Office Hour

“What’s been up with you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Anything going on or?”

“Not really.”

“Then what?”

“I guess the words haven’t been coming out as I see them in my head.”

The man was cleaning off the top of his desk and he stacked some papers vertically in his hands on the hard wood of the desk and said, “Yeah, I haven’t liked much of it recently.”

“I know,” the young man said in all honesty, “It’s been crap and I don’t blame you.”

There was a silence and the young man said, “When it’s not crap will you start reading again?”

“Sure.”

There was another silence. The older man was reaching for something.

Then the young man said, “What do you make of all this?”

The man had reached for something and came upright with it and set it on the desk. He took a lime from his desk drawer and used his fingers to break it in half. After, he put a glass on the desk next to the bottle and he added some ice from the bucket behind him, and then he unscrewed the cap and poured it over the ice and then took half the lime and squeezed it gently into the glass. He did not put the rind in the glass, but he put the top back on the bottle of tequila and slid the glass across the desk to the young man.

“Here, try this.”

The young man held the glass to his nose and asked, “Will this get me thinking?”

“If you can stand the taste it’s something I think might help you.”

The young man put it to his lips and tasted it but it was not yet cold enough to hide the bite of the tequila and it showed on his face.

The older man grinned and said to him, “Remember, it’s the mindset you’re going for, but it always helps if you like the taste. Do you like it?”

“I like it a lot. It burns at first but then I like the warmth. When do I start to feel it?”

“Don’t worry about feeling it.” He pushed the bottle across the table and it stopped next to the young man’s glass. The young man looked at the bottle and the older man said, “Here, go on and take this home with you. Don’t worry about feeling it. Just get out a pen and a notebook and pour yourself a glass just like this one. Then start writing and when you finish this glass pour another and keep writing until you feel the need to sleep. Then you’ll have a good sleep and the next day you can read what you have written and use the morning to go over it. Then in the afternoon you can have another tequila or even some whiskey or rum. Do you like rum?”

“I’ve never tried it.”

“I’ll bring you some next week so long as you bring me what you have written.”

“What should I write about?”

The man looked up at his shelves full of books and said, “That’s for you to say, but the best advice I ever heard was to write one true thing about something you know, and then go from there.”

“Who told you that?”

“I was told that by a man who reminds me of you.”

“Who?”

“You don’t want me to say it because then everyone would think you are just trying to be him. I can see from your writing that you are very much the same and yet very different than him and just as beautiful. It really doesn’t matter what you say so long as you say it beautifully. He would have believed that. Someday I’ll tell you something about him, but for now I think you should just stay away from the books and write whatever comes out of you. If you go reading all the writers you’ll only end up following in their footsteps, and that’s the last thing you want. Do you understand?”

“I think so.”

“Will you try?”

“All right. I will try.”

“Good. See you next week. Remember, just you and the bottle. No one else.”

“All right.”

The young man took the bottle of tequila and went off. The next week he showed him the stories. They were very good stories and the older man was very pleased and he told the young man, “Keep this up, and you’ll make a name for yourself.”

“There is more in those stories than anyone could ever understand.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he told the young man, “They mean a great deal to you now but soon they will seem very foreign.”

“Do you have the bottle of rum you mentioned last week?”

The older man smiled and reached for the bottle behind him. He handed it to the young man.

“There you go,” the older man said, “Just don’t mix it with the tequila.”

“The tequila’s gone,” the young man said, “And I haven’t written a word in almost a week.”

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