"You keep 'em," she says, and I'm sober and she is the exact opposite of that, so at first, I have a little trouble understanding what she’s talking about. “Words. Fuck ‘em. I don’t like them anymore.”
“Are you trying to hurt my feelings?” I ask. “Because right now, you’re breaking my heart.”
There are some people who are writers whether they like it or not. You can spend your life writing nothing but Christmas cards and thank-you notes, but if you’re a natural-born writer, it’s going to show. This chick, she hasn’t spent her life writing Christmas cards and thank-you notes, but it could be argued that her talent was wasted as if she had.
Flash back with me, won’t you? Not a long flash-back, just a few minutes. 12:22, a.m., to be exact, just barely into the 5th of July. I’m knocking back a Bawls energy drink and preparing to write all about it. My phone beeps, indicating a text message.
“Where the fuck are you?”
These kinds of messages, I get them sometimes. From various people. Because when you’re a person like me who hangs out with people like the people I hang out with, there is often confusion, location-wise. Questions that seem like they should be easy to answer, like, “Where are you,” sometimes they aren’t. Generally easier to answer than questions like, “Where am I,” though, which I also get on occasion.
I reply that I’m in Austin. Because that’s where I live.
From there, we engage in a garbled text conversation that somehow manages to span for almost half an hour.
And while I’m in the middle of telling her that I’m listening to shitty 80s music and writing about energy drinks, my phone rings.
“Where the fuck are you?” she asks.
“I’m…still in Austin,” I tell her.
“What are you doing there?”
“Listening to shitty 80s music and writing about an energy drink.”
“You know…you keep ‘em.”
This is where you came in.
“You know what I want to do?" she asks. "I want to sail and talk to my friends and drink and take pictures and…what else do I want to do? Shoot the shit with my friends. Because you know? That’s what life should be about.”
“Have you been talking to Trey? You’ve been talking to Trey, haven’t you?”
“You’re damn-right I have!”
“Don’t join his cult. He’s going to try to get you to, don’t do it.”
“Is it a pyramid scheme?”
“Not pyramid,” I tell her, “But it’s a scheme all right.”
“I’m in. Already I’m in!”
“It’s brainwashing. He repeats his idea over and over, louder and louder, and he gets you drunk. It’s a classic tactic.”
“I like that. I like it. Hang out with friends and drink and talk and listen to music. And sail. Do you know what I did today?”
“I took pictures of a rodeo. Of a hostile rodeo!”
“I don’t even know how to interpret that statement.”
“I am the enemy!”
“You and I, we’re worth it. We need, you know what we need?”
“I…don’t?” Even with the energy drink, I’m starting to get a little lost at this point. Like if you’re watching a YouTube video, and it freezes up for just a few seconds and then launches back up to speed, and you’re like, “Wait, I heard the noise, but what did he hit that other guy with, and why is there a table of frozen fish, now?”
I feel like maybe I missed a step or two.
“We need a publication.”
“Hell yes we do,” I reply, because this is something I’ve been telling people for years. A publication. Of course. Not just words on the internet—something solid. Ink on paper, something you can roll up and smack your dog on the nose with when he pees on the rug. Something you can read while you take a dump, something you can take on the bus or leave on the subway. Something physical, something tactile. Something I can still show people after the robots have rebelled, after they have started to delete humanity, one crude website at a time.
“You write it," she says. "Do it.”
“Wait, what? What about you?”
“You, you poor, dumb bastard, that still likes words, you write it. I sail now. I sail and I take pictures of rodeos. That is who I am.”
“Okay? That’s gotta be worth something. You and I?”
“So…you’ll take pictures?”
“I take pictures! I’ve given up on words. You take something with words, something I’ve written, and you hold it up next to a picture, one tells a much better story, and it’s the picture. Fuck words.”
“Hey, come on, now.”
“I take pictures, and they aren’t so bad.”
“Of course they’re good—I’ve seen your camera, it’s huge.”
“It is, and you’ll write about it.”
“Wait, I’m confused right now.”
“No! No you aren’t!”
“I’ll write about what? About you, or your camera, or you taking pictures with your camera? Or rodeos?”
“Yes! Yes! Write it!”
“Yep. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but I’ll write about it.”
“You better. I have to go to sleep or pass out now. I love you, Ray.”
“I love you, too.”
That’s the crazy thing about cellular phones, is that if you wait long enough, they still click, that final sound of being alone and confused. It isn’t the same click as a phone being cradled, but it’s there, that sound of silence, that disconnect, that being alone once more.
I pull up a new white screen and begin typing…