It had been a long night. Together we ushered in the new year, drinking, singing, laughing. A purple ridge of clouds painted the horizon, awaiting the coming of dawn with a quiet patience. All above remained a crystal, chilled blue. The trees appeared decorated with powdered sugar and globs of white frosting. An unbroken blanket of fresh snow carpeted the hillside.
We drove carefully till at last we arrived at his apartment.
"Sit. You will stay for one more, won't you?"
"I've already had too many. Let me go now."
"It won't do. Open another beer. You know where they are."
I refused to take off my coat, holding my gloves in my left hand, unpocketed keys in my right.
"Oh go on, then. Look at you."
The day was already ruined. I knew that. But I was afraid that if I sat down I wouldn't get up.
"Have I ever told you the story about Jose Cordenio?" Here it was. Fresh bait. A new story, if I would stay.
He never admitted to loneliness. Never owned up to a human feeling at all on that score. To what great lengths he would go, however, in order to keep me around.
"Jose Cordenio the writer? Friend of de Unamuno and Bunuel?"
"The same," he said.
"When did you know Jose Cordenio?"
"After the war. In Zurich. A strange man."
"From Barcelona. Left his homeland when Franco came to power. Had a Jewish wife who was taken by the Nazis when he was in Paris. The war did him terrible."
And so it was that I removed my coat and remained with him for the duration of two more beers. I drove home in silence, accompanied by an image of Jose Cordenio painted in tragic hues across the canopy of my soul while the crisp, brilliant sun -- reflected with such brightness that my eyes were stabbed with it -- illumined my way.
Happy New Year.
Depressing above all is this: the feeling of futility associated with all my efforts to achieve something worthwhile. Is my labor in vain?
Now seated on the emerging threshold of a new year, I see the expanse of time uncoiling before me and I ask myself, What? Which? How do I determine what is worthwhile and what is futile? Is it for love or money that we pour ourselves out?
I would never have asked him to speak of it, but it was evident the time had come when he raised the matter himself. Like all other topics we examined, he would begin falteringly at first, backing into it by accusing me of not being interested in yet another tale of his, chiding, almost childishly, my disinterest. When at last I would concede, he would put me off further still, until I was torn between begging and giving up. Crazymaker he.
Now here it was. He would tell of the scar which time had never healed. He would speak of it plainly. He would tell the story that had never been told. Together we would examine his sorrow.
"Oh. This again," I said.
"I want to know why you created me."
"I don't know. I had a need, I guess."
"And now you never visit me. You went away and haven't been back in more than a year."
"Life goes on. I have other friends now."
His hand ran up to the side of his head and over the top, mussing his hair. "Is it a woman?"
I stared at the floor, my palms flat against my thighs.
"I don't like the way this is ending," he said. His voice was soft, resigned.
"It's best," I said. "I wanted people to know you, but now... I have a life, too. I have to get on with things."
"Where will I go? What will I do?"
"Does it matter?" I said. "You've been captured on paper and you will live. That's more than I can say about my own life. You will be remembered. I will be forgotten. That's just how it is."
"Oh, you'll be remembered," he chided. "You get the byline."
"Get out of here," I screamed.
It sounds harsh, but it's a writer's right, isn't it? I created him. I had grown tired of him.
It could have ended differently. I didn't torture him or shoot him or hang him or have him suffer through a long illness. I suppose it was cruel to neglect him and I've been feeling crummy about it. At last, he's finished. No nursing home. No intensive care. No hospital bills.
I'm waiting for some other character now. Someone who smiles a lot, with a mouthful of nice teeth and a sense of humor. I'm a bit weary of heavy, complicated characters. Someone funny would be great. Or maybe a talking animal. Hopefully we'll get along. Writers tend to develop their characters better when they care about them.
In the meantime... Enno... wherever you are.... I'm sorry. You're part of my past now. I needed to move forward.