Julie said to me the other day, “I’ve been with you too long.”
Goodie, I thought, we’re finished. I can go girlfriend shopping at the weekend. I wonder where Giada will be.
But seeing as Julie was talking and I really should take notice of her from time to time, I decided to hear her out and said, “What do you mean?”
“I keep seeing the dark side of things.”
“Tell me more, Haley Joel Osment.”
“Wednesday, I’m talking to Susan and I’m looking out the office window. There’s a man and a woman. The man is holding the woman’s arm. They’re smiling, but he’s gripping her bicep a little too tightly for it to be friendly. Across the parking lot are two guys. The man with the woman waves at the two men. Everyone walks to the middle of the parking lot. The man with the woman maintains his grip on the woman’s arm all the way across the parking lot. Guess what I think?”
“I don’t know—maybe that you should be listening to your boss and not looking out the window?”
“No, I think kidnap exchange. That’s your fault. Years ago, I would have seen friends meeting to chat. Now I see a felony in progress. Because of you, I can’t see the world in normal terms. You’ve ruined me.”
What could I say to this? It’s a hefty accusation. So I just smiled and said, “Love you.”
Actually, I know what poor confused, Julie means. Telling stories of crime means I tend to look at the world in criminal terms. Now I don’t mean I go looking for evil doers doing evil on street corners, but I look for oddities in the world around me. I see something that catches my eye and I concoct a story to suit what I’ve just seen. I see someone leafing through a trashcan, I don’t think homeless guy, I think money drop. I see a guy sitting alone in a dull sedan, I don’t think guy waiting on his wife, I think FBI surveillance on Columbian drug cartel operating out of a Happy Donuts. I see a flatbed truck chock full of giant seed pods, I don’t think a horticultural expo must be in town, I think alien invasion is on and I shouldn’t go to sleep.
My gears are always turning. I’m forever looking for fictional crime scenes or inspiration for a story. Julie suggests we go on a road trip, I jump at the chance because I have a scene in mind for this book I’m writing in my head and I can suggest we go to a certain location. It’s great—in a way. Julie gets her wish and I get mine.
The problem is that the more I look and think in terms of novel plots, the more my grip on reality lessens. That’s sort of a scary thought. I’ve been scribbling so long I’m not sure I can switch it off now. I already have a wall of post-it notes with book and story ideas pinned to it—all of them gagging to be told. How far will my delusions go? I’m not sure. It makes me wonder if I’ll end up like James Woods in Videodrome where reality and delusion run off on vacation together to leave poor Jimmie inserting videotapes into his tummy. I hope not, because it didn’t work out too well for JW.
Anyhoo, I don’t think things will get that bad. I can’t see myself letting go of the string to my sanity balloon and watching it float off into space. For all my mad mental doodling, I’m quite a grounded person. So if you’re a little worried, don’t be. I have Julie for that.
Yours with one foot still on the ground,
You too, huh?
Whenever someone asks me the classic “where do you get your ideas” question, I tell them something very much like what you’ve described. Once you learn to think like a writer, ideas are EVERYWHERE.
It does tend to ruin you for normal society, though.
I’m sorry, Simon. What else can I say….
Giving advice on subjects like this at 33 is pretty risky business, but I’ll give it a shot:
Don’t let the writing fuck you.
Fuck the writing.
No matter how far into it you go, you got to know your way out. And you got to know your priorities.
I don’t know what else to say. That’s a difficult thing to respond to.
Hang in there, man.
It sounds like, too, there may be some “It’s me or your career” going on. And any time that happens, there are about forty other motives playing into the situation as well.
You got to make her feel like she’s the most important thing in the world. And she has to BE the most important thing in the world.
But it takes two. She’s got to see you the same way.
There are good counselors who can help you both talk through this very kind of thing together. If you really care about her (and it has the potential to work), maybe ask her if she’d consider going to see a counselor with you to talk about this stuff.
And just what is this “reality” thing you mention?
Here’s how bad I am: My 18 year old daughter didnt come home one night recently. She did’t take her car — she knew she was going to be drinking (Shocking) and said she’d take a cab home. When she wasn’t home by 3, and then 4, I was convinced she’d called the cab company (owned by Eastern Europeans, had been abducted by the Russian mafia, and was well on her way into white slavery.
(PS She was sleeping over at a friend’s…)
When I worked full time, I was an early bird and regularly got to the office building before the lobby doors were opened and the elevators were released for use by the public. One morning as I crossed the plaza, another person heading my way released the door with his electronic pass and held it open for me. When we got to the elevator, he released my floor. The first thought which crossed my mind was “if they need to track my whereabouts today, the police will NOT be able to prove I was at work before 6 am.”
I thought to myself that I had been reading too many mysteries.
I’m glad I’m not alone. 🙂
Your (and Julie’s) overactive imaginations remind me of my favorite quote from the movie “State and Main”:
“It’s not a lie. It’s a gift for fiction.”
Simon, thanks for posting this. I am showing it to my family so they don’t think I’m the only one.
Of course, that day I saw the SUV slow down, taking photos of my house, then hurrying away… actually turned out to be the feds taking photos of my house for a security issue. They approached me later for an interview because a friend of mine was getting a high security clearance. Man, the things I was tempted to say, except, you know, agents don’t really seem to have a sense of humor about that stuff.
Simon, “Columbian drug cartel operating out of a Happy Donuts” would make a fabulous short story.
When I met my husband and some inlaws up in Yosemite last summer, I was dismayed to find that his family had booked us into the Cedar Lodge–site of the triple murder I’d just seen George Fong’s slideshow on. I tried regaling all of them with the details over dinner, and they blanched and then kept trying to change the subject.
When I got back from the trip, my friend Sharon from writing group called and said “So how was Yosemite? Did you go check out the triple-murder hotel?”
I said, “DUDE! We STAYED there!” and of course she wanted to know everything. I think I’ve found my tribe…
>>I see a flatbed truck chock full of giant seed pods, I don’t think a horticultural expo must be in town, I think alien invasion is on and I shouldn’t go to sleep.<< Um, DID you go to sleep? It would explain a lot, Simon. 😉 Poor, Julie. Osmosized to the dark side. Be sure to bring that dear woman flowers often…just not lilies. Hugs,Fran
Fran: I’ve been awake 19 days so far and I don’t show emotion in public. I would send flowers, but I don’t trust interflora…you don’t know what you’ll get.
Cornelia: We have a tribe! Can we open a casino now? I have a great theme for it.
Simon, I’ve even got hubby trained to listen to my research during dinner. He does the same thing as Julie — even calls me to relay potential situations for ideas. Blessed be the spouses!
J.T.My hubby does the same thing . . .
We can DEFINITELY open a casino, just keep me the hell away from the baccarat table, okay?
I’ve been carrying around this ingenious way to dispose of a body that I plan to use in a book…but until I can, I’m ASHAMED of having thought of it!
Cornelia: how very james bond of you…
John: I live in shame a lot too.
Just being around you literary murderous types and reading all your lovely work has me eyeing dumpsters and swampy hollows, wondering what might be stashed there.
And Simon, I’m halfway through your book, and you do have a devious turn of mind! It will be good to meet you in November.
Fran: Depending on how the 2nd half shapes up for you, you may punch me in the face in November. :-/