My hotel room has a kitchenette with a refrigerator that hums and vibrates and smothers any sound from the outside world. I move my tongue from one side of my mouth to the other and the noise is loud, exaggerated, like in a movie. I imagine my room to be floating in empty space like Hartigan’s Sin City prison cell, and I’m the only man for miles around in a building full of people.
One o’clock tomorrow, I pick up JD and we head into Seattle. Emerald City begins at two. We’ll be there every day, all day, with our ware to hawk — six completed Avery pages and a full plot summary, printed and pretty behind a frosted plastic cover. I made five. Kinkos helped. The idea was to have a sexy half-sandwich sample of our comic, an existence proof of what we could do, with the whole plot summary as a promise of what was to come. It’s publishers we mean to prove ourselves to, editors, anyone with clout who can get us paid for a job well done. And getting paid, well, that would make us professionals in earnest. That’s been the dream for years. Since I was ten, at least. I don’t know about JD. You’d have to ask him.
Driving up from Portland, I felt for the first time the uncertainty I often tried to exorcize from my colleague. For all my Stan Lee catchphrase bluster, it finally hit — this was happening. We were trying. I was trying. Which brings with it the very real possibility of failure. Uncertainty, sure. Try naked terror.
…but, I’m made up of atoms, stolen from peanuts and celery sticks and re-appropriated for fingernails and optic nerves. I’m an impossible quirk of reality, an intricate after-effect of the Big Bang, an unfolding electrochemical reaction that could go off in any one of a set of directions more numerous than the distinct geometries of every pebble in El Paso. The past stopped existing when it stopped being the now, and the future is a fool’s mirage. It is our intent that creates meaning in a universe that comes with none of its own — which is the whole point of it, as I understand things — and I’ll be darned if I’m going to spend one more precious bit of now on so silly a game as fear. Me, I’ll fit myself with that healthy sense of self-delusion that allows men to achieve beyond the flimsy barriers of the possible. You shouldn’t put much stock in “possible”, anyhow. It changes too often.
So I’m going over my notes. Preparing my pitch. Readying answers to the questions I foresee, honing my mind to handle on the spot the questions I don’t. Remembering my eight-grade speech teacher... Bear in mind, they’ll likely be sitting down. Only gesture with one hand. Speak strongly but not aggressively, smile softly and not too broadly, open your eyes and play up your central Texan accent, with the long vowels and all, yeah, that always goes over well. You’re white and straight, at least sound like you’re from someplace with a story. Which you are, but you know. Be yourself, but an informative version of yourself. Kind of like a comic book character.
The fridge cuts out and I can hear someone coming down the hall — a young man by the sound of those boots and the lightness of that step. I hear the traffic out my window and the television from the floor above. Couldn’t tell you which show. You never can.
I rub my eye with my knuckle and when I pull it back there’s an eyelash stuck to it, so I make a wish and blow.