Writing teaches us many things, not always from the act.
Terry Trueman has a way of evoking an honest response from me, which I hate because, without some nuance, writing holds no depth in my opinion. Yet, here we are after reading his piece “When Your Writing Costs You Friends,” and hopefully, this honest addendum to his thoughts adds value to that topic.
Many years ago, I fell in love with a girl so madly that not only did I write a collection of poetry but invented a form of verse just for her. While still writing the material, the topic of books arose in a conversation, during which she laughed, “I don’t really care to read.” Undaunted, I persisted in writing and eventually gave her that collection, despite knowing she did not share the affection I held for her.
From the time before our meeting and the decades following, friends, relatives, girlfriends, and many other people who knew I desired to be a novelist never showed any inkling of interest to read anything I wrote. Compounding this irritation, these people, teachers, artists, and writers, though they read nothing of mine, fully expected me to peruse their works.
Nearly a decade after losing contact with that girl for whom I wrote that poetry collection, I lived with a girlfriend who cared so little about my writing she onetime pushed a box of manuscripts into the closet beside the litter box to which the cats scratched and sprayed during their urinary repertoire. During the same period, an ambitious comedian friend visited and tested and retested each of her comedic routines, exhausting any laughter from the bits. Despite knowing we shared similar roads of artistry, she never asked about my writing. The girlfriend and friend kept company with many other friends who never cared to know anything about my writing. On rare occasions, I asked the girlfriend, the friend, and other friends to criticize something, only to receive sighs and rushed feedback.
In the years stretching from the nonreading girl receiving the poetry so diligently designed just for her, I thought much of the friends and girlfriends too consumed with life to read anything I wrote. Giving the benefit of the doubt formed many excuses, such as “they’re busy” or “they don’t have time” and “I’m imposing on them an honesty hardship should they not like the work.” Surely, these people are friends judging our time spent together and shared interests, less writing. Countless excuses exonerated them until heart failure in 2018 began a two-year, life-threatening journey of recovery, during which none of them could still be bothered with my writing. Despite knowing my effort to publish books before exiting this world, none of them found even a minute to read.
Over twenty years, I thought about that girl and the poetry I gave her, which inspired off-and-on improvements to the collection. I thought hard about her while pulling the box of writing soaked with cat piss from the litter box area. I thought hard about her when I told the comedian to fuck off and get out of my life and when the girlfriend informed me during the breakup, “Right now, I need to be selfish for me.” I thought even harder about that girl when I ditched all those fairweather friends during that slow recovery of health.
Remembering her taking possession of that poetry always brings a smile, for knowing her honesty made her more deserving of poetry than anyone in all literature’s history. Though I cannot prove it, I would bet my life she kept those rough pages of verse, even if she never read them, giving them up only to accidental loss or theft. Though I can’t prove it, I bet she thought about that collection and me, beyond the stupidity of me not calling her back and losing her friendship.
I know she did these things because she was beautiful that way. She honestly cared about people and would never have treated anyone’s dreams so uncaringly. Had I asked her opinion of the poetry, she would have told me because she cared enough to be honest, but I never needed to ask.
Writing not only reveals your friends but what makes them so valuable.