Blah, Blah, Blah

Nobody ever talks about the floor of the subway cars, he thought, looking down at the white salt-streaks, spilled M&M’s and discarded soda cups, newspaper piled in a corner soaked with beer, urine or both. Tomorrow, he thought, I will write something meaningful and get across all that I have been failing to these two years. I won’t try to be funny or clever, maybe I’ll forgo fiction for an essay.

He cooked hotdogs smothered in homemade chili, drank two beers and afterward wished for a cigarette.

In the morning he sat down to write and his fingers were furies. Whole worlds and loves rose and fell, his heart buoyed on the thermals of industry. There is no need to forgo fiction, he thought, I can still find the truth in the story. He washed down relief with half his cup of coffee in a single draught.

Then he sat down to read and edit.

"Blah, Blah, Blah

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah…”

It filled his laptop screen. Guts tangled, he had more coffee, paced the apartment and pinched himself. He did not wake up, he broke and went down to the deli for cigarettes. He smoked four and had more coffee.

Back at his desk the words, or rather word, was the same.

He cringed as he deleted all of it and started again. After all, he knew the basic substance and structure of what he’d been working on, there was a possibility of salvage, even improvement. The heat this time was no bonfire, but a controlled flame, an acetylene torch, a match against a windstorm, a single point of light. He eliminated extra words as he wrote, the story felt lean and wolfish. Fine, he thought, just a weird defect of the machine or sleep deprivation or something. A lick of fear followed him into the kitchen for more coffee and another cigarette.

The words on the screen were the same as before.

Grabbing a pen and paper he wrote for ten minutes, drove himself against immediately checking, goading himself until his hand cramped. He read. He almost wept. He closed the laptop, tossed aside pen and paper and went to the gym.

Over coffee with a friend he tried to explain it.

"That’s really weird."

"No kidding."

"And you’re not just being metaphorical?"

"I’ll show you right now."

"Relax, man. You don’t…"

He’d already took out his phone and tapped out the first paragraph from memory. “Here.”

He waited while his friend read, his brow furrowing.

" I mean, it’s a good beginning. Not sure about the dog though."

"Let me see."

The screen of the phone was filled with blah’s.

Later that day he finished the story. It was full of detectives and old revolvers, whiskey, cigarettes and sirens and dock strikes. He’d left out the dog. Love was found in bad places and lost in good ones, the boy never met the girl but still wanted to at the end. It was finished. At least he thought so. To his eyes the opening sentence was “Blah blah blah blah…”

He attached it to an email and hit send.

The magazine responded with praise and yes we’d love to publish your piece.

He read their response and laid his head on the keyboard, the screen filling with random letters, most of which were G’s. That at least, when he looked up, he could read and almost put his fist through the screen.

Shrinks and neurologists, CAT scans and narcotics.

Explanations were legion, but results hid while his frustration mounted. As he worked he leaned on friends and loved ones, each time he asked them to read something his heart fissured a little more, cracked with every word of praise. This is fantastic, they said, you’re just suffering from doubt like every creative person, it’s normal, you’re fine. He didn’t feel fine, or normal and anyway could never remember a time in his life when either of those things had been good enough.

"I don’t know what I’m going to do." He said to stranger, drunk in a bar a half-hour from last call.

"Could you stop writing? Do something else?"

He shook his head. “Can’t even imagine that.”

"Well," The stranger finished his drink and lit a cigarette in one of the last Brooklyn bars in which one still could smoke, "Then you’re just going to have to trust yourself."

"I don’t know if I can."

The stranger laughed and patted him on the shoulder. “You and everybody else, brother.”

They finished drinks and cigarettes and then he went home and opend his laptop. Through a haze of whiskey and a headache he typed.

"Blah blah Blah blah Blah blah Blah blah Blah blah Blah blah Blah blah… "