Writer’s Block

by Pablo Harris

Abespectacled non-descript middle-aged man slouched in a chair, clutching a highball, is staring at a laptop screen on the desk in front of him. Alessandra, a twenty-something brunette with shoulder-length kinky hair, approaches Raymond. She stands in profile just two steps away staring at him. He should appreciate the contours of her perky bra-less b-cups under a white tank top and a perfect mezzaluna of an ass hugged by tight grey and black striped yoga pants. Still, he doesn’t notice her, he’s fixated on a blank screen. She then climbs over an armchair, sets her beacon of a half moon on his crotch, withdraws the glass, and pushes it away. Then she clasps her arms around his neck.

“Hey, are you going to come to bed? I’d like you to come to bed.”

“Uh, maybe in a while.”

“Honey, you ok? What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know.”

“Come on, Ray, you look like something’s up. You look sad. Really, what’s wrong?”

“I don’t know. Ok. Maybe I do. I can’t write anymore.”

“You can’t write anymore? What do you mean? That doesn’t make sense.”

“Fuck, I don’t know. I just can’t. I’ve lost it, whatever it is or was. That swerve, that swagger. Actually, I don’t know if I ever had ‘it’ but whatever I did have is gone.”

“What are you talking about? Come on, you’re on the verge of real success. Publishers, Penguin’s looking at your manuscript now.”

“It’s just a shitty subsidiary of Penguin. Not the majors. Not the show.”

“Well, that’s just the beginning. You’re going to ‘the show’ Hon, not me. Sure, I’ve had some photo exhibits and gallery shows but – “

“Your photos, your oils and watercolors express way more than my mere words.”

“But they don’t sell. And I am tired of teaching in Korea. But you are going places. I don’t understand how you can be so sad.”

“Because I can’t fucking write anymore!”

“Raymond, listen, you’re great. Besides your writing, you can cook. You should be catering or have your own restaurant. And it’s not just me that thinks so; people love you. Yet you sigh, scoff, or cringe. You respond to a compliment with disgust. And even more than your words and your food, you are talented at so many things. Including sex!”

Raymond utters a barely audible dismissive, “Heh.”

“Yeah, that’s right. You’re great at fucking. Fucking amazing. My hands go numb and there’s butterflies. Not just butterflies but bats in my stomach when you’re in me. And I love that you’re a ‘vagitarian’. And I sucked Man Ray this morning. How can you be so depressed?”

Raising his voice, now perturbed, “Well, I’m depressed because I can’t write and I can’t write because I’m fucking happy, ok? All art, music, literature is borne from suffering and”

“Oh, is that what the Buddha says about art and suffering?”

“No, that’s David Byrne and I think he’s right. All life is suffering is Buddha. All art is inspired by suffering is Byrne.”

“Hon, that’s not you. That’s so cliche.”

“Well, maybe it’s cliche for a reason. I think there’s something to it. Look at Costa Rica, for example. Why hasn’t Costa Rica produced any of its own music, art, literature? Look at Nicaragua to the north. They’ve produced plenty of famous poets, writers, and their protest music of the 80’s had a resounding blowback to the best protest music of the ‘90s: Rage Against the Machine. And to the south, almost all the music in Costa Rica is imported from Panama thanks to Ruben Blades.  There are no big colonial cities in Costa Rica, no history of slave trade, no pyramids or temples buried in the jungle. Even their army disbanded many years ago. So, to their good fortune to be born in such an idyllic location, great for them. But perhaps there’s something to their dearth of artistic or cultural accomplishments because they’ve been blessed with their lack of suffering? So maybe now I can’t write because I got no inspiration. No suffering. Your sweetness has fucked all of life’s bitter distillations out of me. So, I’m pissed. I’m done.”

“So, what you’re saying is then is that you can’t write because you’re no longer depressed or drunk? So, you’re starting to get pissed because you don’t know how to write unless you’re unhappy?”

“Yeah, sounds right.”

“Hmm, well, have you thought about, have you realized that your unhappiness is your choice? That you can write you just choose not to unless you’re depressed or drunk. I mean, to be honest Ray, I think your depression and alcoholism is just a cop out. You are trying to emulate your literary heroes. Bukowski. Carver. When really, you should just be yourself.”

“Fuck.”

Alessandra, reaching over to the highball and then returning it to him, “You know I don’t like you drinking whisky. It makes you mean. That’s not you and no one likes that Ray. But if you need this to write, and writing makes you happy, then fine, drink it. I don’t fully understand. I wish you were just happy with me. In fact, if you were happy but never had another drink and never wrote another word again, that’d be fantastic. You are an angry drunkard at your worst and a difficult fauve of a man at best. But I like you.”

“Angry? Well, that’s brown liquor for you. I like whisky but whisky doesn’t like me. A drunkard? Not yet. Give me a double Jameson then I’ll show you a drunkard. Difficult? That’s horseshit, girl. I’m a simple man. Like Bukowski says, ‘We all eat, sleep, piss, shit, fart, and die.’ Something like that. And if we really know how to live; we eat well, drink well, and when feeling just right, we dance. Simple really.”

“Well there’s certainly nothing simple about being with you, that’s for sure. You are full of mysteries. And I’m going to solve them all, fuck you until they all unravel and you are nothing more than a stain on the sheets, a shot in my mouth, or maybe just a milky white smear on my ass. Reduce you to a truly simple man. How would you like that, dear?”

Raymond pushes the glass away, lifts Alessandra up off his lap onto her feet, and leads her to the couch where they go make love again.

*  *  *

Nine months later his book did get published to moderate success and critical acclaim in the States. Ray celebrated by bending her over the back of his leather sofa, pulling down her sheer pink panties, sabering a bottle of Bollinger with his santoku, cascading tiny bubbles down her shapely backside, lapping up the luxurious bead off her fleshy tulips. Ray and Alie then got married on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe with her roundness beginning to show, and moved outside of Springfield, Oregon to a humble fixer-upper of a place on the McKenzie River. She began teaching high school photography and visual arts in Eugene. He got a job teaching a couple of writing classes as an adjunct professor at Lane Community College and weekends at King Estate. Months later Sophie came into their world. And other than grocery lists, notes and brochures for the winery’s tasting room, and a handful of spiteful letters to the editor of The Oregonian, he never wrote another word again.

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4 comments

  1. I like that. I wonder about this all the time. What I find particularly disturbing is when artists choose their art over sanity. Putting it above love, money, sobriety, stability, and happiness – sure, I can wrap my head around those. But risking sanity for it…mang, I can’t decide if it’s noble or just plain stupid.

    Nice piece Pablo.

  2. (I love happy endings!)

    Nice piece, brutha. This is something I’ve sometimes wondered about too. Happiness can make people very stupid, but I’ve also seen it give them a foundation from which to actually get work done. It’s an interesting question.

  3. The first part really resonated with me; I’ve found myself losing a bit of the “swagger” and some of the hunger as I head through life’s more comfortable stretches. Very nice.

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