“We should talk,” I say.
She rolls her eyes. “You know how much clichés don’t settle with me.” She sits and places one leg over the other in a go-ahead manner. “Let’s talk.”
I lean against the wall and stare at her. “So, first, I was thinking, maybe I should quit writing.”
Her lips flatten and she pulls a smile. Not the reaction I was expecting. “Second?”
“Well, I thought you would react and there would be something else to say in argument or defense against your statement and the second and third points would originate hence.”
“Okay.” Debbie opens her bag and brings out a note which she sets on the table. Bracing her jaw with two elbows, she flips a page and pores over it. She wears a black dress with pink belt. I notice she doesn’t look too good in black. The silence grows uncomfortable.
“You aren’t saying nothing.”
“Hmm.” She gives a small laugh. She turns another leaf, mouthing words. I drift closer and read from the page. Altruism and Egoism. Philosophy junk. I feel a tiny bite in me, as if by condemning the course I am writing poor grades for myself. For Debbie.
“Are you an egoist?”
She looks up. “You are an egoist.”
“I don’t practice self-love.”
“Self-love doesn’t make you an egoist, dude.” She is finally talking. A low hum settles in the room. The door creaks as a student enters, backpack slacking down his shirt. His hair is a combed bush. He looks like those who would do something because they felt like, not because it’s tagged right or wrong. Some egoist.
“Who is an egoist?”
Debbie closes the book and stares at me, haunting black eyes. No lipstick and no foundation. She looks like a pallbearer’s spouse.
“I don’t want to talk about it again.” She hangs her bag and heads down the stairs at a steady pace. Doesn’t look back once. I watch as her form shrinks till she gets to the door, turns sideways and slips out. I am still watching when something snaps in my head, like the jolt one feels when he’s running from a monster when there’s a loaded handgun in the pocket of his jeans. Some jolt.
The air outside is strangely cool. A ball of sun travels southward. Sun doesn’t travel southward. I reorient my view and look again. It’s headed west, just as Debbie. I remain frozen for seconds, then shout her name.
A thousand eyes look around, among them, Debbie’s.
I approach her with my hands swinging and experience a flashback to the mornings we walked down the hallway with our arms swinging by our sides and a soft breeze tossing, teasing our hair. Days when I wrote a lot and showed her the lot I wrote. Days when my muse was not at the base of a cash box.
I reach her and, lost for words, say, “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t need you to be sorry.” A pair of sights linger on her. “This ain’t the cinema,” she says. The two guys look on. Debbie shakes her head, starts walking, dragging me behind. “Perhaps I should jog your memory.”
We turn a bend.
“You started writing even before you came to school, before you dreamed of meeting me, before –”
“I have always thought for you.”
Smile. “Be focused on the point,” she says. “You wrote then because you felt the burden to, not because you wanted to write well or teach others the craft or earn some wads. You read strictly and you wrote strictly.” Pause. “All of which crumbled when you became a student. So now, you want to quit writing.” She curves her lower lip. “Like it’s an internship.”
I stare blankly.
“I’m not the writer, you know. You settle it with yourself, if the burden you felt has released you. Or maybe it is you who released the burden. You settle it within yourself.”
She resumes her walk.
“What about us?”
Without looking back, she says, “You know my room.”
The laptop screen is split. Not literally. I view two different screens, one possessing a blank document, the other showing a folder. In the folder are thirteen stories, all penned since the year broke, more than half of which have gone to submissions or competitions, only a handful succeeding in turning necks.
I maximize the partitioned section such that the document with a page as white as angelic robes stares at me. I stare back. A thousand thoughts flow between us, but no words. No, the words haven’t come for a while. The left corner of the screen shows the time, half past two in the afternoon. By four, I would begin to prepare for church. An hour later, my gaze would lock with Debbie’s and I would tell her, “I couldn’t write again.”
I take a puff and scroll to PDF reader, settling for a novel. A reread. I realized recently I had exhausted my collection of books. Perhaps I should write one.
I pick my phone and punch in a text. Hi. Thing is, I don’t know exactly what is eating the sense in my head. At times, I think it’s a lack of similes and metaphors. Sometimes I feel my characters are too abstract. Other times, it’s as if the story was called back from the dead and is yet to find fresh air. Okay, that’s a simile. I’ve prayed and, not like I’m open to answers…
The reply comes almost immediately. Go to the nearest house around you with staircases. Climb to the balcony. Stand at the top of the railings, close your eyes, spread your arms. Jump. As you fall, just before your body hits sand, think of all the things you would have loved to say before your death. Go tell those stories.
For a moment, I forget to breathe. The background light on the laptop fades. The clock strikes three pm.
P.S: See that picture above? That’s the idea of a blank screen, the page we face and attempt to conquer in every single story…