X thinks frequently of writing little things about men watching the women they’re required to clean the rooms of in mental institutions, but nothing ever comes of it. X hurts feelings quite a lot. This is something he’s adept at, so to speak. He doesn’t like to watch sporting events and so he does not do this unless they are on where he happens to be doing something that he likes at least a bit more. Do you understand what he’s saying.
Today he’ll meet somebody, just before it becomes tonight he’ll meet somebody. He’ll send himself email copies of the sonnets he’s written and something will result. Just what it is remains to be seen.
X has never purported to be a good person. At least he doesn’t think this is the case. X would not desire to purport this to you, or to anybody. X hopes this makes sense. He’s not necessarily evil or amoral, but X does not have a prominent moral compass and he thinks a lot of it comes from his middle class upbringing. X hopes this is OK.
“You should get a cat.” Someone will say this to X at some point in his life not knowing that he already owns a cat and loves him very much. They will detect a sadness in X that they’ve decided is directly related to the paucity of felines in his life and they will thus suggest that X should get a cat. He’ll walk away from them and the whole friendship fully aware that he’s going home to pet his cat and watch Repo Man.
Repo Man is a film that makes X feel good. Paris, Texas is a film that makes X feel good while feeling bad. Harry Dean Stanton figures prominently in both of these films. Harry Dean Stanton could potentially provide X with all possible human emotion in just these two films if he decided the hermetic life was for him and gave it all up.
He’s not quite ready to do this—give it all up, that is—but it’s coming sooner than he realizes.
He’ll become employed someplace that makes him tolerate his existence. He’ll become married and suddenly the world won’t seem quite so dark. He’ll do these things and in fifteen years realize he’s made a great mistake and find himself back where he was this moment while writing this because X never wanted such a job and such a wife and such a family and such a life and he’ll come back to this place where he currently is—seated there, writing sonnets about memory—and he’ll finish what he started.
No he won’t.
Often he preferred to work in the dead of night, around eleven, until four or so in the morning, at those points where there’s a stretch of darkness so apparent that nobody—but the freaks—dare stay awake. He’d listened to The Doors mostly while writing Vitruvius, and other melodic music like Debussy and Faure to calm the nerves when things became quite hasty. After work he liked to really deflate, so he’d either go upstairs, fixing himself a gigantic plate of food, bringing it down to watch hours of boring TV to completely zone out; or masturbate, then take a nice long shower muttering virile nothings to the darkness of the bathroom; or finally, when things were perfect he would walk outside, barefoot, often only wearing underwear—his father’s neighborhood was very stuffy, and rich, and nobody save for X would be out at this time—and he’d lie down in the middle of the pavement with ‘End of the Night’ or ‘The End’ howling away on headphones, then standing at odd intervals to dance violent on the empty road, and at those moments—not every night it happened, but some—it would rain the coldest rain he’d felt since he was a young boy and his family took a trip out east to a place in the woods where the rain never stopped, and X would be at peace, staring into steaming midnight, lost at that apex where nothing but belief and love exist, and death is an empty threat.
That was the initial draft, editing, however, was a sour possessive thing that never let go of your throat until you cast her lifeless into the sea. You have to understand certain things about X’s psyche before this last claim can hope to take real effect. When he writes, at best he’s like an abstract painter—perhaps Jackson Pollock—where the only possible thing he can convey is that odd interpretation he sees somewhere buried in the confines of his skull, and writing that first draft is much like splattering a gallon of red paint across a canvas and dictating its actions with a drunken euphoria until it seems complete. Editing, however, is like staring at said painting with every painter in history who ever picked up a brush then staring at him. And the goal of this editing is not to make the work more like theirs, but to do quite the opposite and push it as far into originality as he possibly can before X tears his hair out and smashes his face against the glass table. That’s how it is for him, anyway. X knows of the naturally literary types and their easy revisions; he’s heard of the fellows that send off their manuscripts in one go—Kerouac, for instance, another whose writing X ignores—and frankly cannot believe them. The first fools, he figures. The students early to class. X simply lost interest.
As he wrote—or rather, mumbled through nearly-dried cement—X often thought of things like that, aggravating notions that could push him that much farther through the work. For indignation, he felt, is the only true quality any real writer should hope to possess if he’s to succeed. Hemingway noted that a bullshit detector—a built-in, shock proof shit detector was his wording in X’s mind—is more desirable than anything else, but then haven’t we heard the tales of Hemingway’s coming-of-age as a young scribe? Didn’t he seemingly fall into fame with his Three Stories and Ten Poems? And after that did he ever have to worry about sending out a veritable fleet of submission letters, only to be rejected? No, likely not. Hemingway did not have to endure the things contemporary shit-peddlers have to endure (and wasn’t that collection his father used to own of Hem’s entitled The Enduring?). Even Mailer, even DeLillo, even David Foster Wallace did not have to endure the monotony of sending out hundreds of submissions only to receive that many kindly-worded rejections. X fondly acquired histories like David Markson and his fifty-plus submissions of Wittgenstein’s Mistress, as armor for these moments. These publishers will not break your heart with hammers, they’ll break it with thousands of little pricks from all directions, and slowly you’ll begin to fade, and fade, and if you cannot fight your way out of this misery, you’ll wind up locked away in madness and obscurity. Unwilling to accept it, X also began assembling lists of authors he despised, of lucky little art school brats that he would soon eviscerate, and with every submission letter rejected gained more and more fuel. And with every miserable page of that manuscript turned over became yet more and more alive, and with furious hatred and indignation now at its peak X felt ready to explode in that tiny space in Chicago and let the world feel the blood of his measly existence, and that night, as X turned over the fifteenth page of a good day’s work done and done, he felt affirmed not only as a young, and angry human being, but as a writer. For X, quite aggressively he felt, needed to be a writer more than anyone he knew needed anything, and to this day has not met a soul whose eyes seem brighter with the anxious hope of turning that one success into enough to sit and write more, and more, thus having made it into the existence by which he feels so unrelentingly called. Perhaps it’s only voices. He never remains sure for long.
Grant Maierhofer is the author of The Persistence of Crows (Tiny TOE Press), and Ode to a Vincent Gallo Nightingale (Black Coffee Press). His work has appeared in Gesture, Brawler Lit, Volume One Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He lives in doubt.