He told them that he hadn’t been up to much at all. That there was almost literally nothing to report.

They looked incredulous, confident in their vast store of growing children anecdotes and updates about the inexorable progress they were making in the corporate world.

They both could have given a Powerpoint demonstration on how the kids were riding bikes now, without training wheels, and how they were confident that the kids would get into the private schools they had earmarked since some time shortly after their they were born. They could then have given presentations on the current issues in the law, as they affected their careers, and how much more interesting yet taxing the work had become now that all their clients had high profiles.

It was the same person twice. Their stories were almost interchangeable.

But he had no such confidence. He had no stories which suggested maturity and success and confirmation from the Great Architect that he was on the right path. There were no photos in his wallet, no smiling kids, looking up at their daddy. There wasn’t even a photo of Ingrid. She and he didn’t do that sort of thing, and anyway, if they had, and there was a photo of her, he would have to explain that they weren’t married, because, frankly they couldn’t afford it. He couldn’t afford to ask and so they couldn’t do it. It was shameful, the whole thing was, and he so wished there could be some sort of pride in some aspect of his life.

But what could he tell them?

“You mean, you’re still at the same place?” the older one asked. And he was. He worked at the same place he had been at a decade ago, and the pay wasn’t much better now than it was then, and they couldn’t understand that, so he didn’t try to explain it.

He tried to change the subject, but the younger one steered the conversation back towards his life and his reticence to talk about it.

“You can tell us, mate,” said the younger one. “Go on.”

When he started to tell them they seemed interested and he felt liberated. For so long he had kept these things – these decisions and indecisions and feelings – secret from other people. It felt good to lay out some of it, connect the parts together. Show how it formed a coherent whole.

He was an emerging writer, which meant almost nothing at all, except that he hadn’t become a success yet. Or not the success he wanted to be. He feared that he would be an emerging writer forever and never actually emerge. Worse, he feared that he might not even really be emerging yet, and wondered if he had been lying to himself about a few rather pedestrian instances of early success. But these were word games really, and that was what writers did, partially, so he apologised for going round in circles a bit.

They both took a sip of wine and leant in, across the table in the restaurant.

He was worried. Worried he might have wasted his time and worried he might have spent so long doing it that there would be no chance to do anything else. It was surely too late now.

And he would never have a house or a decent car or a daughter. They took these things for granted and could only dream of security like that. In truth he found it hard to even imagine not having that fear pursue you wherever you went.

You needed time to write and he had that with the job he did and you hoped you were just putting off some of these signposts of maturity for another time, when you were ready, established, emerged.

But nobody wanted to publish his stuff. He wondered if he was making progress. He wondered what he needed to do to get noticed and he wondered if he wanted to make any changes anyway.

“You two talk about how hard you work, and how hard your lives are, but I would swap with either of you, right now.”

They scoffed. They couldn’t help themselves. They treated him a bit like a child, as if he had been left behind while they grew into adulthood.

“You don’t really mean that,” the younger one said.

Perhaps he didn’t. He was working on something which could become big. It was exciting and he knew he wouldn’t be able to make them understand this sort of excitement. That it could be years before it went anywhere, but it could be very good indeed.

And that was the difference between them. The work he was doing on that idea.

Published in: on August 24, 2016 at 8:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

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