old typewriter The Writer, Revised

Will Hochman

The writer had to concentrate on the face. Even if it wasn't really "her," she thought the phony profile might pay well. She had even pasted the rejection letter on the edge of the computer screen though she hadn't yet decided on her next pen name. She looked into the computer for a place to start. She had to write herself as someone else. She'd become someone new and sexy, someone whose man would not leave her or even let himself be seen watching another woman.

Typically, the eyes would begin her first sentence, but she had already used the mix of light blue and brown of her eyes for another "real life" character and wanted this profile to capture something else, maybe something cool and wild, something like Patti Smith sang about with her midnight voice. The writer needed a rocky, slate gray shade for her eyelids, and yes, she knew too that at the moment she needed words more than makeup. Maybe she could use Patti Smith's eyes -- dark holes that pierce people while her voice draws them in. But this improvised mirror performance wasn't getting her anywhere near the cool mix of musical notes and clicking keyboard strokes she'd wanted. She'd get it eventually --maybe when wanting let go.

Strolling through herself like a museum, the writer decided she would give in to her irrational love of disjunction by beginning with her chin as though it were her eye. With the right punctuation, she could make the line of her chin's curve almost into a Y. Her own chin was pointed and angular, an edge she could play up with powder, but the chin on the page was not as easy. She'd make the skin darker and thought she would have to come back to it later.

Her writing eye traveled next to her mouth. She would make her lips thick and poised for a boldly seductive "yes..." The writer felt good about her lips -- in reality they may have been her best formed feature since they were full and seemed well curved even in a frown. Not now, though. This mouth needed to bend itself around the right word. She said "oooh" out loud to get the seductive shape right. She wondered if this was what she really wanted? Her professors had warned her about the hardships of the writing life, but what did they know? "Oooh" she said slowly again, letting her diaphragm vibrate long and deep. Just saying "oooh" made her feel bold. She was not going to let their past tense shred her now. "Oooh" she kept saying until warm waves of imagining almost took her to some far away, future shore.

Softened somewhat, she realized now she would have to make her nose less out of joint. Her brother used to call her "The Beak" because her nose was curved. For years she couldn't hear or see anything of her nose beyond her brother's taunts. Nevertheless, she wouldn't give her character the nose job her brother tried to make her want -- she would keep the nose curved a bit for character, and maybe she would even make the image seem bird-like. (After she was done she would remind herself to try on that crazy purple hat with exquisite yellow and brown ostrich feathers -- wearing wild hats always made her feel better about herself.)

"Wings" she muttered at the computer as she sat back from the keyboard and thought of that odd Wallace Stevens poem she'd never really understood, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." An old English professor had told her she was brilliant in her exegesis of the poem. He'd wanted her to publish her paper and all she could do was think about how "exegesis" is a silly word for wondering about a poem. She also wondered if he was giving her a line to get into her pants. She hadn't read a poem since. It was probably at that point that she decided to become a journalist with deadlines, not a poet with a death wish. Everywhere her thoughts were trying to fly her away from her writing and she tried hard instead to keep her mind on her task. She concentrated on darkening her nostrils without flaring them too much ... just enough to show her skin's wanting and its luster shining like a soldier's salute to freedom in memory's blind army of confusion.

What would she do about the forehead? It was simply too large, and in this paragraph it would simply make her look larger than life. She hadn't earned much of an ego at this point in her life and she certainly didn't feel big-headed. Maybe that's why she felt at odds with all of her lovers. Once inside heads and words, all the moist sex in the world doesn't change what is written or said. That's probably why she still bothered with makeup in the first place.

She would learn how the world loved to discard women like her and she would learn not to give in. She would keep her forehead large, she decided, but in proportion. And she would keep her hair its original shade of brown, though not without her now characteristic touch of henna highlights and eyebrows. Maybe she would make her hair longer to cover up her ears? They simply heard too much beyond the thrill of an exploring tongue. Besides, no matter what piercings and earrings she chose, her ears might seem too small and boring--better to keep them out of sight.

All this for that rare type of person who was intelligent and perceptive enough to look into a woman searching for something real in her, something similar in himself, something together.

She really wanted to reach into her writer's soul and print out exactly who she was. She wanted to be a magician who pulled exotic images out of old-hat words -- someone with art up her magic sleeves. "To hell with sexy dumb bunnies -- there's no abracadabra to spread legs" she writes as a possible lead for the profile. This way, the pride and brilliance in her concentrated eyes would not be so enigmatic and unexpected. She would use a few tiny wrinkles, shading really, but only on one side of the mouth so her smile would be distinctive and imply the answer is "maybe" if he tells her the right things. That way there would be no doubt that she was playful and experienced, while there would also be enough doubt to make what's next feel almost urgent.

She frowned. What she really wanted was to write herself into a woman without boundaries and this wasn't working. She wanted to stop. She was not sexy at all. How could she be? You have to have sex to be sexy. She could change, she thought... but for what man do words make the woman?

She turned the computer off and walked away from the screen. Writers don't get fucked, they only write about it. Some nights the best they can do is change gender to fuck themselves. She slipped into her black leather skirt, heels and a red silk blouse one button shy of propriety. Her clothes felt wrong, but she didn't stop. "To hell with words!" she screamed to herself. She didn't hesitate to wear her reddest shade of lipstick and pout her lips for the finishing kleenex before running out into the slick, wet, night saying "oooh" until it hurt.


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