Saturday, July 25, 2009

Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem

I was on the train the other morning without my headphones, since I was going out to eat with some guys from work (Don't Spell My Name Wrong, You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Hungry and Handsome Karl) and generally don't like lugging player and headgear around when I'm going out after work.

When my headphones aren't on, I can't help listening to other peoples' conversations. I'm nosy, and a very curious cat. Hasn't killed me yet, knock on wood. Though it could have once.

This was maybe a year ago, on the train. I'm already sitting down, when this guy walks on, talking on his phone, sporting all the attributes of a guy who goes to soccer games not for the joy of the sport, but for crackin' skulls and takin' names. And he wasn't a big guy. It was the clothes he wore (yes, I'm prejudiced in this way and quite satisfied with that, thanks) and the attitude he projected.

So naturally I can't help myself. I turn off my iPod to listen in to his conversation. It contained, but was not exclusive to, these words. Blood. Fist. Cops. Fuck. Shit. Motherfucker. Kick. The shit out of. Laugh.

And so on. It was like a narrative to Romper Stomper. And of course I couldn't keep myself from looking up, from looking over at this very image of a mentally healthy, civilized member of society. And of course he noticed me looking. Something flickered to life in his eyes, like the light from the bulb that swings back and forth over your head as you're strapped to a chair, watching various body fluids of yours ooze across the floor. It was not a warm, glowing glow to bask in.

I'm a pretty big guy (this was actually written as “I'm a pretty guy” for quite a while until I corrected it. Freudian slip?). I wear black. I have a big goatee. People do get out of my way on the street. Even though I wouldn't hurt a fly. Well, a fly I would hurt. And spiders. And various other creepy crawlies. But I get side-tracked here. Again. Of course the way I look can backfire as well. I can imagine people looking at me, thinking “I should beat up that guy to look cool in front of my friends”, or just thinking “I'm a psycho. I should totally beat up that guy”. Though psychos, like the afore-mentioned well-adjusted fellow on the train, don't really think. See? That prejudice again. Yay!

I looked down. Buried my nose in my book. Turned the iPod back on. Hoped he would ignore me. He stared me for maybe ten seconds before going back to his phone conversation, probably telling his friend how he stared down this weakling on the train. Whatever. Better a live weakling than a dead fighter.

So again. I'm curious. And the other morning on the train I couldn't help but listen. A man was telling a woman how his girlfriend was working on a novel. Had been working on a novel for seven years. How it was an awesome novel, all ready and polished. The woman asked him why she hadn't sent it to a publisher. “Well, you know, she's a perfectionist”, came the answer. Then he continued. And oh how he continued. “She writes like Hemingway, but in a sort of thriller way.” Ehm...what? I'm not a reader of Hemingway, but know enough to know that he's considered a literary giant. To compare someone to him, on their first novel? Maybe a little too much confidence in your girlfriend there, mister.

Now, for all I know this may be the Next Great Swedish Writer. This may be the Novel To End All Novels. But I doubt it. And again. This is my prejudice talking. And again, I'm satisfied with that. Plus, you know, it would be a devastating blow to my writer's ego...

6 comments:

ege said...

Ha! Sometimes there is nothing better than eavesdropping. I just wrote a whole thing about one we overheard the other day, but it grew too long to leave as a comment, so I will polish it and post it on my own blog with props to you.

(And PS Your writer's ego is safe. There is NO WAY a Swedish woman writes like Hemmingway -- not unless she was born a man in America and had one of those famous Swedish surgeries.)

Steelwheels said...

Small guys are always the fiercest. Skinny guys fight 'til they're burger.

beardonaut said...

ege: Looking forward to that post. And yeah, the ego is probably safe.

Steelwheels: That's true. I have security guard friends who always pull away the small guy first.

André said...

How's that novel coming on? You know that novel, the one you've been working of for three years now. Got a big, big stack of papers there?

Steelwheels said...

Got a, got a compelling protagonist eh? Got a, got a obstacle for him to overcome eh? Little story brewin there? Workin on? Workin on it for quite some time eh? Yeah talking about that three years ago eh? Been workin on that the whole time? Nice little ah, narrative ah beginning middle and end?

beardonaut said...

André: it lives a quiet existence in a dusty corner of my hard drive. Right now, focus is to finish and polish two short stories to try and get into a writing program in San Diego next summer,.

Steelwheels: Stewie at his finest.