“I don’t want to be a writer anymore.” A moment’s silence hangs in the air in the hope that it will convince Steve. Or someone. Anyone. “And it’s not because those guys at the real estate agency never called me back about the copywriter position that I applied for,” I say with a little more bite than intended.
Steve examines each of his fingernails with the ferocious intensity of a surgeon, moving his hand down and away from his face in an effort to see each nail in a different light. “Are you even listening, man? I said I don’t want to be a writer anymore. I’m done. Kaput. No more.” I wave my hands frantically to illustrate my nihilistic determination. “Writing’s a dead end and I’m not as good as I thought I was anyway.” Another moment’s silence as I watch him for a reaction.
I continue. “I totally get all that stuff they say about how if you want to be successful writer you have to push past the rejection and just keep trying, but this isn’t that. It’s different. I genuinely, honest-to-Allah don’t want to be a writer anymore. I tried doing a writing exercise the other day, but I just ended up drawing a picture of David Hasselhoff on Microsoft Paint. See?” I show him the picture on my phone. “I guess I got distracted or something.”
Steve’s not listening, it seems, so I allow myself to indulge in this tangent. “I don’t know why I felt the urge to draw him, it’s just what came to mind. I think I saw him in an ad on TV recently. Good on him for getting back on the horse, you know? All that stuff with his daughter filming him eating a burrito while he was drunk a while back. So sad when a family falls apart in the spotlight. But I always thought him doing SpongeBob square pants was a good career mo-“
“Bullshit.” Alas, Steve finally speaks, looking up from his freshly cleaned nails.
“Excuse me?” I say in mock disbelief.
“Bullshit,” he repeats.
“Do you care to elaborate?” He doesn’t, actually. He goes back to his fingernails, much to my irritation. We’re sitting at an outside table at café Blue, or Rouge, or some fucking colour on Little Lonsdale Street, and it’s serviced by hipsters just like me. I openly loathe the waiter’s arm tattoos because they’re at least as original as mine, and decide to sneer at him as he hands me my skinny decaf latte. His beard is potentially more pimpin’ than mine, too. Fucking hipsters.
The sun is out but the wind blows cooler than I prefer. 24 degrees my ass. “Hello yellow! … Yo, Steve!” I yell, cupping my hands around my mouth to disturb his vow of silence.
“I said bullshit. As in, you’re full of it,” he quips with a straight face. I stare at him with my mouth open, again in mock disbelief and allowing my chewing gum to spill out and on to the table. I keep my eyes on him as I pick it up and put it back in my mouth. He offers a brief glare of disgust, and then continues. “You do want to be a writer, and you’re not ‘over it’. You’re just afraid. Stop being such a pussywillow.”
“You think that if you quit you’ll be doing yourself a favour. Choose something less stressful, or something that requires less effort and all that.”
“And you think that by complaining about it to me, you’ll be able to garner some sympathy or – worse yet – get me to convince you that it was a bad idea to begin with, and that it’s better for you to give up on it and do something else. What kind of fantasy are you living in, man?”
“Kiss my a-“
“And you know what? Maybe it was a bad idea. Or maybe it wasn’t, pursuing this writing thing. But the facts – as I see them here” (he taps the table with his index finger to bring home the point) “is that you’re too afraid to stick around and follow through on it because ‘it hasn’t worked in the past’. And let me tell you, that story has been played, man.” Steve says ‘it hasn’t worked in the past’ in a childish, pouty voice while scrunching up his face.I grimace. Do I sound like that?
“I don’t sound like that.” I point a cautionary middle finger at him with the hand that picks up my latte-to-go.
Steve continues his verbal assault. “What was it, two weeks ago? You said to me – and I quote – ‘I couldn’t think of a better job than being a copywriter. It’s creative, there’s freedom to travel, and it has the potential to pay really well.” He’s still doing the whiny kid routine.
“Yeah but that was before I realised that-“
“‘and I’m good at it, and I think I’d enjoy it,” Steve continues, counting the quotes from our conversation verbatim on his impeccably spotless fingers.
“Yes, but-” I say patiently, “but that was before this last interview, whereby I clearly demonstrated that I lack the required steely nerves to write to deadlines. You gotta write to deadlines in the writing industry, mate. I choked on a simple writing task, and I totally choked in that interview.” I feel smug and look self-satisfied as I sit back with my arms behind my head, nodding to bring home the point. And then I realise that I’m doing my whole self-defeating shtick again.
“Wait,” I lean forward, serious faced again. “So you think I should continue with the writing thing? Is that what I’m hearing?”
“I think you should do whatever you want. Write, don’t write. Hiss at the waiter because his beard is bigger than yours. It’s your life, hermano.”
“I didn’t hiss, I sneered derisively.” I point out matter of factly.
“But lose the codependency spiel, man. It’s your life. I’m just statin’ the facts as I see ‘em.” He goes back to polishing his nails. I make a mental note to write a short story about our conversation today. But not before I take a sip of my latte and glare in the direction of the hipster waiter.
“And, for the record,” Steve says, breaking my concentration, “it was a burger. Did you even watch the video?”
“I beg yours?”
“Hasselhoff? His daughter? He was eating a burger. Not a burrito.”
“Well I still think SpongeBob was a good career move anyway.”
“At least we can agree on that,” Steve Chuffs.