Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Are You With The Writer's Group?

I arrive at the bookstore to hopefully join a writer's group. The website said they meet here at noon. I go up to the counter to get some coffee.

"Does the writer's group meet here today?"

"I'm not sure," says Miss Helpful as she gets my coffee. "I don't usually work here during the day. If there is a meeting they usually meet in the back."

I think she's wrong, but I lug my writing stuff back there, and no, the roped off area with the tables and podium is empty. I return to the cafe at the front of the store.

Do I really want to join a group? I'm not much of a 'joiner'.

The people who have come into the bookstore cafe so far strike me as kind of . . .

Well, they aren't the writer's group after all. They are probably church people. They are severely white, safely dressed, and annoyingly self-conscience.

You would think I'd be able to spot a group of writers. I guess they aren't meeting today. I guess I'll just sit here and write.

Two middle aged church ladies are sitting across from each other near the black-marble tiled fireplace, and one of them has a voice that carries.

Skinny alone guy by the window has looked over his shoulder at them twice now, but they haven't noticed. He's trying to read the paper, and how dare voice-carrying lady disturb him?

From the kitchen of ill-advised belly shirts I hear this: "Did you see the email from Barb? About the banana split?"

The group I thought was a writer's group is indeed a church group. They have pushed tables together right behind me, chatting about safe topics.

"What was the best part of the trip?" One of the faithful asks. There is much banal talk. At one point: "Let me finish this so I don't have to keep trying to finish this, Vicky."

So no writer's group. I guess I'll write without them.

Actually, asking each person who comes into the bookstore if they are with the writer's group is becoming increasingly easy.

"Are you with the writer's group?" I ask an attractive girl. I already know she's not with a writer's group because she has nursing textbooks and a laptop. She's studying for nursing school, but I ask her anyway because she's somewhat hot.

"No, I'm studying."

I knew you were; I just wanted to see that awkward moment when creepy guy asks you if you are with the writer's group. Could I somehow use this as a pick-up line? Hey, look at me, I'm wearing black and looking for a non-existent writer's group. Oh, can I buy you a coffee? You've always been interested in writing? Oh sure, it's hard to find time for anything, studying for school. . .

I learned about this supposed group online last night searching "Facebook" on the word "Grand Rapids."

Another group arrives at the bookstore cafe. Nope, they are not the writer's group. At least there are some bohemian traits with this group. At least there is some eyeliner and shirts from Hot Topic. At least there are backpacks and tattoos. But alas no, these are not the writers I seek.

Just to make sure, I gather up my pen and composition book and check the area in the back again. Nope, no writer's group there.

Overheard: "Didn't see any birds flying around in Church today."

That's a sign that God has abandoned your false church! I want to scream, and then I imagine I storm out and stare belligerently at them through the windows until they call the police.

Seen: The morbidly obese man in the black striped shirt: he has a black and gray goatee, red mottled skin, and a receding hairline. He places the contents of a plastic baggie into his hand. He examines the little group of colorful pills in his fat sweaty palm and then pops them into his mouth and washes them down with coffee. Then the waitress brings him a giant roast-beef sandwich, and I foresee his lonely death in his empty apartment due to heart-complications and diabetes. His corpse will watch television for four days before he is discovered. When they find him, Dr. Phil will be humiliating some skinny pierced teenager on the television with a belligerent lecture about responsibility.

Maybe there is no writer's group, but the person who set up the Facebook page is here anyway, giggling as I ask strangers if they belong to the non-existent group. What a nice setup. How many times have they mocked rubes like me who come seeking a group to belong to that doesn't exist?

Even the non-helpful belly-shirt coffee girl gets into the act. She asks people if perhaps they are in the writer's group. What do I look like to the nubile staff? What do they think of the creepy guy in his forties who keeps asking everyone if they are with the writer's group? Help, I need to belong to a group! Won't you let me join you? Look how lonely I am, sipping my coffee, hunched over my little composition book, glancing up at every group hoping to belong, to belong to something bigger than myself, where I can pretend to listen to other people's writing when really I'm only waiting for my turn to read my writing, which is all I really care about. Pretending to be impressed with someone else's writing while inside I'm screaming, "Why don't you acknowledge my genius? Where is the multi-million dollar contract? Harrison Ford is too old to be in a movie based on my novel, but Stephen Spielberg is more than welcome to direct it, just as soon as I get around to writing it.

What am I doing in this bookstore? I should be home, smoke-checking my keyboard with sublime turns of phrases, scintillating wit and subtle innuendo. No publisher will be able to resist my literary charms. My characters, rich and complex, will exchange witty banter before saving the world from philosophical aliens who arrive in silver spacecraft.

"Are you with the writer's group?" Now I've actually gone outside in the sun to ask the lone girl sitting at one of the tables outside. She smiles. Oh, she likes me. Is this a pickup line, she is wondering. Just a mouse of a girl, reading alone, minding her own business. Oh the things I could show you. I'm a writer, aren't I fascinating? But no, she isn't in the writer's group, although I knew it all along, I act mildly disappointed, and then I slink back into the darkness like Nosferatu before she becomes nervous and sprays me in the face with pepper spray.

Finally I give up. Oh the scalding post I'll post on that Facebook page. I spent all this time in the bookstore when I could have been writing instead . . . Oh, wait a minute . . . Maybe if I were to jot all of this down, it might be mildly entertaining.

Naw.

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I am the author of 8 books: Android Down, Firewood for Cannibals, Brain Giblets, The Cubicles of Madness, Booze and News, Get Your Zen On, Zen Happens, and most recently, Robot Stories. I live and write in Michigan. My website is at danmanning.com

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