"I glimpsed it out of the corner of my eye."
Yes, I'm a writer. Not much of a writer. I've never published anything and that might be because I've hardly written anything but I have to to say something when someone asks what I do. Right?
So, here I am, The cursor blinks. If only it would hypnotize me into coming up with something brilliant but it doesn't. It just ticks off the time I've wasted. If I'm not careful, it puts me to sleep.
"I glimpsed it out of the corner of my eye" is the first sentence that I hope will develop into a story .
I stand up and walk back and forth. I scratch my head, I rub my chin, I close my eyes , but all my posturing doesn't accomplish anything except to make me depressed.
So now I'm back on the bed staring at that damn cursor again.
"Oh there you are, at it again. I wish you'd stop wasting your time and go take out the garbage. Why do I always have to be the one who...oh never mind. Here's the newspaper," she says and tosses it on the bed. "I suppose it would be asking too much for you to look through the want ads and try to find a job."
Blanche says, with her usual bitchy, nasal tone.
"But I am working." I say, and prepare myself for our usual interchange of married behavior flaws.
"But I am working." She sneers, as she looks over my shoulder at the dreaded blinking cursor.
"What's this? Is this your idea of creativity. I could do that much. Some writer! Get up will you. I need to change the sheets."
This is how my morning usually ends up. Just when I'm finally ready to start really getting down to it, in she comes to spoil everything. So I get up, go downstairs and take out the damn garbage.
It's another great day in the neighborhood. Kids out playing, Mr. Sykes is mowing his lawn for the 2nd time this week. Lonely Alice Walker across the street is talking the ear off the postman and...WHOA, Linda Prichard, in her bikini, is walking around to the side of her house. She's probably going to take a swim.
I've got the hots for Linda Prichard. Ever since she moved in next door I've had the hots for her. Sometimes I find myself some odd job to do in the backyard just to get a chance to watch her, lying on her lounger. Trimming the hedge gets me up real close, and sometimes when she leans over I get a feeling in the pit of my stomach that takes my breath away. Today she's wearing a new suit. It's a bright yellow thong with a top that's so skimpy that there's 3 inches of white skin on either side of the cloth, and a bottom that leaves nearly all of her cheeks looking like round white melons that I'd love to take a bite out of. So I walk around the house and get the shears and just as I'm carefully preparing to casually stroll over to the hedge Blanche sticks her head out the window.
"Harvey! I'm going to the gym."
"When will you be back dear?"
˝Later. After the gym I have to get my hair done and then Ethel and Lucy are going to join me for lunch. Then I'm going shopping. There's a pot pie in the freezer."
With that she slams the window and soon I hear the car back out of the garage. The muffler bellows and I remind myself to take it in before it falls off and wifey rags me to death.
Now that she's gone I don't have any reason to sneak around so I suck in my gut and march purposefully over to the hedge closest to where Linda Prichard is lying and begin to clip. I am careful not to clip too much because then I won't have a reason to keep coming back to that precise spot where, through a hole in the hedge, I can get a perfect look at her. Clipping away, not actually removing anything I start to hum a tune.
"Hi Harvey. I didn't hear you come up. It's so warm I must have fallen asleep. How are you?" she says, and stretches. As she stretches her top pulls tight against her breasts. Her nipples stand out like they are coming to attention and I fantasize that I am the reason.
"Hi Linda." I say casually. "I'm fine. It's such a nice day I thought I'd get some yard work done while Blanche is away."
"Oh really? Where'd she go?" Linda asks.
I feel clever for having interjected Blanche's being gone into the conversation." Oh, you know, women's things. I don't even bother to ask any more. Aren't married couples something? Sometimes it's like living with a stranger that you see in passing on the way to the john."
Linda laughs and I feel clever.
"Oh Harvey. It's not that bad. Look at me. All alone in this big house." She sighs. "Sometimes I wish I had a man around. You know. Someone to talk to. Consider yourself lucky." She says and turns on the lounger. I swear, it's like she's thinking hot thoughts about me the way she squirms.
"Lucky? That's a funny way to look at it. Especially with me and Blanche."
"Now if I had somebody like you to come home to I'd never leave the house." I say. Score one for me.
"Blanche told me that you hardly ever leave the house." She replies with a laugh.
"Blanche.˝ I say with a dismissive shake of my head. ˝I'm a writer. I have to keep my focus on the work."
"You're fortunate. I wish I was creative. "She says. "The closest I get is coordinating my outfits. Say, do you like my new swimsuit?" she asks, sits up, turns toward me, and strikes a model's pose.
"Like it? Gosh, if I liked it any more I'd buy one for myself." I reply.
"Oh Harvey. You don't think it's too risqué do you? You're the first person that's seen it on me.
I swear, I just about have a heart attack. "No, I think it's just fine. Although, I mean, don't get me wrong but you have a bit of tanning to do."
She doesn't reply. She just sits there looking at me and then, I swear, she says, "Hay, I've got an idea. As long as you and I are both alone why don't you come over and we can talk without the hedge. If you want to swim wear your swim suit. The water is nice and warm."
"Well," I say, hardly believing my luck, "are you sure?"
"Oh Harvey, you make it sound like we'd be doing something wrong. What's wrong with a little conversation and a swim."
I'm positive it's a come on so I hesitate, playing hard to get. "Well, I don't know. I have to do this hedge and then get back to work."
"Well, you can consider it research." She says with a laugh. "After all you can't work all the time."
I laugh with her, all the time trying to keep my eyes on her face instead of...well... below. "Well, I suppose you're right. I'll go up and get changed." By this time I'm getting a little nervous. I mean I'm not gross but I do have a gut. I wish I could just go in a phone booth and transform into somebody a little more fit, but I can't, so I go upstairs feeling a little nervous. Once in the bedroom I get a great idea. I rummage in Blanches drawer and find the waist cincher she uses when she wants to look slim. I put it on, wondering as I do, how women can stand the crap they have to put on to look good. After I do that I put on the bright Hawaiian shirt that I bought at a garage sale old Mike Cortright had. Mike is one of those lucky jerks that go to Hawaii every year like clockwork. I think he's got a condo there he uses 2 weeks out of the year. Must be nice to have money to blow like that. Anyway. I've never worn the shirt because it really isn't me, being flashy, and loud, and baggy, but I wear it any way. Being flashy, and loud, and baggy it will keep her attention away from my gut. Then I get the great idea to...well...enhance my sex appeal. I take a sock from my drawer and stuff it in my suit. When I look in the mirror I'm amazed at the transformation. I look ten years younger and...well... virile. I'll just have to tell Linda Prichard I can't go in the water because I have an allergy or something.
As I'm crossing the driveway to her house I first check the street to make sure nobody can see me who knows us. Fortunately everyone is indoors except Mitch Mabre who is nearly blind, groping around his driveway with his white cane, looking for something.
Behind the house Linda Prichard just got out of the pool. She stands on the edge, and adjusts her suit. Her legs seem much longer than I remember them to be and I realize it's because the suit is cut so high. I suddenly feel very warm. My face is sweaty. I feel a little shaky. I try to think of something clever to say but my mouth is dry. Meanwhile she looks up and smiles.
"Getting hot?" She asks knowingly.
If she only knew.
"A little. It's going to be a scorcher." I say. The tight waist cincher holding in my gut is beginning to get uncomfortable.
She walks to the lounger and lies down with a sigh. "I love the sun. Don't you?"
By this time I'm sweating profusely.
"I'm indoors a lot." I say.
Yeah. Sometimes I get on such a roll that it's like a runaway train. Nothing can stop it." I lie.
"That must be wonderful," Linda Prichard replies with a smile. "Where do you get your ideas?"
"I...uhh... oh just everywhere. I'm so full of ideas sometimes I think I'll burst." I lie. Actually the only idea that's come to me is about Linda Prichard but I'm not going to tell her. At least not so early in our relationship. The beginning is the time to put on a good face and lie a lot. Later on, after she's on hook...well...then it will be different.
I wonder how long that will take. Things so far seem to be going pretty good. Her comments seem pretty seductive and I think my idea with the sock has something to do with it because she keeps looking at me. Not at it, although I know she probably wants to.
"Why don't you sit down Harvey." She says and points to the chair next toher. I do and my face gets even hotter because I'm so close that I could reach out and touch her.
"Do you ever think what it would be like if you had another life?" She asks.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, if you could create the kind of life you would really want for yourself would it be the one you have or would you do it differently?"
"Oh, it would definitely be different." I reply
"Well...I wouldn't have gotten married so early, for one thing. I mean I met Blanche in high school and we got married right after we graduated. I wanted to go to school but there were just too many things that needed to be done and going to school seemed to slide down the list. And then we bought the house and with the mortgage and all...well...here I am."
"Are you happy?"
"Happy? I don't really think about it. I mean we aren't the perfect couple if that's what you mean. Blanche thinks my writing is a waste of time, and maybe it is, but what else do I have that is anything near the kind of life I would have liked to have?"
"I never had any big dreams," she says. "I mean, I went to school and then I worked. It didn't much matter what kind of job I had. I suppose I just drifted. Then I met Charlie. He's my ex. Charlie had his own company and he was pretty successful and so there I was. Charlie's wife. He used to introduce me as the little woman and I suppose that's what I was, Charlie's wife."
Linda Prichard rubs her forehead, lays back on the lounger, and stares up at the sky.
"Stuff happened. Charlie had an affair with his secretary and we got divorced. I got a big settlement and this house and Charlie married the secretary and that was that." She says and slaps her palm against the cushion. "So, if I had it to do over again I sure would do it differently. "She pauses and looks at her fingers. "I mean I'd like to do it differently but the only problem is to do anything you have to have a dream. I mean sure, people blunder into all kinds of things by accident but that's not me. I don't have those kinds of accidents. I wish I did. So..."She paused and sighed, "...maybe nothing would have been different. If it wouldn't have been Charlie maybe it would be someone else and here I'd be, telling the same story, except maybe to somebody else."
"I'm not really a writer." I say.
"What do you mean?"
"I'm not really a writer. I'm a fake. I mean I sit up in the bedroom, sometimes for hours, and stare at my computer screen. Blanche comes up and makes fun of me. I tell her I'm working but I'm really not." I stop and shake my head. "I don't know why I'm telling you this. I've never told anybody. Hell, I hardly admit it to myself."
"Why did you tell me?"
"Oh I don't know. I look over here and see you, and you're beautiful, and you have this beautiful house, and it looks like everything is perfect, and then you tell me something about yourself, and I see that we're not that much different. Both of us live empty lives and neither of us has a clue what to do about it. I didn't want you to feel like you were the only one."
She smiles. "Wow, Harvey, I didn't realize when I invited you over for conversation and a swim that things would get so intimate. I guess that's what happens to a writer huh?"
"Yeah, I guess so, in books anyway. real life is usually like my life, made up mostly of compromise, disappointment, and regret."
"It can't be that bad."
"No, I agree. It's different for some people but not for me, and really, look at this neighborhood. It's just boring normal people going through the motions. I mean, get married, have kids, buy a house, get a job, save as much as possible for a future that might never come, blah blah blah."
˝Oh Harvey. That's such a stereotype. Is that really what you think? I mean everyone has hopes and dreams. Not everyone is like those people you talk about. Some people do those things just to get the maintenance part over so they can concentrate on what's important. I mean unless you're born rich or win the lottery you have to pay the bills somehow. There's always people who live purposeless lives. I think I lead a purposeless life and maybe you think you do too but you've got a purpose, even though you say you don't actually do it. I mean you aspire to be a writer don't you?"
"Well, yeah. I suppose."
˝Well then. Or, for example,did you know that Mrs. Ikey down the block designs dresses as a hobby. I mean she has a job in a supermarket but she also makes the most beautiful clothes. I had her make me a skirt that I treasure. And then there's Mr. Gimble. Did you know he has a train layout in his basement that would just amaze you. He makes all his own trains, buildings, landscaping, everything. He's famous in train magazines. And he works as a janitor at the high school.?
"Really, I didn't know that."
"Yes. That's what's bad about stereotypes. They don't really describe real people they just blind us to the unique qualities in everyone. But you're not alone. I realize that I do it too. Like my description of myself. That's not all I am. I know that. Sometimes I just feel sorry for myself. It's too easy to look at the surface."
"Yeah, but you just said you never had any big dreams and me, well, I never had a real life. Nothing I ever tried turned out to be anything real."
"That doesn't mean we have to give up. I mean there are new opportunities every day. Just to wake up is a new opportunity. Just because they haven't happened yet doesn't mean they won't. You have to have faith and...well... just keep on keeping on. Nothing is guaranteed."
I wonder how things got so far off track. I came over to maybe seduce
Linda Prichard and here we are talking about all these issues. I don't want to talk about issues. But I see that her idea of what is happening here and mine are entirely different. That makes me feel even worse, if that's possible. Not only is my life out of control but I'm also seeing things that aren't really happening.
"Harvey, you look unhappy. What's wrong?"
˝I feel like I'm drowning and I haven't even gotten in the pool."
"That's pretty abstract Harvey. How are you drowning and what is the pool?"
"Oh gosh, I don't think I'm capable of going into that."
"Do I have something to do with it?"
"What do you mean?"
˝Harvey I'm not totally unaware of the attention you pay to me. I mean you can only trim your hedge so many times, especially as there seems to be no difference in it before or after.˝ Linda Prichard says with a giggle. ˝I glimpse you watching me out of the corner of my eye. I'm complimented by it. I mean any woman would be, especially because I'm alone. I mean I get lonely. Getting attention from a man feels good. I probably contribute to it. I mean, take for example this suit."
"Really Harvey. It was a stretch for me to wear this. I hoped nobody in the neighborhood would see me, and then when Blanche called you I thought she'd see me & I thought WHOH! What's going to happen now? But then she left and you came back to cut the hedge and I figured well...lets see where this
"Where did you want it to go?"
"You mean did I want us to get involved? Have sex? No that's not it. I mean I like you Harvey but just as friends. Plus, you're married. I don't cheat. I guess I was just curious and, I suppose I wanted to just bring it out in the open. Do you know what I mean?"
"I feel foolish."
"Why? I mean I played a part in this too and I don't feel foolish."
"Maybe it's because you're a woman."
"What do you mean?"
"It's a guy thing. Guys like to think they're all studs and that no woman can resist them, no matter how fat or how ugly they are. You've heard that bit about men, as they get older they just gain more character..."
She nods. "Right! While women just get old. A lot of women are very insecure about how they look. Why do you think it takes us so long to prepare ourselves when we go out?"
"Yeah, I guess..."
"But it doesn't really make any difference right? Your ego is hurt because I don't rip off my suit and make mad sex right here on the lounger. Is that what you'd want?"
"Well, not right on the lounger, maybe inside."
"Oh Harvey, would that really accomplish anything. I mean you'd still be married . Would you really uproot your life. Get divorced, devote your life to me. And even if you did do you think that is what I would want? So what would be the point? We might wreck any possibility that we could just be friends. I mean everybody needs a confidant. Do you have any one you can talk to? I mean really talk to? I know it's hard for men to talk about their feelings but I don't have it easy. I've got no one here I can talk to."
"Because I'm single." Do you think single women don't have it hard in a neighborhood where everyone else is either married or a kid?"
"I never thought about it."
"Well, they do. I mean I think about moving to a community where there are more singles, but moving is hard, and I like my house."
"So what do you do?"
˝Oh, sometimes I talk to strangers. I mean, think about it. Strangers don't know any of your history. You don't even need to tell them your name. Its like a one night stand without the sex to just start talking to somebody. Tell them things you'd normally only say to somebody you know well. There's no commitment"
"That might be easy for a woman."
"No I think it's about equal. I mean men are "supposed to" make the first move right? Be the aggressor and all that but for a lot of men it's not easy. I mean the fear of rejection, you know. For women it's the same thing but with the added undercurrent of sexuality. I mean men so easily get off on the sex tangent. Like they say. Men are like dogs, or so they say. Women don't immediately put everything in a sexual context. It's probably because women are more used to talking about real feelings than men are. Men seem to talk about surfaces."
"Isn't that a generalization?"
"Is it? How often do you confide in other men?"
"Yeah, I guess you're right."
"So, think about it. If we could talk to each other. I mean really talk to each other, well, maybe it might help us both."
"Well, maybe you could talk about your writing to someone who's really interested, you know, about what's important to you and why. Try to put into words some of the things that really matter. It might help you to clarify ideas that might be put on paper. Maybe part of the problem is a lack of real ideas. Talking might break that block."
"What about you?"
"Oh there's a lot of things it might do for me. Help me not feel so alone. I mean here you are, right next door. I wouldn't have to go out looking- to bars and places like that. I've never been much for that kind of thing. There are a lot of things I would like to be able to talk about. Just to talk, about books and ideas, you know what I mean? Plus you won't need to be clipping the hedge so much." She said with a giggle.
I hadn't thought that something so simple might be an aid in getting me to do something. The lack of communication has been my way of life for so long it seems normal. Blanche and I hardly ever talk about anything that matters other than what we are going to eat or what movies are on TV. I've never talked to anybody about writing. I don't even know what I would say except that I can't seem to do it. Maybe this might help. Plus, even though we won't have sex, at least not yet, I'll get to spend time with Linda Prichard. Who knows what might happen in time?
"I glimpsed it out of the corner of my eye."