Mitch Albom hovered over me this morning. I was standing, head cocked to avoid the sun, at the bus station: 16th and Tremont.
“Why are you reading that drivel?” he moaned.
Didn’t you write this?
“Of course I did. Doesn’t mean it’s worth reading.”
I paused to think about that, craning my neck to see if the 32 had found its way into downtown traffic. The pages of “Have A Little Faith” flopped in the schizophrenic wind, gusting, then fading to a hush.
But it’s published. Everyone’s been telling me to read it, I said.
“Oh, and if everyone told you to jump off a bridge—”
—no. I cut him short.
He stayed hovering, scanning page 137.
“Ahhh, see, that line there … so hokey. Kiss-ass bullshit.”
“Yeah, I mean I could have said something more like, ‘Belief was a long time coming.’ Instead of the emotionally self-caressing, ‘Hope is all I’ve dreamed about.'”
You didn’t write that.
“Well, it’s what I was thinking. You know, when I wrote it.”
I don’t know that.
“That’s why I’m telling you.”
Look, can you just let me finish the book? I’m rather enjoying it.
“All I’m saying is that it’s sentimental schlock and I really could do better.”
Probably. I’m still enjoying the book though.
“That’s because you write sentimental schlock.”
Still no bus. The sun peered directly at my comically large coif. I squinted.
“No offense or anything,” he quickly chimed, “but what you write is self-masturbation.”
Hey, it’s Nature’s release.
“You do it too much, and you’ll grow hair on your palms.”
Right. And how does this metaphor translate to my writing?
“You write to please yourself and hope that others will enjoy watching.”
“Hey, I call it like I see it.”
Another pause. I think the wind kicked in. The sun slid behind the cash register building on Broadway. The pages of my book flopped some more.
Well if I enjoy reading it—your literary masturbation—what difference does it make?
“I feel a little naked.”
Isn’t that the idea? I mean, maybe you being metaphorically naked and OK with it makes me a little comfortable with my metaphorical body.
“We’re still talking about my book, right?”
“Yeah, I guess.” He wasn’t convinced
Scanning the first few lines of 138, he let out a desperate sigh that swam through my ear.
“I don’t know. I mean, save that stuff for my wife, shouldn’t I?”
She’s probably read this.
“Sure she has. So have millions of other people. There’s nothing to hide anymore.”
And that gave us both a pause.
So you’re saying, you want something to hide?
“Not exactly. Just something to share with a select few. Read the third line at the top of 138. Who says that to an audience of untold millions?”
That’s the point, Mitch. You’re doing what all of us want to do.
“So I’m not just beating the literary monkey?”
Well, you’re doing that too.
He nodded, tapping his chin on my shoulder.
Hey look, my bus is here. I’m gonna hop on and finish this book.
“Yeah, ok. Just, uh, don’t judge too harshly, eh?”
I’d only be judging myself. We’re both literary masturbators, remember?
Smiles exchanged, sun escaped, I crawled onto the bus and tucked myself in a seat towards the back. I opened page 139 and read a line about faith.
Have a little, it seemed to say.