::: the novel written in seven hours :::
"Christ, Allen, why don't you just leave that infernal woman be?"
"I don't know, Eric, it's just.... I, mean, if only.... I wish.....I don't know."
Eric and Allen sat in their usual spot at the Northside, Eric smoking a Marlboro light with the filter broken off. They ate lunch there at least once a week, using each other as a diary. They trusted each other with strict confidentially, to the point where Eric had actually told Allen about his birthright-thingy. Apart from knowing every slightest intimate detail about the other's life, the two actually had nothing in common; they had met in college in a creative writing class that Eric had taken as a lark, had been in a group together, and had somehow become best friends. Sometimes in friendship, having alphabetically adjacent last names can compensate for anything.
Although he was just above average to those who enjoyed the style he employed, Allen considered his poetry to be chocolate cake for overeaters, pure genius. When they first met, Allen considered himself to be a literary mentor for Eric, until he found out that Eric was the culmination of human evolution. Now he considers himself lucky that Eric treats him as an equal. Eric always considered Allen as an equal who wrote mediocre poetry. He figured Allen could probably use a little more self-esteem, but who couldn't?
"You know, Allen, if it makes you feel any better, David came by today to lecture me about my responsibilities again."
"Oh sure, I get cast out by the woman I love, but you're the savior of all humanity...."
"Right, sorry. I was just trying to coyly change the subject. I don't think it's good that you always talk about her. And you're not in love with her, you just think you are. If you were, you would have taken your poems to her before Jane. right?"
"I thought so. Listen, I know you're not a superficial guy, so let's just agree that's she's a cutie, and leave it at that. All men are attracted to red-heads, especially with bright green eyes. You're just nuts about her like that because she likes your poems. That's no base for a relationship. And the way you try to push them on her, it's gonna make her hate them, and when she crosses the line, which I think she may have just done, it's going to crush you."
"How you figure?"
"Well, she was the first person to approach you independently and tell you she liked your work, and since then she's the only source of approval you've ever sought. If she ever stops telling you that you're not good at doing what you love doing, you'll have nobody or nothing else to validate you, and you'll shrivel up and die."
"What about you?", Allen asked in a tone that would have ashamed him had he heard himself.
"You know how I feel about your stuff," Eric said as he put out his cigarette, immediately taking out another, breaking off the filter before lighting it.
"Why don't you just buy non-filtered cigarettes, instead of pulling this show? 'Hey, notice I'm smoking a filterless cigarette!'"
"Screw you too. These are cheaper, and they all come from the same place anyways."
"You know they'll kill you."
"You know I'm not concerned about my, or anyone else's, future."
"You're concerned about mine."
"Well, that's because I know you. But I'm not about to spend my life galavanting around trying to solve the world's problems, holding everyone's hand because they're not as good-looking as they want to be or because they can't get some girl to like them.... Shit. Sorry, Allen."
"That's allright. I would be offended if it wasn't true, but it is."
"You know that, so why can't you accept it?"
"Well, ...., well, how about you? I swear, sometimes I wish I was you.... wait, no, I wish I was me in your shoes." Both laugh at Allen's crack.
"Where did that come from?" Eric asked, happy that their conversation was progressing to a deeper level.
"Well, " Allen continued, "consider everyone besides you in this diner. Us schmoes spend most of our lives either in denial of or reconciling with our mediocrity. But you, you can't accept your superiority. Do you realize how whacked out that is?"
Eric laughed his hearty, self-loathing laugh. "Of course I do. That's why I wonder why the hell you'd want to be in my shoes. Trust me, if I could, I'd sign this whole deal over to you."
"But you can't. Who you are, no one can do what you can do. It pisses me off that you just sit there and waste your potential while I struggle and fail to improve myself."
"Christ, you sound like my guidance counselor."
"You obviously never had a guidance counselor." Laughs all around.
A brief silence passed between the two and they considered where they wanted the conversation to digress to, what they thought of the other, and what the other thought of them.
"You know," Eric broke out, "Sometimes you amaze me. It's easy for me to be less than what I can be, but it's impossible for you to be more than you can, and yet still you try. You said you've accepted that Charel will never love you, but you chase after her in defiance of that fact. Granted, we've all pursued a rejecting women, but I've never seen such diligence. You're no master poet either, and you devote your entire life to it. I think you don't even like it that much. Feel free to interject at any time in your defense, "Allen laughs at himself, "you don't even know if you can do anything else, because you've never tried. Hold on."
Eric pauses to put out his cigarette, and light another, before he says something he'll regret.
"You do realize," Allen pointed out, "that we're both hypocritically arguing each other's hypocrisy of lecturing about accomplishing things?"
Eric paused with his cigarette and stared at Allen before bursting into laughter. "Yeah, ain't it great? Let's go kill time somewhere else."
Driving around town in a spiral towards an unknown destination, Eric and Allen shot the shit as if they hadn't just been engrossed in a conversation about life.
"You know, Allen, I've been thinking about learning how to work on cars."
"So you wanted to clear out your garage, take a car apart in there, and then leave it and forget about it."
"Exactly. Can I use yours?"
"Sure thing. If you can fix that car, then you truly are the genius those guys say you are. That thing has no reverse, no horn or blinkers, a hole in the transmission, and a wrecked front door from me backing up with it open."
"I know. You always tell me when I ask you to drive."
"Eric, I'd be happy to drive it. Right into a ditch. That would end this whole 'what do we do with ourselves' debate."
As they chuckle, Eric rants, "God, what are we doing? Sometimes I think it would be easier if I just went out and saved the world. Now how retarded does that sound?"
More chuckles, then silence for several blocks as both think to themselves about nothing in particular. Coming out of a daydream that involved Meghan from work, Eric realized that they were relatively close to the apartment building where Charel lived. Although he didn't say so to Allen, more for just something to do than anything else he turned and said, "You know what? Fuck the World. How about I help you out. Let's go straighten this thing out with Charel once and for all."
"What?!? Absolutely not. Bad idea, real bad. I don't like that one bit. Hey, how 'bout we go to that movie I talked you out of earlier?"
"Because that was before lunch, and I spent all of my cash at the diner."
"Well then I'll buy your ticket. C'mon. Repo Man, big screen, you know you wanna."
"I don't think so. Besides, this will be good for you. A growing experience, if you will. And just let me say," as he laughed "that you would have more control if you were driving," and made the turn towards Charel's place.
"I don't believe you. I don't believe you're here." Charel had changed out of her robe into jeans and a oversized green wool sweater that bagged sloppy, but still sexy, around her shoulders.
"Don't blame him. I dragged him here." Eric interjected, going into diplomat mode.
"Because I think you two have something you need to talk about."
"I don't believe it......" Charel threw the door closed and she turned and regressed into her apartment, fully expecting Eric to brake the door with his foot and enter behind her. He did, with Allen behind him, looking like a child watching his parents try to fix a broken toy.
...on to Chapter Eleven...
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