The International Writers Magazine: Fan Club
Idolatry. There’s really no other way to describe it. My behavior had reached the idolatrous phase. The shrine of sorts that I had created inside my walk-in closet was clear evidence.
Photographs, newspaper clippings, first editions of her books; first appearances of her stories in obscure journals; pamphlets; ludicrous paraphernalia: signed postcards, signed napkins, signed bookplates; ill gotten posters. I had even obtained a napkin that bore an impression of her perfectly formed lips in the shape of a glorious half-open mouth in bright carmine lipstick; which, as the auction description had it, was a method she used to prevent from leaving lipstick marks on the champagne flutes from which she drank bubbly wine in restaurants, fearing that unscrupulous waiters would steal the glasses and sell them at auction. I paid a hefty 3000 dollars for the privilege of owning that little souvenir. The napkin came with a certificate of authenticity in the form of a Polaroid snapshot the waiter had made while she did the deed while dining al fresco in a restaurant on the Rive Gauche.
I won that napkin, a true collector’s dream, on an online auction. I had waited four days, agonizing, dreading the result, with the uncertainty that I may or may not win the auction. Money, luck, timing, might work against me. I waited. I was physically in pain at times. I waited four days. On Sunday evening, it had come down to the ticking of a digital clock, down to a few minutes. Minutes, so excruciatingly long that they felt like lashes from a whip on my bare skin. I felt the pain of reality pushing against my lungs, and burying its fist against my chest; making it unbearable to even breath. The nagging drip, drip, drip of my thoughts disturbed my peace: do I have enough money? do I have enough time? is my bidding strategy going to work?
Timing was the key to winning. I could not alert the other bidders by placing my bid too soon. That is, if there were any other bidders out there waiting to pounce at the last second. My life was on hold for the last two hours of the auction. I had to time my bid, time it to the second. I don’t think I could clearly explain my anxiety to anyone not acquainted with obsession. My mind raced. There were obvious changes in my physiology: stomach cramping, hands perspiring, legs, arms, fingers, eyes, neck, tongue, teeth, all making me aware I was alive. Do I have a chance? Yes. I knew there were others bidders like me waiting to win; mirror images of myself ready to fulfill their dream.
Who will win?
I will win!
I hoped so.
I hoped luck will favor me.
I made quick mental notes. I checked the balance of my bank account online, obsessively, trying to assure myself that I could bid high, very high. 00:00:20 marked the auction clock. I felt like a race horse approaching the finish line; felt the sting of the whip on my hide pushing me to the finish line. Heart pounding, limbs trembling, sweat dripping. I sensed the presence of the rival horses brushing their straining muscles against me, crowding me. My heart was about to explode.
Bidding for a dream, you see, is like a race: you hope; hope and watch the clock ticking, you try not think, you just focus on the dream and envision the instant when you cross the finish line and win. Expectation brandishes its talons and digs into your body without remorse, it thrusts itself into your chest like an arrow piercing your heart, it threatens to take your life away; the only antidote is hope.
00:00:10 seconds left. You place your bid with trembling hands, the highest bid yours, 3000 dollars. You know it is wrong, but you lie to yourself about it, and say you don’t think it’s wrong to bid so much because it is what you want, it is your dream. You’re caught in a psychological game, you’re trapped. You cannot find ways to think of any other option than to win, because the only option you have is to win. Meanwhile the world still spinning around you; however, you don’t want to notice it, you hear people walking, see lights going on and off in the distance, hear doors opening and closing; a dog barking; the drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet; the din of an electric fan; you feel the taste of rusted tin in you mouth, it remains bitter and foul; your neck, legs and buttocks cramp from sitting in one spot for too long, yet you continue to focus; to suffer as you watch the digits on the clock changing, not fast enough: 00:00:07; 00:00:06; 00:00:05; 00:00:04; 00:00:03; 00:00:02; 00:00:01
Anticipating my victory, I had eagerly marked the pages in the book where I would place the napkin: Chapter 7, between pages 37 and 38, in her novel “SECRET,” precisely where the paragraph begins with: “The bleeding marks of her lips stained the whiteness of his shirt collar...” The part in the story where the lovers consummate their illicit affair.
It was that affair that I had pictured vividly in one of my dreams. The dream, which didn’t seem like a dream but the continuation of the story as I read it in bed, occurred while I had fallen asleep with the book on my chest and my spectacles digging into the skin on the bridge of my nose. In the dream, we were in a vast cave laying naked together on the soft, prickly, moss that tickled my bare skin, and cushioned the bones on my back. The soft mossy bed comforted me, as did the stillness of the universe within the cave. We made love. Insects buzzed close to my ears; the movement of our bodies was as smooth as the blossoming of a spring flower. I could hear the wind in the distance echoing down the darkness of the cave, mingling with the sounds my lover made. I heard the whispering of a magpie recognizing its reflection in a pool of water and flapping its wings close to my face, bending each hair on my sensitive skin; brushing every follicle with the delicate waves of warm, damp, air, that carried with it the scent of the moist earth.
My obsession had come to a climax the day I won the souvenir. That same day, I had picked up the New York Times and read in it the announcement: “.. also appearing at the 92nd Street Y, is the author of SECRET...” It didn’t take me long to realize that it was the opportunity of a lifetime. All my life I had dreamed of meeting my favorite author. The person who had become my inspiration, my obsession. Finally, I would have a chance to meet my idol. Of course, It was foolish of me to think that meeting my idol for the first time would be as easy as that. I felt nervous as hell. I told my wife about it. She had no idea of my predicament. “Just write her a note and tell her how you feel.” She said flippantly, just like that.
As if I could just walk up to the object of my idolatry, shake her hand, and say Thank you, your writing means a lot to me. Have a nice day. Right! Just like that. How could I not fall on my knees, kiss her feet, and fall to the ground and caress the very earth she walks on? How can anyone understand? Miserable mortals, they have no clue. They don’t know how it feels to live within the pages of her books; to breath, to cry, to feel every word, phrase, sentence, within your skin. They don’t understand what it is like to jump, dance, eat, drink from each and every word springing from her fingers.
Ecstasy! Oh, ecstasy!
Life is very short and there is no time for fuzzing and fighting my friend. Yeah, that’s right! there is no time to waste. There’s precious little time, and it’s a crime, it is a crime, I tell you, to let time waste away without fulfilling your dreams. This was my dream: the opportunity to meet my idol in the flesh.
There was no time to waste. I began to compose in my mind the words I would say to her. Carefully chosen words, words I would recite to her as the flutter of love’s wings tickled my stomach. It was imperative that I chose the perfect, pithy, syllables to address her. It would be murder if I didn’t speak as eloquently as a character in one of her books. It would be sacrilegious, if I didn’t allow myself to honor her genius with my words. I had to write it down, be prepared. I had to compose, to the best of my humble ability, an effective missive to communicate my gratitude and love of her for her work. No, not the love of clandestine lovers as in my dream, but the perennial love inspired by a Grecian Urn.
My brain began to doubt the sincerity of my heart: I don’t think I can do this. I have to think, think, think. What is it that I want to convey in a few sentences? Think! Think! What would I say to an angel? What words do I utter to a creature of heaven? That’s it! she is a creature of the heaves: “You are an angel...”. Crap! Crap! I don’t want to fail. I want to convey to her the fact that her writing has saved me, that every word, in every page, of every book she’s written, has spoken to me; to ME, not to the general public, but specifically to me. How do I convey this to her. So much pressure! What to say? How to start? That’s the terrible thing of it, it is so difficult to come up with the right words to say to an author whose life is defined by words, the same words that have given me life.
My brain continued to doubt the sincerity of my heart: I need to be cool and collected. I must speak with my own words. There is no other way to convey to her about how I feel about her work, her genius. Words! Well, perhaps I should start with simple sentences, telling her why I find her dear: “Dear lady, I have read your books three or four times. The minor characters in your books are perhaps the most dear to me..” That’s it! I need to make specific references to her work, her points of view; to character development; to turn of phrase; to deep symbolism; to the courage of a specific character; to the tears a certain passage in a specific book brought to my eyes; to the misery I felt when her protagonist felt misery; to the pain and anguish I felt when the antagonist had triumphed in her last book. I must be specific. I must not let any detail, any minor detail in each and every one of her creations, go unacknowledged. That’s it! I have to be real with the same realism of the books she writes.
“What matters to me most is that you have found a way to show that reality can be captured in words, and that those words are as real as the world I live in. Every sentiment, every mood is conveyed to me by your words, without a single shred of doubt; with all the valor and strength of a soldier carrying the colors of her regiment on high, to the death. That, my lady, has captured my soul.”
Idolatry! I must refrain from using sanctimonious words like that, religiosity is not the best way to proclaim my sincerity and love for her work. I must take care not to compare her work to any other work or writer alive of dead! Never! That kiss of death! No, never try to flatter anyone by telling them that they are not unique, that they are a semblance of some other flame. Thus I spent the balance of the night, waiting with anticipation.
The next day, my mind remained entangled in words, images, but filled with joy. I could hardly manage to perform my mundane rituals: wake the kids, make the coffee, feed the dogs, get the newspaper from under the bushes. My heart had finally triumphed over my brain. I knew exactly what words to say to my Idol. I sat at the breakfast table shaking the morning cold; poured milk into my serial and leafed through the pages of the morning paper where I read: “Author of SECRET found dead in her hotel room at the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue from an apparent overdose...”
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