August 21st, 2007
Lena is heartbroken. She flicks her hair when someone talks to her, and her eyes stare aimlessly ahead, not really seeing. When she serves me my frosted mint steamer, she doesn’t look up.
It appears to have been a long night.
These were the first few words scrawled in Evan’s notebook that day. As usual, they were about the middle-aged Lena; the woman who served him his milk steamer and tea everyday. This was how Evan’s day began.
He continued to write on the way to the bus stop. He wrote about Mrs. Higgins, the lady who lived across the street, and how her poor dog was sick, and how her daughter had visited yesterday. On the bus, he wrote about Mr. Lee, the bus driver, who never failed to show up for the job he so despised every morning at 7:10, and how he never looked away from the window when Evan left the bus every morning at 7:30.
At the subway station while he waited patiently for his tiny red ticket to be spit out from the machine (he knew for a fact that it was slow and he picked for that particular reason), he wrote about the dark skinned man at the terminal two down from his, and how he had appeared there most weekdays at precisely 7:45 every morning, and Evan wondered where he came from, where he was going, and why he never spoke.
While he sat on the rudely graffitti’d bench he more often than not shared with a man named Hank who could peel bananas with his feet and sing The Trolley Song in pig Latin, Evan wrote about the nameless faces that appeared and reappeared coming to and from the train every day, going to and from they’re dreary-looking lives, and how they never seemed to notice anything but what was in arms reach of them.
At the duck pond, he wrote about the construction workers, whom he believed were named Al and George, and how they often wondered if the new bridge across the duck pond they had been working diligently on for two years straight this Friday would ever be finished.
At the bakery, he wrote about the new young girl Millie, who resented the job because it got flour in her hair, and how she was happier today as she handed him his usual baguette, and how Evan supposed that maybe she had gotten a visit from her father, who was very intent on business and rarely came to town.
And thus Evan’s day continued, until at last, when he trudged up the last three stairs to his flat, after hearing and writing about the couple making very noisy love in the rooms below, he had filled a new twenty-seven and a quarter pages of new writings.
As Evan closed the door behind him, he nimbly slipped a long, thin envelope out of the mailbox. When he finished lighting a fire in his tiny fireplace, with practiced hands he folded the publication rejection letter, still in its envelope, into a paper airplane, then, with a deft flick of his wrist, sent his enemy swooping to its death.
This was how Evan went about life.
Just like the questions, every day was similar, if not the same, as this one. The only significant difference was the publisher’s rejection letter, which appeared once a month or so, or as often as he put in an application. The rejection letters were always the same.
Evan wrote always, and slept rarely. His writing was his life. It was his oxygen, and it was burned into his very essence. Without, he was nothing. A bug on the window shield of life. The stale currents in fresh baked bread. The hair you find in your spaghetti that’s coarse and white, and makes you look back at the waitress and, upon realizing that she is not at all old with white or coarse hair, makes you lose your appetite.
Evan thought of life as a stage of sorts, like the ones in old elementary schools where the curtains were falling apart and the stage was in dire need of a good waxing. He preferred painting the background, rather than being forced up front to perform lines that you knew you’d get wrong; only to have the adults laugh sympathetically for you, saying how sweet and adorable you looked, and after the show they’d come and give you a flower and a kiss, saying you were great, then having the world swallow up your one moment of pride and have it plunge into the abyss.
And on the stage of life, in that old, decrepit elementary school that the government had been planning to tear down for twenty years, the teachers were too preoccupied with the little actors and actresses to direct the painting of a backdrop. They’d give you a general idea of how it was supposed to look, and then disappear to prepare little Johnny’s costume. After that, they never really checked on you, and you were free to do as you like, until the night of the show, when there may be some dispute over why the tree looked like a cow and whatnot. But, all in all, you could do as you pleased.
Which was exactly what Evan did, every day, every minute, and every second of his life. Except the ‘pleased’ part. And this was simply because he didn’t know exactly what pleased him. He supposed that he was pleased with his life, because he did not find himself unhappy, but sometimes, in the dead of night, when the cats stopped yowling and the couple downstairs stopped making their love so loudly, he found himself alone. Truly alone. And scared. He was terrified of these moments, these brief visits to the underworld, these subconscious, terrifying epiphanies where he was floating alone in the atmosphere.
But then, he would come back to consciousness, slip back into what he believed was his being, and carry onwards with what he supposed was his life. And he was, if not pleased, certainly fine.
At least, for the moment.