When I’m Not Looking


As a character, Mazy was born in 1997, the protagonist of a poorly penned anti-love story called Blood Roses. The story was melodramatic and insipid and Mazy is the only character who survived when I shredded the damn thing. Mazy reappeared in 1998, when I started Black & Blue, where she reintroduced herself to me with this line: There’s more than one way to be dead without dying and Mazy had tried them all.

But one of the problems that comes from working on the same damn book for six years is that your characters outgrow the little box you’ve assigned to them. Instead of sitting silently in their file in the cabinet when you’re not around, they go about their business just like anyone else; running errands, having casual conversations, exploring new interests and old obsessions and visiting favorite bartenders in alley-way pubs behind overly-hyped-but-still-cool bookstores.

Hardcore bondage flicks were two for one at Big Al’s. A bright pink, lip-shaped sign in the window said so. Two boys leaned against the wall beneath the sign, passing a hand-rolled cigarette back and forth. Mazy sat on the bus bench, across the street, stabbing splintered chopsticks into a half-empty carton of chow mein. She watched the boys wait, sensing their impatience, like predators or prey.

Jude’s books, which she’d come all the way across town to pick up, sat beside her on the bench, tied up in a recycled grocery bag and the camera bag, still strapped across her chest, rested on the bench as well, relieving the weight that had left an almost permanent indentation in her shoulder.

She picked the last slices of pork and lifted a final snaking bite of noodles to her mouth. As she chewed, she tucked the chopsticks into the carton and closed it around them. Across the street, a middle-aged man with a pea colored suit had stopped to talk to the young hustlers. She looked away, swept the bag of books up off the bench and headed towards the alley behind the bookstore.

And even though I didn’t give my author’s blessing for this little trip of hers, I know she’s headed for Vesuvio where Demetria will pour two shots of Grey Goose into her Bloody Mary. And I know she’s hoping, that she’ll see Trace, whose body, in the last months has become dense with words, and that she’ll figure out a way to ask if she can photograph him.

I’m tempted to hop in my car, drive up Highway 1 and meet her there, creator and emancipated creation spending a long afternoon chewing on vodka-soaked celery sticks and discussing the meaning of literary license.



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