He stood, looking down upon me, his warm eyes full of compassion. Were it not for his age, one would have thought the tremble in his voice was for me. Maybe it was. It should have been. I could have lived a thousand years before hearing what he said next, but then, I expected it. I’d seen the symptoms; I knew in my heart what he’d say was true. Bracing myself, I tried to think; maybe it was a dream, maybe this was some crazy person’s wild imagination. Maybe it was mine. Was I a character in my own story? My heart quickened at the thought. I’d heard about being one with nature, was it possible to be one with your book, your story your characters? If so, who was I? Was I the villain like Snidely Whiplash? or the hero in shining armor? Or was I just a fly on the wall passively observing the events of my life, detached, apathetic, aloof.
No, that couldn’t be. I am alive, making my own decisions, my own choices or so it seemed. My wife was right, you know.
“You’re so distracted,” she’d say … guilty. Fact of the matter, I was. She’d be twittering on about the neighbors and I’d be plotting. Whenever she would read out loud from a novel, I was one step ahead telling her what would happen next. Most of the time I was right. Some people collect stamps or baseball cards or recipes. I collect words and sayings. Some people listen to music. I listen to the voices in my head. Most people read to relax, I read to learn. If a child did what I do, they’d have their mouth washed out with soap for lying, yet I get paid to do it. Funny how things turn out.
“You have all the classic symptoms.” His eyes, rimmed with moisture told me what his lips failed to say. Those six words, studded with revelation, confirmed it. Being diagnosed with arthritis or tendinitis, or any of a dozen “itis’s” would have been devastation enough, but this? This? No.
I slumped into a chair and let its soft leather absorb my weight. Laying aside my pencil I screamed at the top of my lungs.
“Oh, no you don’t!”
Picking up an eraser, I began to rake it across my scribbling. The paper rattled and shook in protest, yet I continued. As I did so, I felt my life slipping away. It was happening. I was the character in my own story.
Grasping my pencil again, I pressed its point to the faded words and traced them with care. Breathing became easier, my shaking fingers calmed and the parts of my body reappeared. I flexed my neck to release the tension. There, I was whole again.
Looking into the mirror, I smiled, “You are right. I have all the symptoms. I’m either bi-polar, schizophrenic … or I’m a writer with an acute case of authoritis.”