“It was 1994.” His voice came from underneath my desk, but the tone told me the hidden face smiled. He wore navy blue utility pants with a few white stains around the ankles, when he bent his legs to slide out I caught a glimpse of thick socks. “I was home sick. That’s when it came to me. I called my sister right away, told her all about it.”
The idea, his idea, the amazing, super awesome plot he was going to write. “What is it about,” I prompted, even though he didn’t need it.
“That’s the scary thing, it’s about the twin towers and terrorism. A group from the Middle East. What I was going to write, it happened. So it’s not really fiction anymore, but I’m still going to write it.”
We checked the internet connection together. Satisfied it worked, the technician moved on to the TV. We already exhausted the usual topics of conversation. He came from the Caribbean like I did. We both thought the weather was too cold. Cable and internet services were too expensive. I moved to shorten my commute. All very typical, the kind of conversation you have with a half a mind while you open boxes and worry about shelf space with the other half.
Until I told him I wrote. “I don’t read novels.” He grinned proudly. “But I’m going to write one.”
I listened to the plot, nodded in the right places. Finally I asked the hard question. “If you’re going to write it, why don’t you? You could start tonight.”
“When I get home from work I’m tired. I work hard all day.”
“Tomorrow morning, get up early.”
“No time. I’m up for work at five anyway.”
“So get up at four.”
He laughed a rich Jamaican laugh that reminded me of all the things we’d reminisced about: meat patties, conch fritters, and playing cards before a hurricane. I thought I loved the sea once, thought I loved it enough that I couldn’t live without it. I haven’t seen it in almost a year now.
“Can’t get up at four, I need my sleep!” The cable finished, he handed me a form to sign. “I retire in two years. I’ll write it then. When you love something, it can wait.”
I thought I loved the sea, but it turned out I was wrong. In the end, when loving it meant giving up other things, I learned to live without it. I can’t live without writing. I love it enough to give up sleep, leisure time, conversations with family, good food, better sex. When you love something, it can’t wait.