There was no denying the power of the written word: it needed to be worshiped and adored in a sacred temple. Every night I kneeled to the word god and prayed. It was the only kind of faith I could muster in my helplessness.
The word god was good. At times he was even merciful. He was all for drinking and allowed it in his temple. He even encouraged me to take on binge-drinking.
He occasionally asked for offerings. He liked pretty girls – preferably teenagers – but all I could afford was a bottle of beer or a six-pack at most.
Still, he took it with grace and showed mercy.
The word god loved listening to my drunkard stories. He enjoyed the company of the homeless, the mad, the bums I brought home with me at times. He enjoyed watching us dwelling on our pitiful lives and desperately trying to drink it all away.
He also liked to mock me. He listened to my endless rants about writing and lacking inspiration. He also asked me to recite him some of my best lines. I’d usually read him a poem or two and he’d erupt in laughter. He called my work ‘trash’ and ‘weak at best’.
‘You’re not ready to write,’ he’d tell me each time I entered the sacred temple with a drink in my hand. ‘Until you learn to take it seriously you don’t stand a chance against the greats.’
And by that he meant drop the drink and go back to the writing room. He wanted to eclipse my soul from everything that shone brightly in the world. He said the light hurt my demented spirit.
The word god always warned me from the dangers of the light – he wanted me to sink into darkness, learn to love the night and flirt with the shadows. He said it was the only way for me to get in touch with my demons and my darkest thoughts.
Only I never really managed to find these thoughts – all I could think of was the sweet taste of booze and the month’s rent. Sometimes I even asked the word god for a bit of cash to make it through the month but he’d answer with thunder and hail storms.
The god was good. The god was merciful. The god was forgiving. Even when I managed to chalk up some hideous lines, he’d look the other way. He was willing to be patient and let me start over – even if I tested that patience severely.
There was a general consent in his voice that always seemed to imply, ‘Please, do fuck up time and time again. Just keep fucking up until you make it. Fuck up as much as you want until you get there and get the hang of it.’
It was fun listening to the word god swearing like a crazy poor pedestrian, even if most of that dialogue only happened in my head. I often complained about writing taking most of my time, about the demands of the craft.
‘What life?’ he’d turn away, scratching his beard and say. ‘What life is writing stopping you from living? Are you worried about that imaginary woman you fantasize about being your girlfriend? Or perhaps the whores who are out again looking for a good time with some poor fool willing to spare a few bucks? Or those naïve simpletons and smugglers you call your friends who, in a few years’ time, will probably find their own way behind the cell bars anyway?’
He’d lash out at me. And I’d just kneel there and take it like a man. ‘There’s no other life for you!’ he’d shout angrily. ‘No other life but this one! You should learn to embrace it instead of walking around like a mad fool massaging the beer bottle you carry in your hand!’
There was maybe a point to it all. I’d always wondered why writers are some of the darkest, most sinister, cynical beings that existed. They weren’t all mad but the good ones usually were. They seemed to be cursed by the word god – put on trial to bear a cross that proved too heavy for them and made their knees buckle. Some of them would drop it all and run away from it. Others would keep crawling until they made it to the end of the line. Those usually never came out empty-handed and got a good story or two out of their gauntlet.
I often asked the word god about my position in the race. Where was I on that challenge map? Was I close to crossing the finish line, or was I languishing somewhere halfway between despair and nothingness? To those questions he let out a sinister laugh and answered: ‘In order to start the race, you should be able to first see the starting line.’
Well shit. I drank a lot of beer and knew what a line looked like. But I was never able to identify the starting line he kept alluding to. Maybe it wasn’t really a line – maybe it was something deeper than that. Maybe this whole race was a reference to something truly bigger, some sort of higher purpose I was supposed to achieve through the written word.
But it couldn’t be. It couldn’t carry that much meaning or contain such depth. After all, the word god had never had a book to his name. How much could he possibly know about writing?