It was tempting to get righteously wasted last night, but I didn’t. I went for a run instead, and a walk on the beach, and a swim. I made myself some dinner and I flipped through a bad and boring magazine. Then I went back to the short story I started last week, and finished a first draft of 3,000 words. It was then and only then I realised the time: 12:40 am, and still no sign of Llew. I called his mobile and found him still in the office. My drinking buddy totally unable to commiserate with me – it was a pretty poor state of affairs. I sulked a little bit down the line then said I couldn’t wait up any longer, I was done with this day.
I woke up when Llew got in. I thought it was 3:30 am, but he told me this morning, when he got up at six to go again, that it was an entire hour earlier, so he slept for, gee, a full 3.5 hours instead of just the 2.5 I’d supposed. I’m glad for that, at least – I just hope it’s all worth it.
“You really need to eat something,” I said.
“I do. I’ll get a muffin at the wharf.”
“Something more nutritious than that, Llewie. Something like yoghurt and fruit and muesli that will sustain you and give you some better quality energy. Not just sugar.”
“You look after me,” he said, grinning, already saying goodbye.
“Well,” I grumbled, “I’m trying to.”
I wonder how he’s faring today. I hope the adrenaline will see him through his meetings, and that he finished what he went in there this morning to do.
I finished The Falls on the weekend, by the way, the Joyce Carol Oates novel. A strange novel in some respects, the chief female character a peculiar and not entirely sympathetic sort, a little too brittle and unyielding, but compelling nonetheless. What I admired most about this novel was JCO’s ability to create an atmosphere of claustrophobic foreboding. It was terrible, the air of dread, and the thick mist – first emanating from the Falls themselves (Niagara, natch), and then from the chemicals poisoning the air as plastics and other factories slowly take over the region – is the brooding, malevolent presence lurking at the edge of this story, the novel’s Death figure, powerful and insidious enough to bide its time. It’s an hypnotic, uncomfortable sort of engagement, as a reader, one that really sucks you across the novel’s own mythical Deadline, the point of no return, when the current commits you, the moment when you realise it’s going to take you over the Falls, and nothing will save you now. Chilling.
Now I’ve started reading Dave Eggers’s collection of short stories How We are Hungry – after Llew left, I read one this morning over a cup of tea, and the writing was electrifyingly good. Such a daunting way to begin one’s day, reading writing so superior, you have no choice but to acknowledge your own awful mediocrity. Kind of depressing, especially in light of yesterday’s kerplunk. In only 35 of Eggers’s evocative and funny pages, I travelled to the other side of the world and spent intimate time with people I felt I already knew. Writers like Eggers make me gape in wonder and hope. They make me wonder if I should just give up now, tail between my legs, whimpering and injured, but they also make me hope I’ll get better. They certainly make me want to try.