At Ian's Place, Part IX - in which I Do Two Risky Things

So, business as usual, except now there was a cephalopod in my brain that kept crawling out, extending its tentacles toward that afternoon on the floor with Ian. My creative center couldn’t stop from spinning narratives. I actually wondered where Ian was, what he was doing. It was important before – and I didn’t realize until I lost it – that we weren’t connected except by occasionally occupying space between these walls, never at the same time. He was still a CD I played or someone I saw on TV sometimes. An office assistant who calls once in a while to see if I need to make a follow-up appointment.
I knew he was a real person; I know I am. We’re just not supposed to touch - but we did, eclipse of sun and moon. Worse - galaxies fell into each other. And somehow that made all the tangible things around me surreal.
He sends random weird text messages like:
The thing that always bugged me about the Tamarians was, how do you develop the science necessary for space travel with a language based entirely on allegory?
I was chagrined to be so obvious: LIKES SCIENCE comma FICTION comma AND LITERARY JOKES. Or maybe everyone does and I’m hypersensitive. Okay, I already knew; I'm not unique in that regard. I took comfort in his poor use of commas.
I felt like a creepy-stalker checking his website for Upcoming Events or googling the venue to see how it looked. I drew character studies of the people who would frequent such a venue – will all the ladies show up wearing peg leg jeans and white shirts? Do they still do big hair there? Beer-only or whisky drinkers? My brain gave a lead-in to an imaginary bartender: “We have both kinds here – Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam!" 
I don't want this in my head, my ego moaned. I don't know what I want.
I started writing out storylines. Today Ian got tired of hotel food and went to the grocery store; he bought a loaf of bread, peanut butter, and a jar of mayonnaise (gross) and only made one sandwich. Tomorrow he’ll go to the local library, spend a few hours browsing (does he like books?) and end up signing a few autographs for the librarians. Delete, delete, delete…but I am a writer. I should have no shame in doing what I do.
Hannah once told me, “Oh, honey, I never delete anything. ANYTHING.”
“You’re right, Hannah; of course you are,” I said aloud to nobody, and kept typing.
I am a writer, so I had a somewhat neglected blog. I changed a few details and started posting these scenarios for public scrutiny. My blog has never gotten much traffic, so I didn’t feel very scrutinized. Venting seemed to be doing me good, though; I’ve always said creativity is like a hangover. Sometimes it’s so heavy you just need to vomit.
Phil came in with his mandolin the other day. He pulled up a kitchen stool behind me while I worked - on my big painting, held up by two portable easels at an angle that utilized sun coming in the back windows.

“Looks like an alley in Kabul,” he said, picking strings lightly.

“Well, hell, it’s supposed to be Caribbean.” I let a wry giggle escape. I should mention that, to date, we have still never discussed what he paints.

“It’s not shiny. Put a little mist in there. Some water after the storm is passed. Let’s write a song.” He played a piece of melody and stopped with a tap on the mandolin’s face.

My head snapped up. Write? Oh, yes, he’d mentioned something a while back, after I sang my only song for him. I’d forgotten, but he hadn’t – or maybe his muse was itchy.

“Okay. I don’t know how you do that.” I scanned him briefly while I fumbled around for a different paintbrush. Phil looked placid as usual. The mandolin chuckled.

“How’d you do it last time?” Pluck, plink.

“Oh, that was years ago. I was working in housekeeping. I guess the repetition of the work left my brain free to play around.” Something clicked for me – the artwork I’d been bringing to La Corazón de Jesus was executed by rote – they liked what sold, and I made more of it for them. My muse was itchy, too.

“You wanna clean something?” Phil chuckled. The mandolin gurgled out some more melody.

“Do that one again,” I directed. Phil let the mandolin repeat itself, a little slower, with definition.

“Come out, come out, and play with me…” I tried to sing, and coughed, then laughed. “Oh, god. It sounds so much better in my mind.”

“Naw, I got it.” Phil played his melody again, and then what he’d interpreted from my cackle.

“Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s it. Hang on, I gotta write it down. Just a sec.” On the coffee table I found an orange pencil and a sketch with some blank space on the back. I knelt there and started writing. The orange point snapped, leaving a pothole in the paper; I grabbed up a few more colors and started again with green.

“Got coffee?” Phil laid his instrument on the loveseat and headed toward the kitchen.

“No, can you make some?” I blinked without looking up. “Can you make it stronger?”

Phil snorted. “Sure.”

I kept scribbling, crossing out words (because using an eraser takes too much time and doesn’t look ugly enough) and humming to myself, changing pencil colors when I felt I should. Phil set a mug next to me, but I ignored it. He settled back on his stool without picking up the mandolin again until I presented him with a first draft of lyrics. 

Almost magically he was able to translate what I tried to hum or sing. We went back and forth on the melody; I rewrote some lines to fit what he was putting together. The cephalopod had curled up in a ball somewhere in the back of my brain, asleep at last.

come out, come out and play with me
out here, out here, no-one can see
I will give your darker side
a place to hide, a place to breathe
come out, come out and play with me

Feel for my heart, and you will see
I’ve got not one nor two, but three
I will give your darker side
a place to hide, a place to breathe
come out, come out and play with me
“That was fun,” Phil said, nodding. He got up to leave, smiling almost indiscernibly as he grabbed the door handle, gave it a twist, and winked at me. “We’ll do it again some time.” 

“Yeah, good luck with that,” I called after him with a laugh. “Remember Harper Lee? Maybe I only got one in me.” He just shut the door.


  1. Looking forward to your articles and page. Keep up the good work


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