There I was, sitting and writing again without a care in the world. It was dark – the ideal time to write something fresh and fill the white page in front of me with colorful sentences and thoughts and ideas and madness and other things.
I had just finished another fifth of whiskey and poured myself some wine from a leftover bottle.
It was alright, but paled in comparison to the whiskey.
Suddenly, I heard a knock at my door. ‘Come in,’ I said.
Here he was: a tall middle-aged man, not too skinny, well-dressed, standing in front of me. I thought, well, I must be going crazy.
Because you see, I knew this man. His face was awfully familiar to me – except I couldn’t remember his name or anything remotely linked to him. I just had the certainty I knew him.
Has that ever happened to anyone?
I was certain I was going mad.
But he stood there, calm and firm, with a determined look in his eyes. His posture signaled intent, like a man coming to reclaim what was rightfully his. Except I hadn’t the slightest idea what motivated his visit nor what I had to do to send him away.
‘Can I help you with something?’ I asked him, yet his stare remained sharp like a laser beam cutting through my heart.
Still unresponsive, he remained still, just looking at me with those angry eyes. I poured the remainder of the wine and raised a glass to him.
‘Well, if you’re just going to stand there’, I said to him, ‘I might as well make the best out of it.’ And I gulped the drink.
I was quite enjoying myself: I had my booze, my writing, and a jester entertaining me all in the comfort of my writing room. But then something happened: my strange guest decided to break his silence and his words rung like a signal of intent about the seriousness of his visit.
‘You didn’t recognize me?’ he spoke in a calm, low tone.
‘Why, we spend most of our nights together. In fact, we’ve been staying up late together every single night of the past month in this particular room.’
I dismissed his claim with a shrug of the shoulder. ‘I think I would’ve remembered if I had been having guests to spend the night with me.’
His eyes widened. Just when I thought he couldn’t get more serious, he tilted his head and started eyeing me with those creepy eyes again.
‘Is that so,’ he said, his voice still low and cold, ‘strange how a man can easily forget the thing that constitutes the essence of his writing.’
Thing? Why was he referring to himself as an object? Wasn’t he human like you and me? Wasn’t he a man, flesh and bones, brain, heart, bruises, memories, emotions, soul just like the rest of us?
But just then, it finally hit me: a cruel and daunting realization that had been looming over me since the moment this strange person showed up in front of me. A beacon of truth that I had failed to notice or, perhaps, accept upon seeing this man.
This was no ordinary man – in fact, it was no man at all. It was no relative, no friend, no acquaintance, not even one of the homeless men I saw on the streets every day. It was not even a person. I finally came to realize that the thing standing in front of me was none other than the hero of my stories; one of the protagonists of my fiction, the centerpiece to my writing and the main character in my novels.
I felt foolish, like a naive little kid who still didn’t know his way into the world. How did I not recognize my own creation? It had taken me months to come up with a clever character to take center stage in my stories and headline my writing, and here it was standing in front of me and I was almost ready to send it away!
I dropped to my knees and started caressing its legs. ‘You are so…beautiful,’ I said to it, shying away from its face in shame. The thing grabbed me by the shoulders and raised me up while I was still digesting the news, still wondering how all of this could be happening at this very moment.
‘Why are you here?’ I asked, finally able to look into its eyes.
‘Well,’ it started, ‘I’m not too happy about the way you’ve been treating me.’
I cut a confused figure.
‘In your writing, man! I’m not happy about the way you’ve been portraying me! I think you should seriously reconsider some chunks of that awful writing of yours. Some of it needs to go. The rest we’ll just have to do with, I guess.’
I felt insulted. ‘Listen here, you,’ I was quick to point out, ‘I am in charge of all the writing in here. As the writer of your stories, I get to call the shots and decide how things go around here. And my word stands and that’s final.’
It started to mock me. ‘Your word? I’d like to see what your word is worth when nobody reads anything you write! I am the ONE whom you’re writing about! I am the crowning jewel of your stories! Without me you have no plot, no character development, no resolution and no hero. Your words are meaningless without my presence!’
It was right. I was surprised at how something coming out of some white pages could be so clever. It had outplayed me and almost made itself my equal.
I was keen not to upset it; after all, whether I admitted it or not, I needed it. Over the past few months, I had grown to share a special bond with this character. I’d come to think of it as my friend and my one true companion at night during my writing. I treated it with care the same way a mother treats her infant. I was determined to sort this out all the while keeping hold of it.
‘Listen,’ I said, ‘let’s work things out. There’s no need to get all worked up over things like that.’ And I got up, left the room for a couple of minutes, and returned with two bottles of beer. ‘Here’s to us,’ I said.
And we both drank.
Curious thing, alcohol: it binds people in a way words cannot. After we drank the thing smiled at me precariously and said, ‘Your drinking may have saved you tonight, writer. But it won’t always be there for you.’
And in a flash it faded into the night.
I looked at the empty bottle of beer in my hand, then I looked over at the empty glasses and drinks and bottles of booze on my desk. This is one of the strangest states of drunkenness I’ve ever been in, I thought to myself.
Then again, if one of the main characters of your stories decides to visit you one night, and if that same character confronts you about your creative choices, then it’s probably a sign you’re doing things right in your writing.