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The Last Great Line
“It was a great line,” you say, to nobody in particular.
You stand up and act polite. You pretend you’re not thinking of a way to do it better. You say hi to the acquaintances you know, to Bob and Sally and their new adopted son. You think of the line again.
D*** it, you think. You’re worsening, you’re past your prime, you’re at that point where all your brain does is spit out meaningless clichés. It’s a great line, perhaps too great, too towering to give you any space to surpass.
You watch him. Study him, slowly, surreptitiously, and sneer with cynicism at his success. You know it’s a pathetic defense mechanism, but you criticize him anyway. The clichés come again.
Time flies when you’re having fun, kid. Enjoy it while it lasts. This stream of idioms sickens you. You smile though you’d rather cry, or bust a blood vessel and scream in rage. You know you can say whatever you want to and it won’t make any difference. That godforsaken line will still be there, laughing from the darkness, enjoying its superiority over you.
You get home and get organized. You take out that old typewriter you haven’t seen in years, the rusty one that remembers you you’re loosely speaking still an established writer. Then the years come flying by. Years, troubles, worries, prides, glories, and heartaches. Eurekas and Screw Its. But no words. Absolutely no words.
The blank page dares you to type something so it can laugh at it. You’re too intimidated, so you take the Hemingway route and serve yourself a glass of fizzy placebos. You rationalize within the confines of your mind. You try to shut out the insecurity of being you. You place yourself within the mindset of an acclaimed author, but it doesn’t work. Two and half bottles later and the page doesn’t even matter anymore. You throw it and the typewriter out of a window.
You can’t live up to your own expectations. Your enemy is yourself, and the pain of the written word. You take the Hemingway route again, only further down the rabbit hole. You take out a gun you bought, all those years ago, when it seemed like a great way out.
It seems that way again. You cock it back and watch yourself in the mirror. Your hands quiver, but only briefly. You imagine three page obituaries and massive critical re-discoveries. Even now, even down the barrel of an unforgiving gun, you continue to lie. To hope for a life you will never have.
You realize you have mixed feelings. You squeeze the trigger anyway and time stops. In that cosmic instant, an idea happens. The line comes to you. Better than the other one, better than any live you’ve ever written, better than any line ever written in the history of literature.
You get animated again. You even think of getting a new typewriter and planning a marvelous comeback. But the truth hits you hard. The cosmic instant suddenly ends.
The bullet penetrates your skull. It travels a large, tenacious path, and tears your neurons and regions and feelings apart. You twitch randomly. Cerebral activity decreases. You start to lose the privilege of thought.
All but lobotomized, you watch the last semblance of your soul slip away. You think of the line, of the light at the end of the tunnel.
Light at the end of the tunnel! You laugh in your head uproariously before it is impossible to do so. There I go again, your dying mind considers, with those godd*** clichés.