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,