“Would you mind if I had another one?” I ask, hand firmly on my pack of cigarettes. I was having coffee with an old friend at 10 in the evening; a distant reminder of the life of a call center drone I thought I’d left behind.
“Go ahead,” she says, her left arm tilting slightly so she could see her watch. “I still have about… half an hour before I have to go.” I shake the pack and a stick comes out. I push hard on the filter to pop the flavored bead and light up.
“Hey, whatever happened to citybuoy?” she asks as I took my first puff.
“Well, he’s still there… I think. I haven’t really checked in a while.”
“I noticed. I dropped by a couple of days ago and you haven’t updated in months. Writer’s block?”
“A huge one.” I respond, dragging too deeply on my cigarette that it starts to burn my throat. “I don’t really know what it is. I have all these half-stories in my head but when I sit down to write them, I just can’t seem to put the words together. Besides, no one blogs anymore. It’s kind of sad, really.”
“Maybe it’s like riding a bike. You just have to keep doing it until it feels normal again.”
“I don’t think it’s about me not knowing how to write per se but just me not knowing how to write like citybuoy anymore.”
“Write like citybuoy?” she asks, her eyebrow raised five meters high. “And what exactly does that mean?”
“Um… I used to write because I was lonely. Because I wasn’t happy with how my life was. That’s how it’s been for the last couple of years. But for the first time, I can honestly say I’m just really happy. Stable and finally happy.”
“That’s a good thing, right?” Her face was filled with good intentions. For once, I wasn’t sure what to say.
“I guess… Or maybe I just can’t do happy. Because some part of me knows that’s not gonna fly with the people who read me. It’s like that Alanis record after Jagged Little Pill. No one wants to hear me thanking India. They wanna read about me weeping over loss or moaning about unrequited love. The very reason they come to me is because they’re sad too.”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” she says, a little too strongly. “They read you because you are a good writer. I don’t need to tell you that.”
And so we skirt around the age-old debate of writing freely or having your audience in mind. I didn’t really feel like arguing so I just sat there, drinking my coffee and smoking the pleasantries away.
“Maybe you just need a different vocabulary,” she offers. “You know I once read that eskimoes have 50 different words for snow.”
“And I have fifteen different words for tears.”
“Precisely. So build your vocabulary. I’m pretty sure you can find more eloquent ways to say I’m stable and finally happy.”
I stub my cigarette on the half-filled ashtray. Maybe she’s right. Maybe there’s more to me than weepy prose. She grabs my hand and I look up in surprise.
“Joy,” she says, her eyes wild with fire. “Bliss… Exuberance… Gaiety!” Each word was said louder than the last one and a couple of people in the next table were starting to look.
“Um… you okay?”
“Yes! I’m exhilarated! Euphoric! You say you have fifteen words for tears well I say we need to think of fifteen words for happy. No, wait. Scratch that. Let’s just add fifteen more to your list! Haven’t you ever laughed so hard, you had tears in your eyes? Have you never been filled with so much happiness, your tear ducts started to well up?”
I didn’t want to participate because I knew what she was trying to do. But she had weaved a wonderful moment. I could feel that she was just genuinely worried that the writer in me had died.
“Elated,” I add, slightly embarrassed but happy to be participating. “Delighted?”
“There you go!”
“Said that already”
“In sheer merriment?”
“That’s it. Warming up.”
“ON CLOUD NUMBER FUCKING NINE!” I shout, fists banging on the table. The guard eyes us suspiciously and we laugh at our own brief moment of hysteria. At the end of it, I did have a couple of tears in my eyes. Some friends just get it, you know what I mean? Like they just get you. Who knows? This new thing may spell the end of citybuoy but at least then, I would know it didn’t kill the writer in me.
♫: Alanis Morissette | Thank U (1998)