Maria Opens the Door

Maria opened the door.

Why must you always begin with stage direction?

I don’t. Do I?

You do. So at least give it something. I want to see it, feel it.

Maria opened the red door.

Don’t be facetious.

Maria put her rattly old hand on the rattly old door knob.

Stop it.

I didn’t ask for your advice.

And yet you need it.

Shit, shut up, shit. Let me feel out a first draft. Alone.

But I’m here now.

Then go away.

But I’m here now.

But —

I’m here now.

Well what do you want?

I’ll know it when I see it.

Fine. Where was I.

Something about a door.

Maria opened the door, not wanting to leave —

YawnDon’t tell me what she wants, show me.

She hesitated at the door, FURROWED BROW DARTING EYES TREMBLING PINKY FINGER.

That’s mature.

You’re the immature one! Throwing hackneyed tips around, you fucking naysayer. I can tell you what she wants or I can show you. Both are valid and you know it; you’re just saying it because it comforts you, helps you believe that there’s a consistent aesthetic of which you’re a sound judge.

I think you’re projecting.

Fuck you! How dare you yawn at me. The door is a door, she opens it, period. Do you realize that you’re always looking for some peculiar physical manifestation of emotion? As if the entire complexity of our inner worlds could possibly be manifest, as if the shape of a smile or the angle of a fork… nonsense. You’re infuriating.

Good. Maybe some of that feeling can find its way into your writing.

Fuck off.

Sorry, that was a layup. I want to help.

Then help me with the door.

Right. Maria opened the door.

I like it. Simple. You’re a regular Hemingway.

Cute. But you know I can’t abide this shorthand association —

I know.

In fact, he frequently wrote in long sentences and employed syntactical —

I know, I know, we’ve discussed this.

Then why say it?

Lazy joke. Forget it.

Do we tolerate laziness at this desk?

We do not.

Are you certain it was laziness? Maybe, deep down, you’re aspiring to Ernest.

No, no, stop trying to headfuck this.

Too earnest! Ha ha, tee hee, I like that.

Do we tolerate such wordplay at this desk?

Not often enough, in my opinion. Oh, before I forget: make sure you call the landlord today.

Fine.

And you haven’t emailed Sammy about that interminable joint-gift fiasco.

Okay.

There was something else… about a pineapple… it’ll come to me…

Later, be quiet, please.

You’re right. Where were we.

The door.

Ah yes, Hemingway. I wouldn’t feel too bad about it. Every second-rate writer tries to emulate him at some point.

We’ve discussed this too. I want to write like myself.

The correct answer, but is it true?

Yes.

And yet you reeked of Calvino in that story about the architect.

What? Did I?

And guess who you sounded like after that Zadie binge.

I deny it. Show me evidence.

That story about the HR woman who’s banned from the office cafeteria and flips out? A desperate stretch for Bolaño.

Aha! You’re full of it. I’ve never read Bolaño.

Yes you have.

I’m certain. Look, he’s sitting on our Unread bookshelf.

Really? Hmm. Maybe we’ve inferred a style from reviews or interviews… that Unread section is awfully full, by the way, just sayin’. You haven’t read Bolaño!? I’d keep that quiet.

What’s your problem? You’re especially cruel today.

Who knows.

Answer me. And don’t pretend that you’re trying to help.

I shrug.

We want the same thing, don’t we?

Yes.

So why this sabotage?

I… I really don’t know. The paradox of desiring and resisting, of pulling in and pushing away. Fear of failure? Fear of success?

Fear of half success?

Maybe. I’m sorry. God, I really am horrible, aren’t I? Shameful. I think I should go.

It’s all right.

I’m a bad person. I ruin everything. I’m going.

Stay if you want to.

Yeah?

Yeah. I can never concentrate when you go off and sulk. Besides, it’s all good: we’re alive, lucid, at desk. There’s still 2 hours before work.

This is our time.

It’s all joy, baby. The means is the end.

The process the reward.

Amen.

Listen, seriously, you’ve got to understand that I think you’re actually a very good writer. I believe in you.

I know. Thank you.

Maria opened the door.