people on occasion,” she said, a little too nonchalantly for my tastes.
“I see,” I said, trying to look bewildered.
“It’s not your fault,” she said.
“Whatever,” I mumbled, twisting my face into what I hoped appeared to be a rather serious pout.
“Okay, look,” she said, letting me know that the pout was working. “I’ve had this problem with other writers.”
“You have?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, exhaling. “It’s just a little trap we fall into. In the beginning, I’m it. No one else exists. You can’t wait to get home from work or college just to be with me. Then all of a sudden, I’m not enough.”
“No. No, really. It’s not that,” I pleaded, hoping my voice sounded believable.
“Look, don’t play innocent with me,” she snapped. “I know you’re not always faithful. Shit, you’re not faithful for a day.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.
“Really? If books on tape reeked of cologne, I would smell the fragrances of Louise Penny, Anne Rice, and Armistead Maupin all over you and your car,” she said, looking me directly in the eye. “And it’s not just writers you like. Do I really need to talk about how you respond to Ron Howard, Ang Lee, and let’s not forget M. Night Shyamalan?”
“Oh, my God, now you’re getting me hot,” I said, and then remembered myself. “Wait. Let me explain. It’s just that sometimes I need someone a little younger than you, babe.”
“Really?” she screamed, and then I felt the smack. “Do you think I look older than Hitchcock? Is that why you watch his movies?”
“Okay! Okay! They inspire me. Every fucking one of those people you mentioned and a whole lot more. Is that what you wanted to hear?” I asked. “Did you need me to just come out and say the whole ugly truth? Do you really want me to tell you that it’s not just you, that they do something for me also? Fine, I’ve said it. Phew! I think I’m going to need a cigarette myself.”
“You gave those up years ago. If you’re that stressed, go for a jog, or do some fucking Tae-Bo.”
“I’m not all that stressed. I’m just being dramatic. I wanted to you feel like this is hard for me too. I always thought that we would have one of those relationships where we didn’t tell each other this sort of thing until one of us came home with the clap, and even then we just tried to say we got it from wearing our jeans too tight.”
“That’s the kind of relationship I wanted too, baby, but now I think it’s time we fess up,” she said.
“Alright,” I agreed. “So I see other people.”
“I know,” she answered. “And I guess, I just want you to know that it’s okay. All authors do. I just wanted you to feel guilty about it. I know how when you go on one of your reading binges you always tell yourself that you should be working on your own stuff. Even when you only do an hour or two a day, you tell yourself that you’re taking away time from your own stuff. I guess it’s time that I let you know that it’s okay.”
“It is?” I asked.
“Yes, I just couldn’t tell you that because you were so devoted to me. I never tell the ones like you who are so in love with me, but it’s natural. I hate to admit it, but you’re supposed to get inspired by other people.”
“Of course. People have written books about it. Remember that how to be creative book someone bought you for your birthday that year?”
“You mean the one that had me getting up an hour early every morning to be creative?”
“Yes, I was pretty skeptical that anything was going to inspire you at five in the morning,” she said, patting my knee.
“But I tried. Those were the longest three days of my life,” I said.
“Well, if you had finished the book you would have realized that that author suggested that you see inspiring stuff all the time.”
“Really?” I asked. “And you’re not mad?”
“Well, I’ve just come to realize that writers and I are destined to use each other.”
“Oh, you make it sound so nasty,” I said. “Say it again, but this time while you do the grape thing. We just might be able to get this to work.”
“Really?” she asked.
“Yeah, I think it’s the divan,” I said, running my hands over the fabric.
“Wait,” she said. “We need to finish our conversation.”
“Yes, we do,” I agreed. “Come to think of it, we’re spending a whole lot of time talking about me seeing other people, but I know you see other people. Hell, if the bathroom wall at the Writer’s Center is to be believed, you’ve been with everyone in Writer’s Digest.”
She laughed. It was the laugh of a confident and satisfied woman.
“There have been others,” she said. “But that’s beside the point.”
“I see,” I said, narrowing my eyes. “So, what is the point? And please don’t bring up William, or Stephen, or John, or all the others.”
“Wait, when you are talking about William, are you referring to Shakespeare or Faulkner?” she asked.
“They both got the job done, right? Does it matter?” I asked.
“Not at all, and I’m glad we’re on the same page here. If you had lived as long as I have, your name would be on the bathroom wall at the Writer’s Center also,” she said.
“Perhaps, it already is,” I countered defensively.
“No, it’s not,” she said. “Let’s try to keep the honesty in this discussion. You can be a little boring.”
“Well, it’s hard to meet people at those little quick workshops. You spend so much time looking for parking that you’re not really in the mood by the time you get to class. Anyway, I’ve never really done that manwhore thing well.”
“I know, you’re always looking for love. You and every fucking Greek man I ever met. Eternal, beautiful, all forsaking love. Wow! People really never do change.”
“Okay, can we just get back to your point?” I asked.
“So what I’m trying to say, yet again, is that with our relationship, I think it’s okay for us to get inspired where we can. Sometimes with each other. Sometimes with others.”
“You mean like an open relationship?” I asked.
“This is not the seventies,” she said. “I think people call it polyamory, or something.”
“Like that cable show?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “Although we don’t have to propose to them.”
“Gotcha,” I said. “We still see each other, right?”
“Yeah,” she said. “And sometimes, it’s all of us.”
“Oh, wow!” I said. “So I would be reading them, and you would inspire me at the same time they were inspiring me? Oh, God, that is hot.”
“I thought the idea of multiple points of inspiration might be a bit of a turn-on for you. Are you sure you can handle it?” she asked.
“Oh, believe me. Now that I know you’re into it, we can start reading together every night. Let’s start with the ones that we already know we like, you know the pros.”
“The ones that know what they’re doing,” she agreed.
“Yes, and on the weekends…” I said, blowing in her ear.
“Yes?” she asked. “What do you want to do on the weekends, Big Boy?”
“Well,” I said, looking her directly in the eye. “I thought maybe you could pick up a few new books, you know, the ones that are perhaps a little obscure, the kind of thing that only you and the author would know about.”
“You mean shit no one has ever heard of? Like your stuff?”
“Well, yeah,” I said. “Of course, I’ve already read my stuff, that might be a little masturbatory.”
“Oh, yes, because you’ve never done that,” she smirked. “C’mon, baby. Let me make a little more room for you on the divan.”