Tuesday, May 17, 2005

vignette: empty

It was quite a depressing evening for Dave, sitting there, listening to each of his friends relate all their current and prospective creative work (“For profit or for the soul”, as Jimmy, the loudest and the most prolific of them, put it). As each person rattled off all their plans and schedules, Dave realized that he was nowhere approaching his expected output as a member of this circle of authors, playwrights, painters and photographers.

“I’m thinking of the male nude for my exhibit, but very harshly lit,” Pierre said, passing a handful of Polaroids around. “No shadows, no textures, no mystique. I think I can pull it off. I’m thinking of getting really old guys, grandfathers, you know, people like that.”

It was not a matter of whether or not Dave had ideas. He did have them, a few quite exciting, perhaps one or two even astounding in their potential. But they remained pure ideas, unexpressed, as he found himself mired down by the mundane circumstances of his life – which normally would be a source for him to mine and craft, set down and polish – unable to pursue thoughts to their multi-path endings, unwilling to commit the time and effort to actually write. He could not go beyond the arc of his arm’s reach; the very thought of motion immediately drained him before he could even begin.

“Of course, all the thirteen stories will interconnect,” Adrianne was explaining, a little too loudly as usual. “It’s all about the intertextuality of sexuality.” She was telling the group about her book deal and the risks she was undertaking, pushing a literary agenda when all the publisher wanted were short romances in Filipino. “Without risk, we cannot create,” she said, pausing for dramatic effect. “It would just be empty fireworks.”

The word made Dave remember how his own thoughts came in staccato bursts, like fireworks that rose and flared, abruptly lighting his consciousness before just as quickly fading into the night sky. The longest piece he had written two weeks ago was a fractured poem of three verses in first person with no imagery, concrete or otherwise. When he was finished he knew he was guilty of setting monologues as prose poems with no hope of truly creating anything; just wanting to write something, anything, to keep up the discipline, to burn away time.

“You know those old ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books,” Joven asked, gesturing to the group. “You know, you make choices and get different endings and shit? Remember how they could have been so cool? Well, I’m writing one on my blog, hyperlinked and all, so there’s an actual experience of moving away once a choice has been, you know, made.” His idea made most of the group laugh and sit up as they contributed memories of the old series.

“That sounds great,” Jimmy said, bestowing a dazzling smile of approval upon Joven. “Finish it and we’ll think about how to protect it from plagiarists. I like the conceit applied to the web, but I don’t trust the fuckers on the internet.”

When it was his turn to speak, Dave just coughed twice and proceeded to be studiously engrossed with his cell phone, letting the painful moment of anticipated response pass by in bullet-time, before Gina, the purple-haired poet next to him, saved him from further embarrassment. As he listened to her announce the publication of yet another of her collections of angry-young-woman-who-made-the-mistake-of-falling-in-love poetry, he thought about how his own ideas and plans just sat in the still corners of his mind, perfectly transfixed, like the plastic displays of various menu items in the Japanese restaurant that Jimmy insisted upon because he could light up and smoke his noxious cigarettes.

“So, in the end, my collection says, in a nutshell, ‘I have nothing to say to you, Dear Reader, live your own life’.” Gina sat back and lit a cigarette, exhausted by her own vitriol.

“I love it,” Adrienne said, raising her glass of Strong Ice. “What about you, Dave? I didn’t hear what you’re up to.”

“Nothing,” Dave muttered. “I have nothing.”

“I’m sure you have something,” Jimmy said with a small frown. “What happened to the story you’re writing, the one about dragons?”

“It’s not finished,” Dave replied.

“You’re just being lazy,” Jimmy said with a wink.

“Sure,” Dave said. He composed a text message and sent it to himself.

Get out get out get out

When the message arrived, triggering the beep of his cell phone seconds later, Dave stood up, excused himself and drove home.


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