The Seventh Draft
Call me Ishmael. Or call me Lolita, for that matter. For though I shudder to think of myself as ever having been the light of someone’s life, I am certain that I have borne responsibility for the fire burning in someone’s loins. A great many someones, if I may be so bold. So, go ahead and call me a joker, call me a fool. Because, right at this moment, I’m totally cool. Clear as a crystal, sharp as a knife, I feel like I’m in the prime of my… Well, you get the point.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, I asked aloud, “When shall we three meet again—in thunder, lightning, or in rain?” And then a vagrant in the street turned her head and answered me, “When the hurlyburly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won.”
I had a dream, I tell you! I had a dream where I told thousands of Germans that I was a jelly donut—Ich bin ein Berliner! I had a dream that I was not a crook, that there would be—Read my lips!—no new taxes. I had a dream that I was back in Berlin, asking Mr. Gorbachev to tear down the wall; that our American values were not luxuries, but necessities—not the salt on our bread, but the bread itself. I had a dream that our long national nightmare was over. But it’s never over, friend, not this one.
I place my left hand on the Bible, raise my right, and repeat after you, “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” So, help me, God. Help me!
My name is Matthew Silver, and I am an alcoholic.
…and I am a nymphomaniac.
…and, at this point, on the seventh draft of this monstrosity whose pages you are leafing through ever faster, searching for the point, I have so little faith in my ability to construct a complete sentence that I must resort to cheap parlor tricks of language. I must pillage the words of others, remix them, and flip the script, if you will.
But leave me to my own devices, take away my bookshelves and leave me with a composition notebook and a box of sharpened number twos, and see what happens.
Nothing, and a whole lot of it.
But I’ll try again, of course. Because I am a writer. And this is what I do.
Originally published in Commonthought 2010 and now available in the collection All He Left Behind