He pushed himself away from the computer, fuming with a quiet resentment at his own incompetence. He walked across the room, turning back to cast a bitter look at the completely blank word processor document displayed on his laptop monitor. He could feel his momentary outburst of self-loathing sinking, morphing itself into a sense of despair. He paced back across the room, closing the computer with a disappointed sigh, his eyes falling, resting on the worn paperback he had hurriedly dropped on the desk not fifteen minutes earlier.
He had picked the novel up from a yard sale earlier that day, where he found it lounging about in a bin. He made the purchase on no more than an impulse; the cover was a painted depiction of a young brunette with sapphire eyes, but it was her warm smile that piqued his interest and convinced him to shell out a whopping fifty cents. The book followed the struggle of the woman on the cover, a young lady with a troubled past attempting to piece together the remains of her life after the murder of her only friend. She was the sort of woman it was impossible not to fall in love with, he had thought to himself. Quite consciously, he had become entirely enamored with her characterization in the novel, and this had led to a brief but fevered conjecture regarding what the author, also a woman, must be like.
Setting aside his fascination with the women—both fictional and otherwise—involved in the telling of the tale, he had only consumed a few chapters before feeling positively inspired to write something of his own, a task he had been systematically putting off for months. Excited, he had set himself to work, but it had only taken fifteen minutes for him to discover that no words were going to conjure themselves from his fingertips.
Hence, he stood there, laptop shut, book once again in hand, a quiet sense of resignation flooding his mind, opening the gates for a torrent of negative thoughts to come pouring in. You’re an impostor. A fake. A hack. Why try to put a character into words? Your own characters all abandoned you back when— he willed his thoughts to end there, unwilling to confront any ugly truths at that particular moment.
Diverted thus from its path, his mind reached for something else, eventually settling on a half-hearted warning that his wife would scold him for dog-earing the pages of the novel if she ever caught him. It was an age-old argument between them, dating back to the first month of their relationship.
“Curtis Lancaster, I don’t understand how somebody who wants to become a writer can have so little respect for books,” she had declared in a tone that was mostly joking, lounging her head on his chest and looking up at him.
He had replied then by explaining (matter-of-factly, much to her great mirth) his sincere belief that the paper the words were printed on didn’t matter at all; the heart of a story was in the words themselves. This was the most serious argument they had had in those days, when they had gotten along so very well. At that point she had found a measure of both amusement and charm in his banter about the “heart of a novel”; she laughed before climbing on top of him and kissing him, her legs entwining with his as they did so often back then.
As he thought back on that particular conversation with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, he was all at once hit with a wave of protective instinct for the young lady inside the ragged book in his hands. He crossed the room to his favorite chair and sat down. Locating the most recently dog-eared page, Curtis opened the book back up and smoothed the corner out, before he lost himself in the words printed there, resuming the process of falling in love with the woman living in them.