New Year’s Day. Almost two months since Lauren’s last post: that can’t be good news. And it isn’t.
This is me abandoning project. I m leaving this book, Mirage, and I m taking everything that was left of it with me. The final blog post, already written, about my four writer idols – Sam, Rafael, Dani and Henry? Too bad. I just can’t find the heart to finish it. It was just a few sentences really, all in Henry’s part. All the elements were there, I just had to weave it together, get his approval and then Mirage 6: Quatre Men was done.
Maybe it was that: the approval. Maybe that is what delayed me until I just didn’t want to invest any more energy into it. It’s not that Henry literally asked for veto rights, nor even brushed on the subject of what to do when meeting a blog-all diarist. He didnt have to. During our date he mentioned two things I couldn’t write about. Which were not unreasonable, but I think just the fact that he didn’t trust me with it took the fun out of writing. And it made me insecure. What more things were there that I would thoughtlessly share, that were painful for him?
But in all fairness: it wasn’t just Henry. There were a lot of reasons why I am pulling the plug on putting my most intimate thoughts online. But before I leave, let’s have the good part first: the paragraphs, on seeing my three younger idols, Rafael, Dani and Sam. All in one night. And the timeline is in reversed chronological order, because, hey! I wanted to try something new, okay?
I have known of Dani’s existence since a crowded barbecue, attended by soccer players, young families and other illiterate like my boyfriend. It wasn’t exactly my crowd but at least it proved my boyfriend was unrelated to wanna-be journalists, freshly-debuted-authors, and other nearly-graduated 20 somethings. An incestuous group and effective pet peeve.
A half-naked gorgeous man was chasing a football. Sleeves of his sweater tied around the waist. He was wearing jeans and sneakers but despite his casual clothing the skill to handle the ball was obvious. A Golden Retriever ran besides him, barking enthusiastically.
“Who is that?” I asked.
“That is Dani, he lives in Amsterdam. He has a lot of sex. He’s writing a book.”
I had to hate him.
This was of course highly immature. When a half-naked athlete turned writer, good with animals, playful approach to sports, when someone like that comes within a 100 meters there really is only one suitable response: To go in, and give it your best shot.
But there was another reason I didn’t do that, aside from the fact that he was up to his chin in the circle of my arch enemies. Because Dani was not my type. I fancied dark sturdy men like Rafael, who had lost 15 kilos since I first met him in 2012, but had managed to stay attractive. I fell for gym addicts like Sam, who was not only the most successful author his age but also the only one who could still become an Armani model. I liked big bodies and childlike big brown eyes. Dani had small eyes like a predator, just like me. He was white, just like me. He had a blog (guilty) and was promiscuous. Something I was always accused of but that was definitely untrue. Hooking up with Dani would be as lethal to my reputation as doing his whole team.
So in the end it was a well-considered decision to hate Dani.
And he didn’t know me. He wouldn’t feel a thing.
Fast forward Spring 2014.
I’m killing time in a book store at the station. I have to wait. Long. Too long. Meanwhile Dani’s book is staring at me from the shelve, with the most ridiculous title. Shall I read the back cover? Probably a hideous hotchpotch of recommendations from women’s magazines.
I turn it around.
And I recognize a man who writes about himself without trying to hide his flaws. “Yes, I do drugs, I did too many women, hurt the ones I love and I don’t deal with my emotions. And it makes a hell of a story.”
He had been blogging for years about his messy life. Just like me. But he had managed to take his blog to print and get it the attention it deserved. I didn’t. Not for four years.
And what was my excuse?
At best; A business to run, two fragile cats to take care of. And I kept my house clean and my affairs in order.
At worst: Lack of back bone and an internet addiction.
Dani had beat me by a miles length, half drunk, definitely high and screwing more in one year then I d probably do in a life time. This man deserved my respect.
Fast forward November 2014, around 11 pm.
The show is over. Even the group selfie has been taken with all authors – including Dani, Rafael, Sam- and the entire team responsible for making this annual event a success. I ve left my seat and walk up to the stage. Dani spots me and walks up to meet me. I’m not sure if he recognizes me from Twitter or by the book I carry.
“Hi, we’ve never met in person,” I introduce myself. “Lauren.”
He squats down to my height, a friendly slender suit with disarming sneakers. Black hair nicely groomed, the small brown eyes connect curiously.
“So cool you bought my book.”
And he takes it from me and starts to write the first page. Sam walks by, quickly ruffling Dani’s hair.
“Stop teasing me!” I shout to Sam. And then to Dani: “You were contantly touching each other during the show. It was highly erotic.”
Dani giggles, handing over the book. ”Want me to introduce you to him?”
Before I can say that won’t be necessary, he jumps up, grabs Sam’s wrist, and pulls him in, briefly explaining the situation. Like me, Sam doesn’t get a chance to explain. So he plays along.
“Hi! I’m Sam!” He shakes my hand for the second time that night. “Nice to meet you!”
And the two men laugh and resume their bi-curious fondling. Retreating into their own world.
He looks lonely. I recognize him on the first row; a the dark haired figure in a simple bright blue vest, that I know will highlight his light brown skin tone. The only writer not dry-humping around between the fans and other readers, the only one who already took his seat. Tonight he will be last, and I already know he’ll be their strongest speaker. The only one not wearing a suit, relying entirely on the power of his words. I tap his shoulder.
“Hi, I m Lauren. We’ve met before.”
That magnificent face, Western features, sensual lips, and large brown eyes. A gorgeous just-under-30 year old who could never fool me no matter how much he downplayed himself.
For a moment I feel out of place, like I shouldn’t have bothered him.
“I had no idea you would be here,” I excuse myself. “Sam told me.”
“Yeah…” he lets his warm voice drag. “You got your whole threesome together tonight, right?”
I stare in disbelief. Not only does he remember me, he also knows my blog and who the two other writers are that I write about. Him, Dani and Sam.
The line-up consists exclusively of young writers, and even among them Sam is the youngest. It has been a year since his debut shot him to fame. It is his anniversary.
I am leaning over from a ground floor balcony of the theater, and Sam is hugging me from the aisle. I get kisses too. Maybe it’s because my midsection is shielded by the balustrade, or because I have the advantage of height, but unlike last year I can still talk and make sense. I can enjoy being star hugged in a sold out theater, without fainting from every atom in the air resonating with sexual tension.
“I could come on Sam’s aura,” I had testified to Henry.
“Henry told me what your second book is about,” I smile. “If he is right, then you re brilliant. Everything up till now was just foreplay.”
I get even more banister intervened hugs and a high five.
“That other writer is here too,” Sam says.
“Who? Dani? I know.”
“No the other one. Rafael. Want me to call him for you?”
Henry is sitting in front of me at a tiny table for two. I admire his long black eyelashes as he orders veal for lunch. The waiter stutters, visibly trying to make a good impression on his famous guest. I recognize Henry’s supple way of moving, the husky voice, everything so much more vibrant than on tv. I can see why I fell in love when I went to book signings in the 90s. And his books were spirited with boy-like wit and rebellious enthusiasm.
“I brought our break-up book for an autograph,” I say. A cheaper edition that I had bought only recently. I was no longer offended by the title. “I’m sorry I doubted you. It is your best work. I responded overly sensitive.”
We stare out the window of the monumental building, overlooking the canals.
“You had your reasons,” he contemplates. “I think you’re a solipsist. You take everything personal.”
“You’re being kind. It would have been easy to say narcissist.”
Henry’s stories about the world of publishing, and about my ambition to be recognized for my English, caused an avalanche of thoughts and insights, and made me change course. Some decisions were consciously: to stop hoping for a publisher to save me, an agent to help me or a miracle to happen. Others were less traceable to Henry. I decided to stop writing in 2015 until I had my books in print. I had been keeping a blog since 2010, and all those years I had failed to publish. Only a fool expects different results from repeating the same behavior. I had been a fool for too long.
My decision to stop writing in 2015, in favor of publishing, took flight instantly. I collected my manuscripts, made a final decision on how to publish, arranged for two editors and one graphic designer. I set up concept covers and ordered two books in draft. They were stunning. Clearly the new approach was working.
I had an unfinished blog post Quatre Men, but at least my publishing was finally up to speed.
And then my heart began to ache.
It’s not that I don’t know this pain, just that, well, it’s been a while…. The first time was somewhat predictable: after someone broke up with me. Not the first months after; I was sad but it was still all too fresh for the truth to sink in. I still had hope. Hope doesn’t hurt. But after I found out he was sleeping with my best friend, that’s when the numb pain around my heart started. The second time was when I was writing an erotic story. It was not autobiographical; the location and situation were unknown to me, and I had never slept with either of the two similar looking men it featured. But I knew who the men were… and I knew I was the female protagonist. And I knew I could sleep with someone who reminded me of…
Benjamin as in the Benjamin whose name I m currently using in my book title of my collected works: Het Boek Benjamin. Because he is the common denominator. From the first novel that I started writing in 2006, to the diaries; they can all be traced back to him. And some erotic stories too, for the perceptive reader.
I remember when writing that story, and feeling the toll it was taking on my heart, I considered stopping. But I knew I couldn’t. Either I would detach from the story, lose touch with it, and then I would be unable to finish it later on. Or – more likely – the unfinished story would stay in my head, and the pain would stay until I had finished it.
I kept writing, and it is one of my absolute favorites.
It became the last erotic story I ever wrote, as if I had found closure.
So now it’s not about writing one story; it’s about printing my collected works (Het Boek Benjamin – contains Dutch and English), and two outtakes from the collected works:
Three English diaries which will be published as Dutch American Diary
and 22 erotic stories, which will be published as 22 erotische verhalen.
And I now that I feel the physical draw back of this, my body screaming at me as if threatening to die if I continue, I know with more certainty than ever that I need to finish them.
Because after 8 years of writing I finally, finally, need closure.