She is traveling downtown on the bus.
She is reading his novel while traveling downtown on the bus.
She wonders if the other passengers are aware it is an autographed copy she is reading on the bus.
She is reading his novel and wants the other passengers to know it is an autographed copy that she is reading. She needs them to know it is not a lame, generic signed copy, “Best wishes to BLANK,” but a unique, intensely personal copy that he has signed JUST FOR HER: “To Barbara, thank you for your brilliance, your understanding, your support, your loveliness.”
He has written these words to her because he thinks she is Brilliant. Understanding. Supportive. Lovely. He has picked up on her loveliness and her brilliance and immortalized these qualities by writing them on the acknowledgements page at the beginning of his novel.
She bought the novel at a garage sale but he doesn’t need to know that. She bought his novel at a neighbourhood garage sale out of a big cardboard box for 50 cents but it was in not too bad condition and he had no way of knowing that she hadn’t even read the book when she asked him to autograph it. She held it out to him slightly dog-eared and coffee-stained like she had carried it lovingly in her knapsack for two years when in fact she still hadn’t read it, but he didn’t need to know that.
She is reading it now, and she hopes the other passengers on the bus can tell, can somehow sense that it is a special, personally autographed copy she holds; somehow know that his exceptionally nimble, slender writing fingers had touched the nib of his pen to this fine debut effort that critics had called a tour de force, a promising new literary voice and had written her name — Barbara — leaving no doubt that his creative, tortured soul had been touched (supported, in fact) by her brilliance, her understanding, her loveliness.
She wishes she could nonchalantly let the book slip onto the floor of the bus and have it fall open to the page with his name on it, flaunt the page that has been blessed by his blue felt marker, the page on which the author revealed that his tormented, unfulfilled life had been touched, altered, forever changed by her. By her loveliness. By her brilliance. She had been Chosen. He had signed it For Her.
She wonders if the book is loosely based on his own life (of course it is.)
She wonders if he has used her as inspiration for any of the characters (of course he has). She wonders if he has really left his wife. She wonders if there is any place for her in his library. (Of course. Of course.)
She looks up from his novel and discovers there is no one else left on the bus.
She has missed her stop. She is in a different part of town.
She becomes aware that she is in his neighbourhood.
She becomes aware that she is seeking him out.
She feels her heart beat faster.
She becomes aware that she has to see him: in his house, in his garden, in his car, walking his dog, speaking to his children. She has to be near him. Watch him. Study him. Thank him. He will see that she is engrossed in his book. That she is worthy.
He has to see her. To recognize her genius. Her beauty.
He has to realize she is the only one for him.
She is the only reader. He is the only writer. His are the only words; hers are the only eyes. She must make him aware that she can see inside him; that she understands him like nobody else.
She can read him like a book.
She becomes aware that she, and only she, can fix him. Edit him. Save him.
She sees herself massaging his spine. Restoring his binding. Extending his shelf life.
She sees herself lulling his muse into a false sense of security, then smothering her with a pillow. Poisoning her. Drowning her. Burying her in a shallow grave. Burying his tired old muse so that she, the brilliant, the understanding, the lovely Barbara, can be there for him. She will be there for him because he is The Word. And also because, she has decided, he has nice handwriting.
She glances out the bus window and notices that night has fallen. Night has fallen and she is overcome with a sad awareness that she knows nothing about this man. This author. This stranger. Nothing except that he is a teller of stories.
All lies, probably.
It doesn’t matter. She is not ready to turn the page on him just yet.