The writer twiddled the pen over the blank sheet of paper for over an hour as his thoughts flowed right out the window, completely bypassing the pen. Maybe he should close the window.
He was in the twilight of his life and all he had to show for it were three-dozen successful books and a goatee. It was true the books were highly regarded and not the goatee but that’s how it was with goatees. It was also true he won the most prestigious awards for his works, but despite his successes he had this empty feeling deep down inside, and a little to the left. He thought it might be those damn mixed feelings again.
The local University was honoring him for his lifetime achievements and he wondered if they were going to serve phoulorie. It was not a Pakistani dish. He liked the speeches and tried not to fall asleep. Some of the best minds in the land were invited to ask him questions about his work so he pretended the sound system was acting up. But the public wasn’t fooled; it was a DJ Lallo system. The next day they forced him to wear a suit and sit in a hot room with three hundred exam-ready teenagers with zits. The teens asked him questions about the easy way to success and he told them go blog themselves. The press smelled blood but all he smelt was gas. That was when the effigy burning began. He even bought two to take back home.
For all his life there were only a few moments he ever wanted to give the young ones stock tips like do your homework, obey your parents, floss daily, find out who your father really is, but those moments had long since disappeared together with his once-prized Theroux’s inscribed first editions. In his opinion, if there was one thing the young ones needed, apart from a good pimple cream, was an early introduction to recognizing good books by their covers. If you want to fake intelligence you might as well go all the way, he chuckled.
Maybe it was his age or maybe it was the Johnny Walker, but she looked too good that day. He remembered his friends telling him she didn’t deserve him and he was better off with the scotch. He should have listened. Like all wives of celebrities, she became the object of insults and not just from him but the public. She created quite a stir and it felt odd reviewers now reviewed his wife as much as his books. They even speculated on the current state of his sex life and he didn’t like the intrusion one bit. His wife didn’t like his either. The writer felt his bed life was his private life, or as someone once said, the life of his privates.
She became the shadow he didn’t want and he became the bank account she never had. He wrote, analyzed, lectured, and signed only new books. She sniffed them for age, the books, that is. He was honored for his work. She acted like it was hers. He remembered thinking how a writer’s life was so difficult and how a writer’s wife could be so easy. But he was old, and needed someone to help him be obnoxious when he was tired. That is what they liked about him and that is what they hated about her. She was just what the PR people might have ordered to keep his audience curious between books.
The writer longed to return to his homeland since it was where it all began, and where the honorarium was good. With his enormous success in the literary world he didn’t need any more honors, but at his age, he needed to let people know he was still alive. And this he did, so they wrote about him in the newspapers everyday. He could tell they had mixed feeling about him so he ordered mixed drinks and wore shorts by the pool. It wasn’t a pleasant sight.
He sat in his first-class seat and pretended not to notice the flight attendant bending over just enough to make him happy to be alive. Then he looked across at his wife and wondered if they loaded all his baggage. Losing baggage is not always a bad thing, he thought. In a strange way it was sad to leave but he was taking back with him memories of a place he should never forget and a few little bottles of shampoo. It kept his goatee soft and manageable. The plane was delayed for only half an hour, but at least it gave him more time to figure out how to insert the metal flap into the buckle. He was tired. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and passionately squeezed her hand. She squeezed back as lovingly as any flight attendant could, considering how close his wife was. But she didn’t notice; she never does.
The plane took off and he rocked his seat back. The writer was happy for the first time since he was last happy. He was about to start a new chapter in his life.