back to the Black Table

 Well, boys and girls, Iíve clocked a week here in my home of Nowhere, just off the corner of Oblivion and Nether, and no major disasters so far. Really, I havenít done much of anything. Iím working on Ironminds, polishing off my final outline for the book, writing feverishly. Thatís about it.

Iíve successfully siphoned myself off from the rest of society. I have no television, no car, no social interaction. Just me, sitting here tap-tap-tapping away, with The Flaming Lips and Nirvana and Radiohead and Bob Dylan providing the soundtrack.

Itís so calm here. I havenít heard a single car horn since I arrived. Easy does it. Other than Denny, there arenít many close friends remaining in town, so there is not even the possibility of distraction. Life, for the first time in a while, is feeling good, in place, together, normal. This sojourn has been all I hoped it would be so far, and nothing more. Not a damn thing to do or see exists here, and thatís just the way I like it.

Hey Will. Itís your id. Howís it going?

Quiet, you. Go away. Back off. Iím trying to talk to my readers here. And seriously, canít you come up with a better introduction than, ďHi, Iím your id?Ē I mean, please. Thatís such a cheap way to painfully force a contrived concept into my column. Youíre making me look bad.

Yeah, Iím sure both your readers will be so annoyed by the interruption. Plus, Iíve been reading some of your last few entries, and Iím getting real sick of your passive-aggressive ďwoe-is-the-poor-little-loserĒ bullshit. Iíve been silent for too long. Besides, Iím just checking in with you. Sure is weird being back in Mattoon, isnít it?

No, not really, actually. Very peaceful. Itís pleasant to feel on top of things again.

Kind of a shame your closest friends, other than Denny, have left, isnít it?

Well, it only seems natural. My clique in high school consisted of the people who desperately wanted to leave. Most of them were successful. And itís for the best. If there were anybody else here I wanted to see, it would just serve to get in the way of my work.

So thereís nobody here youíd be interested in seeing?

Didnít I just say that? This place is my past. I havenít lived here in seven years.

O ... K. Hey, whatís that over there? Is that a Mattoon phone book? Yeah, go pick it up.


Fine. In spite of my inherent limitations as a state of being rather than a physically endowed human with free will and arms and legs, Iíll do it. Letís see here ... hey, whatís this on page 78?

Thatís GAR through GAS.

Yeah, but do you see that name on the second row, about a quarter of the way down? Thatís Amy Garrett. Do you remember her?

Uh ... a little. Maybe?

A little? Maybe? So you donít recognize her as the girl you worshipped all the way through junior high and high school? The one you were about to ask out until Shad Huddleston, one of your best friends, beat you to it? The one you watched date Shad for a year after that? Come on, Will, you remember Amy Garrett! Sheís the one you just about asked to the junior homecoming but wimped out. You wrote her long letters that you never delivered. Your friends made fun of you all the time for your thing for her!

Uh ... thatís all kind of hazy. Itís been so long ...

So long, huh? Well how about your fifth-year class reunion?

Um, donít know what youíre talking about. ANYWAY ... back to the column. Hey, readers, have I told you how much I like Woody Allen? I have? I could probably go into it some more. I remember when I first started watching his -

Five years down the line, a supposed grown man, past all those demons. And there you are, there WE are, drinking too much at the reunion, telling tales of Los Angeles, when BAM, there she was. Sheís had a kid since high school, but sheís single now and she looks fantastic. None of this is ringing a bell?

- and then Mia Farrow says to Woody, ďHow can you have so much hostility about -

And then at the after party, at the grimy bar with peanut shells all over the floor and Queensryche on the jukebox, when you lived out the most boring cliche in the book by actually walking up to her and telling her, ďYou know, I had a crush on you all throughout high school.Ē Lord! That sure was embarrassing! That wasnít even that long ago. Just three years. Heck, she was pretty drunk that night, probably didnít even understand what you were saying. You never know, Will. If sheís still single ...

Fine! You got me. That happened. Iím not proud of it. That was your fault anyway. It doesnít matter now; I donít have a thing for her anymore. And you know I have a girlfriend back in New York, and you know Iím crazy about her.

Granted. But Iím not talking about sex here. Iím talking about resolution. Jeez, arenít you curious? Amyís always been an apparition to you, a phantom, this mythic figure with no real basis in reality. She isnít an actual person to you. Yet there she is! Her number is right there! There! You could just call her. You could prove that you didnít just imagine her. Sheís your little red-headed girl, Will, like from Peanuts! Donít you want to know what sheís doing now? What she would sound like? Heck, you could just ask her if she ever liked you, or if she didnít even know you were alive. You can find out what she would have said if you had asked her out before Shad. You would finally know!

Youíre starting to sound like High Fidelity.

Maybe, but donít pretend it isnít true. You could end all the speculation and wonder right here. Exorcise those demons. All right, you donít buy that? Fine. Turn to page 109. Toward the bottom. Mark Jackley.

Surely youíre not suggesting we call my high school baseball coach.

Why not? Donít tell me you donít want to tell him off. Scream at him for humiliating you by making you keep score for a team you were on! Weíve always thought youíd be in the major leagues right now if he would have just given you a chance to play. But no. Itís his fucking fault. And heís right there. Hereís your chance.

Listen, Iím just trying to write here. This is simply a place for contemplation and solitude. Youíre just trying to make trouble.

Is that right? Okey-dokey, then, last one here, I promise. Turn to page 211.

Taylor? I donít know anyone named Taylor. Unless Lawrence moved here, and I highly doubt that.

No, no, doofus. This is Mattoon. Taylor is her married name.

Oh. No. Youíre not really going to bring up -

Thatís right. Weíre talking about Myra. Donít even pretend you donít remember.

Uh ... um ... readers, look over here! Iíll talk about my weight issues, or my dadís disappointment in me, or Ben Stein! Yeah, yeah, I was on this game show, see, and -

Havenít told your readers much about her, have you Will? Well, folks, lemme clue you in. Myra was Willís first serious girlfriend, an older girl - Will was 16, she was 21 - who was beautiful and smart and saw something in Will other people didnít see, whatever the hell that was. After much trepidation on both ends - not to mention a little fiance she needed to rid herself of - they finally admitted their mutual attraction and fascination with one another. Will fell hard for her, and she him. Everything was beautiful. Will was suddenly cool, dating some older hot chick - who could drink! And they were great together. But then -

La, la, la, I canít hear my id, la, la, la! Iím sorry, was someone speaking? I didnít hear anyone.

Then Will got cocky, full of himself, and he broke up with her, to date some sophomore who looked up to Mr. Senior Guy. Myra was deeply hurt, but she was temporarily better when Will came crawling back to her the summer before he left for college. To be with him, she broke up another potentially blossoming relationship - a costly move in a town where, at 22, youíre an old maid - and all was good, because Will was scared about going to college and needed someone who cared about him. That is, until Will met a college girl, from Chicago and all sophisticated, someone who made him feel smart, and he ended it again, this time for good. Will tried again later, after the Chicago girl turned out to be less than what he expected, but this time Myra had moved on. She was dating a cop, who forbade her from talking to Will anymore, which sounds like an unfair request to make of oneís girlfriend but, given Willís history, in retrospect looks quite understandable. And then they ended up getting married. Hey, Will, whenís the last time you talked to her?

Uh, I think itís been about six years.

Wow. Six years. The first woman you ever cared about, the one who taught you so much, the one who made you feel important, like there was something special about you, for the first time ... her numberís right there, on page 211.

I know it is.

But of course you wonít call. You wonít find out what sheís doing. You wonít apologize. Youíre just here for the writing, right? The solitude? The quiet? The peace? No demons lurking around Mattoon, no no. The place is just a joke for your columns, a quaint Mayberry, a place youíre through with, right?

Uh ... sure.

Youíre full of shit, Will.

I know.

Now, letís go get a pizza. Iím starving.

Listen, id, Iím trying to lose weight. Give me a break here.

Youíre such a wuss.



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