Chapter Sixteen

Illy stared at the typewriter. Tonight was the second meeting of The Harrison Apartment Writers Club and she needed to write something impressive in a very short amount of time. Thanks to June, she had a great outfit to wear, some interesting topics to discuss with Jay and the most decadent Oreo truffles to share. She knew that bringing snacks to parties to attract friends was a pathetic carry-over from elementary school, but she convinced herself that she was now doing it out of a genuine graciousness toward others. And really, who could resist Oreos and cream cheese? The only thing missing in tonight’s relational, literary and culinary success was a piece of writing.

She found this second meeting even more intimidating than the first. At least that time she hadn’t known what anyone else would write so she just wrote what her muse had provided—this was a phrase she was hoping to incorporate into tonight’s discussion—but this time there was so much more at stake. Should she try something funny and political like Danny? Or profound and artsy like the Maniacal Whistler? As she sat with her fingers poised on the keys she felt a pang of longing for her laptop. At least on the laptop she could fiddle with font size and look for inspiring literary quotes to kickstart her writing. The typewriter didn’t allow for much fiddling. The last time Illy had tried to adjust the volume of the end-of-row dinger, she’d had to bring it in for repair to some sketchy antique shop downtown and almost hadn’t mustered the courage to pick it up when it was ready.

Illy stood up and walked to the middle of the room to do some stretches. Yesterday when they’d met for coffee, Margaret had told her about the importance of crossing over your centre line to activate your brain’s synapses. Illy thought it sounded far-fetched, and hadn’t had the courage to ask what brain synapses were exactly, but she was definitely needing some sort of activation so she reached her arm across her body as far as she could. Then she switched arms, but it all felt like the old Jane Fonda videos her mom used to watch in the basement and which had clearly never fostered any creative outpouring in her mother. Illy sat down with her legs crossed instead. Maybe just sitting cross-legged already counted as brain activating. She crossed her arms and put her hands on her opposite knees for good measure. This felt more like an artsy yoga pose, which was exactly what she needed.

Illy closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, envisioning herself as a successful published writer and trying to hear her intuitive inner voice. After a few seconds it seemed like her inner voice was telling her to get a snack. She knew this was more inner procrastination than inner wisdom, but her mother was always telling her to keep her sugar levels up so maybe it was intuition after all. She untangled her arms and legs, which were starting to get tingly anyway, and went to find some animal crackers.

Back at her desk, a bowl of crackers and a glass of lemon water—for cleansing the mind and body—at her side, she resumed the poised fingers position. Maybe she could write something terrible at first and then white out most of the words, leaving a really avant garde poem. But what if Jay or Sally asked her what it meant and she had no idea? And she had told everyone that she was working on a novel so bringing in a poem might make her look scattered and unfocused as a writer. She slumped lower in her seat and stared with desperation at her African violet.  Considering all she did for them, the plants in her life were letting her down on the inspiration and encouragement front.

When her phone rang, Illy jumped up too quickly and knocked her chair over. She whispered a quick apology to Frank, the retired priest who lived below her and complained about the banging every time she wore shoes inside her apartment. Initially she’d felt guilty about interrupting his prayer time or something, but after he’d once admitted that he was addicted to online role playing games she’d figured he could just deal with the noise.

Illy grabbed her phone from on top of the fridge where she hid it from herself when she was writing.

“Hi Illy it’s Margaret. What are you up to?”

“Hey. Just doing some writing.” Illy stared at the crumbled animal cracker in her hand and sighed. Who was she trying to kid? “Actually no, I should be writing but instead I’m just sitting here eating and day dreaming and wishing I could spend the afternoon researching celebrity pet names.”

“Oh Illy, why do you do this to yourself? You’re stressed about the Writers Club aren’t you?” Margaret didn’t wait for a reply. Even after just a few weeks, she already knew Illy pretty well. Illy wondered again how somebody so perceptive and interesting could spend her life as an underpaid receptionist to a monster. It was such a waste. Then she remembered that she was currently spending her own life drinking lukewarm lemon water and waiting for the phone to ring, and focused on what Margaret was saying.

“..need to just start typing for the fun of it. You do enjoy writing, remember? Or has it been so long since you’ve actually written something that you’ve forgotten?” Illy made a split second decision to forgive that little jab. She knew this was exactly the lecture she needed. “I’ll call back in two hours to hear what you’ve written. I don’t care what it is but you have to read it to me to prove its actual existence. Deal?”

“Yes ma’am,” Illy smiled. She knew some day she’d have to develop her own internal discipline, but for now she was so grateful for all these quirky brilliant women who did it for her. She needed a way to thank them. Oreo truffles seemed like a fitting option. “Bye, Margaret. Thank you. Say hi to the Wicked Witch from me” Illy hung up, smiled and walked back to her desk. She give a quick bow of acknowledgment to her plant club. “Fern, girls, don’t distract me. I’ve got work to do.”


Continue Reading: Chapter Seventeen