Through his window he watched the rim of the sun disappear behind the top floor of the high rise across the park. Its shadow now blocked out the last rays of sun that made it through his small bedroom window. Soon it would be dark, and after that he knew his resolve to do any writing would evaporate along with the daylight. Several times he had started and deleted, started and deleted. The most he had written was two sentences, before realising the obvious flaws: the clichés, the lack of a hook, the lack of any semblance of voice or direction. He had retreated back to the blank page again, his text cursor back in the top left of the screen, blinking tirelessly. Not even a title. Four hours he’d been sitting there, alternating steadily between coffee, tea and water, perhaps somehow hoping that a different taste, a different smell, a different colour, might just bring to mind the seed of a story.
Now it was entirely dark outside, and soon she would be calling. They had only been together a couple of months, and only really got to see each other on weekends because of her busy work schedule on the other side of the city. So, they talked every weeknight when they were apart, and he was always excited when she called. Despite the relative shortness of their relationship, he was totally in love with her, and he was sure she felt similarly about him. The worst feeling he could ever imagine was letting her down, but that’s exactly what he was going to have to do. She believed in him utterly as a writer, and was the most encouraging person in the world in regards to his work. She had been extremely complimentary about what he had shown her of his past writing. Her praise was even more valuable than anyone else’s.
Recently, however, he had completely dried up. Not a single word for a couple of months now – at least not ones that had lasted more than 10 minutes on his screen. The fallow period had probably started around the same time they had started getting physical. He was worried. She reciprocated his worry, but with undercurrents of faith and certainty that it was just a phase and that he would be back on track again soon.
As his dry spell had extended, and his anguish at his lack of output sharpened, she had tried various ways to try to goad him into writing something again. At first it had been merely vocal encouragement, which made him feel better, but had not resulted in any work. Then she tried to set him specific tasks, writing about a holiday, a memory, family history – anything – but that had proved just as fruitless. He found it too stale, too predictable, not something he could sink his teeth into.
Now she had come up with the latest scheme to get him working: by promising him a very secret surprise upon the completion of a short story. He had no idea what the secret surprise would be, but he knew that she would not let him down. She knew all the things he wanted; from simple material desires, to emotional desires and even sexual fantasies. He had not kept anything from her, and she understood him better than anyone. He knew that whatever the special surprise would be, it would be something that he would cherish.
But alas, the compulsion to write something in order to acquire this special surprise had not manifested. And he sat there, staring at his own reflection in the window, with the blackness of night outside mirroring his mind’s canvas.
His phone started buzzing. It was her, of course.
He picked up, “hey you.”
“Hey sweet one, are you alright?”
“Not too bad thanks, just sitting in front of my laptop, figuring things out.”
“Oh yeah, has it been a productive day then? I can’t wait to read what you’ve written.”
He gulped, did he sense a little drip of suggestion in her voice? The special surprise was going to be sexual, he knew it. He wanted to do so many things to her body.
“It’s not that great.”
“Don’t be silly, your writing is magnificent.”
“So are your delicate little features, cuteness.”
Silence on the line as he imagined her squirming a little bit with the directness of his adoration.
“So…?” she said, after a moment.
“So what have you written? Are you going to read it for me? You know I want to give you your special surprise, but first you have to convince me you deserve it.”
There was definitely no denying the sexual undertones in her voice now. He had to have her. He had to get her to show him the special surprise. Or “do” or “carry out” or whatever the correct action would be for what she had in store for him.
“Erm, it’s about…” he faltered, not sure how to lie. “It’s not really about anything. It’s just the start for now.”
“Well I still want to hear what you’ve got, you know what your writing does to me. Especially when you read it to me in your sexy voice.”
He gulped again, unsure what to say.
“Please read me something…” she said softly, seductively.
He looked at the blank screen in front of him and screwed up his face in frustration. “I’m not sure I’m ready to do that yet.”
“Pleeeeease,” she mewled. “I know it’s just a first draft, but I also know it’s going to be great. Because you’re great.”
His heart melted. He couldn’t let her down. What was he going to do? He cast his eyes about for some kind of inspiration. His eyes fell on the book he was reading, across the table, and he quickly whipped it up and turned to a page he’d dog-eared.
“Well, maybe I could read you a little bit,” he intoned, trying to match the ripe sexuality in her voice.
“Please,” she uttered.
“OK then,” he looked down at the page he’d saved in his book, took a deep breath, and started reading. “‘Night, however, succeeds to night. The winter holds a pack of them in store and deals them equally, evenly, with indefatigable fingers. They lengthen; they darken. Some of them hold aloft clear planets, plates of brightness…’”
She listened quietly, attentively, as he read the words out of the book. He read them with passion and gusto, wringing the brilliance out of the author’s prose. When he had read a page he stopped. There was silence on the other end.
“That’s all I’ve got for now,” he said, “or as much as I want to read anyway.”
She let out a long, languorous sigh that made his skin prickle with desire. “That was wonderful. Amazing, even. I knew you had it in you. It’s so different to what you normally write. What was that part about clear planets and plates of brightness – will you read it to me again?”
He looked back down at the page he had been reading from and saw the bit she mentioned. It was truly great, but he was already feeling sick at having passed it off as his own work, especially with the effect that it had had on her.
“I don’t want to read it again… I’m embarrassed,” he concluded, feebly.
“What are you embarrassed about? It’s wonderful.”
He stayed silent, wrestling over whether to push forward with this or to come clean.
“OK, Mr. Sensitive, you don’t have to read it to me again if you don’t want to. You can email it to me, and I’ll read it for myself in my own time, in my own way.”
“Maybe when I’ve written some more…”
“No, send it to me tonight. I want to spend some time with your words, since I can’t spend any time with you tonight. I want to think about you while I read it, and think about all the naughty things you’re going to do to me.”
His trousers tightened slightly. “Erm, seriously, I don’t think I’m ready to send it yet.”
“But don’t want your special surprise? Your very sexy special surprise?”
It was going to a be a sexual thing, he knew it.
“Of course I want that, I want that so badly.”
“Well then mister, just send me your work, and I’ll see just how worthy you are. Maybe I’ll…”
His mind went into a blank fuzz as she delicately described all the things she would allow him to do, and all the things she was going to do to him. While the lower portion of his body reacted in the way that you’d expect to the graphic descriptions she was unfurling into his ear, his mind was revolting.
“Stop! Stop!” he yelped, eventually.
“What, too much for you to handle, baby?”
“Well no… yes… kind of…”
“It’s OK baby, I know you want this…”
“I really, really do… but I don’t deserve it.”
“Of course you do. You worked so hard on that, and now I want to work so hard on you.”
His palms were slick with sweat. “But I didn’t, I didn’t…”
“Didn’t write it!”
“What do you mean?”
“I couldn’t write anything today, I tried and tried but nothing was coming.”
“So what was that you just read me?”
“It was from the Virginia Woolf book I’m reading.”
“I panicked, you just turn me on so much baby and I didn’t want to let you down…”
“But you did want to fuck me, so you lied to me. That’s disgusting.”
“I know it is baby, but you’re just so –“
The line went dead.
A week later, and no end of groveling, he had managed to get her to calm down and understand. She had agreed to maintain their usual weekend rendezvous. He had brought her flowers, and committed himself to giving her no end of pleasure. His jaw was aching and he felt like he had a touch of RSI in his middle and index fingers on both hands, but things were right again between them.
Read the rest of my story where it's published, on The Wells Street Journal.