Being a writer isn’t easy.
Some writers work and struggle all their lives for their art, yet never find what you or I would call ‘success.’
Not me though.
I found mine on the backseat of a NYC taxi in 2007.
Almost sat on it.
It lay on the backseat, gleaming in the watery light which filtered through the taxi’s windows.
A typewritten manuscript.
“Where to, Mack?” asked the taxi driver.
“Lafayette and Bleeker,” I answered.
The driver grunted and put the car into gear.
As the taxi began moving I picked up the manuscript beside me. It bore no title. No author’s name or address anywhere on it, either. It was dogeared and well thumbed, with notes scribbled on the margins in soft blue pencil.
Over 500 pages.
I hefted it.
Heavy… with promise?
I turned down the volume in my earbuds and leaned forward. Dylan’s wail reduced to a whisper in my ears.
“Hey!” I said to the driver through the thick plastic barrier that separated us, “This yours?”
“Huh?” he replied.
“You a writer?” I asked, raising my voice to get through the plastic and lifting up the manuscript for him to see in his rearview mirror. “You write this?”
His eyes in the mirror shifted to meet mine. Without turning around, he barked, “Do I look like a fucking writer, Mack?”
I couldn’t see all of him from where I was in the backseat. Just his shoulders and the back of his head and of course, his eyes in the mirror. He had crazy eyes, wild yet fiercely focused, but every taxi driver in NYC had those.
Occupational hazard, probably.
He grunted again and his eyes in the mirror returned to the road ahead.
No, he didn’t look like a writer. From the back, with his pointy little head atop massive sloping shoulders, he looked more like an axe murderer. Especially with those eyes of his. But I couldn’t be sure, never having met one that I know of. This was New York City, though, where I lived on and off for twenty years, I could’ve met any number of axe murderers by now and not known it.
New York City.
What a town!
Hell, I thought, I should write a book about it.
But that was my problem.
I couldn’t write a book about anything.
I was a writer who couldn’t write.
Writer’s block, fear of failure, creative incompetence, call it what you will. It was that and more. As an author I’d spent my entire career farting around on the edges, never unleashing the artistic greatness I was sure was within me.
“You’ve got to shit or get off the pot!” my ex-wife used to say, for she considered my problem to be one of commitment.
My lack of it.
Or was it that I ought to be committed?
It doesn’t matter now, she’s finally happy. She got tired of waiting for this great defecation of mine she so strongly urged, and soon after left to join the circus as a bareback rider and part-time fortuneteller (two occupations she was by nature ideally suited for), eventually becoming the mistress of The Great Scarletti.
He was the lion tamer.
He’ll need to be, I thought at the time.
But that was long ago.
We’ve all passed a lot of water under the bridge since then.
Now I’d found an abandoned, unpublished book.
I stared out the taxi’s window into the wet afternoon, wondering who had left the manuscript behind. And when? Only moments ago? And why no title? Who was the author? What was their story? Did they think so little of their work that they left it on the seat of a NYC taxicab?
To be found by me, a writer who’d give his soul for a good story.
Ha! Ha! How the gods love a laugh!
Outside, it was the usual afternoon traffic jam on Seventh Ave, compounded by the icy rain. We were going nowhere fast, so instead of telling the driver I’ve found something back here, and hearing him croak “Whadaya fucking want me to do about it, Mack?” I thought I’d just read a few pages of the thing and leave the driver to his driving.
I’d tell him about it later, when we arrived at Bleeker and Lafayette.
Besides, my curiosity was killing me.
So I started to read.
It was a novel about a boy.
There wasn’t anything remarkable about this boy. No great heritage or lofty ancestry. No display of childhood genius. Nothing to foretell of his accomplishments to come, if any. He was just a daydreaming kid from California who liked to draw.
And then, just before his fifteenth birthday, he and his family moved to New Zealand.
The other side of the world.
“Lafayette and Bleeker!”
“Lafayette and Bleeker. That’s what you wanted, wasn’t it?”
I looked up from the manuscript.
“This side of the street okay?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I replied. “Thanks. What do I owe you?”
“Eight and a half bucks, Mack.”
I gave him a ten and took the manuscript with me.