Writers and Lovers—Lily King
(go over quotes before publishing, I’m just typing them here as I read them)
I don’t write because I think have something to say. I write because if I don’t, everything feels even worse.
I don’t ever cry about Paco. Those two years with him rest lightly on me. We went from French to a sort of hybrid of the Catalan and the Castilian that he taught me, and I wonder if that’s part of the reason I don’t miss him, that everything we ever said to each other was in languages I’m starting to forget. Maybe the trill of the relationship was the languages, that everything was heightened for me because of it, more of a challenge, as I tried to maintain his belief in my facility with languages, my ability to absorb, mimic, morph. It was a trick no one expected of an American, the combination of a good ear, a good memory, and an understanding of the rules of grammar, so that I appeared more of a prodigy that I was. Every conversation was a chance to excel, to frolic, to amuse myself, and to surprise him. And yet now I can’t remember what we said to each other. Conversations in foreign languages don’t linger in my head like they do in English. They don’t last. They remind me of the invisible-ink pen my mother sent me for Christmas when I was fifteen and she had gone, an irony that escaped her but not me.
They were the kind of people who were only inside when they had to be.
“It’s good to whacked open at least once, though,” she says. “You can’t really love from inside a big thick shell.”
I hold the book and imagine I’ve written it, imagine I’m holding my own book.
We talk about a book called Troubles that I read and passed along to her. She loved it as much as I did, and we go through the scenes we like best. It’s a particular kind of pleasure, of intimacy, loving a book with someone.
Last fall Muriel’s boyfriend told her he needed to be alone in a room with books. They’d been together nearly three years. He said that if they stayed together they’d just get married and reproduce, and he needed to write. So do I, Muriel told him. She didn’t give a fuck about marriage and kids. But he didn’t know anything, he said, though he had two graduate degrees. He needed to be alone in a room with books. He went to live on the third floor of his brother’s house in Maine. That was ten months ago. They hadn’t had contact since.
He listens. He breathes into the phone. I can tell he lost someone close somehow. You can feel that in people, an openness, or maybe it’s an opening that you’re talking into. With other people, people who haven’t been through something like that, you feel the solid wall. Your words go scattershot off of it.
I don’t want to spend too much time on the phone, then have it be awkward in person like in that story ‘The Letter Writers’ about a man and a woman who fall in love through ten years of correspondence, and when they meet their bodies can’t catch up to their words.
The whole time we were on the phone I didn’t worry even once that it would ruin my writing time.
I wanted to hear my mother tell it. She loved a story. She loved a mystery. She could make any little incident intriguing. In her version, the doctor would have a wandering eye and three chickens in the back named after Tolstoy characters. Janet would have a heat rash. I wanted her and no one else to tell me the story of how she died.
“A writer? No thanks.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t want someone who’s all up in here all the time.” He waves his fingers around his glossy black hair. “I like a thruster. Writers aren’t thrusters. Not the good ones. And I couldn’t be with a bad writer. God, that would be awful.”
Most of Muriel’s friends are writers, real writers, not like my old friends who got over it like the flu.
They aren’t stories, she told me, they’re hard little polyps I’m trying to remove from my brain.
I can’t go out with a guy who’s written eleven and half pages in three years. That kind of thing is contagious.
The hardest thing about writing is getting in every day, breaking through the membrane. The second-hardest thing is getting out. Sometimes I sink down too deep and come up too fast. Afterward I feel wide open and skinless. The whole world feels moist and pliable. When I get up from the desk I straighten the edges of everything.