I sit adjacent to her long, sinewy arm, our legs brushing against each other’s by force of proximity, and I stare into her piercing, icy blue eyes – I’m not going to back down this time. Her character assassination, though disguised as a general opinion of sorts is nothing more than her own insecurity of self worth and value.
“A writer isn’t much more than fluff for entertainment. Anyone can write about anything, it doesn’t take any sort of talent, or skill… you don’t even need an education. It’s not a profession,” I felt her words bunch up my guts like red meat: tough to swallow, hard to chew, regretful.
I smiled in spite of myself, favoring the approach of niceness and I questioned her, “do you read? Books? Fiction? Creative non-fiction? Do you? Any of the great works of literature past or present?”
She stares at me, a smirk passing over her lips that make her eyes dance a little in the light. It’s her tell. I know she’s going to come at me swinging. I’m ready to take a blow, as I see her thoughts passing through her expression. What would she say to cause me injury? Is she so eager to make another hit so early in the conversation?
“No. I suppose I haven’t and I don’t care to. My schedule doesn’t permit the luxury of books. I’m in the business of making money. I suppose that may be an excuse and I could make the time if I thought it were important, but I don’t. Don’t misunderstand me – I don’t think books are important.” She giggles and picks up her wine. I think she may have had enough. Drinking makes her bold and unfiltered and while that can be charming on some it is not the case with Lily.
Lily is an aging beauty. I make-up her past based on stories and photographs. A woman that men adored for her physical attributes and exotic accent, but Lily chose to live life on her own. Her life has been ruled by her fears and anxieties. It feels like a great loss to me. She could have been so much more, a soldier in the fight for humanity, the arts, feminists. She could have been a source of inspiration, but instead she’s a tale of warning.
“We aren’t learning anything new in this conversation, so we should just stop talking about it,” Lily offers as I am distracted by thoughts of who I wish she were.
“Okay,” I too easily agree, regret even, but I know better than to push for more. I know I won’t change her mind, or prove her wrong, but I wish I could point out the masters of the trade and what makes them great. I wish I could find the words that would sway her and make her understand why the world needs writers… my mouth is opening to speak —
It’s too late.
I’ve lost her to other interests. Lily rises from the table, and is moving onto a discussion regarding the inadequacies of individuals that work from home, “a luxury afforded to less ambitious people,” she determines.
I look at her wishing the conversation had not taken place.
I think less of Lily when she makes remarks like this.
I glance at her with a weak smile.
She silently smiles back, her eyes twinkle. I can see she wants to spar.
I decide to go to bed.
I know tomorrow will produce more of the same logic from Lily and I want to point out to her that The Grapes Of Wrath is critical to our country’s history, and how James Baldwin makes us cry as a nation and the influence Ayn Rand has had on politics or Orwell – how can she live in the dark not even considering what these authors left us with?
Not a reader, that’s fine, but to criticize writing as a “lackey’s ambition” is too far. I’m sweating under the covers unable to sleep or calm myself. My frustration turning into anxiety, I reach for my Kindle and pull up a book and I begin to read. My heart rate slows as I lose myself in the beautifully crafted prose of Sedaris. Laughing at the humor of ignorance – or, arrogance? I know I will not change Lily’s mind, but I can write about it here on this page and feel safe knowing she’ll never read what I wrote about her…