Waking up to car horns in a tiny apartment with little to no sunlight next to an almost empty bottle of scotch around noon on a Wednesday. That’s how he had always imagined it would be. All those Bukowski and Hemingway stories had made him understand that glory could only strike like lighting in a stormy night. It would come only after endless nights of cheap alcohol, chain-smoking and sporadic meaningless sex with equally drunken people. Only after surviving all those muddy waters, his muse would call upon him, and his luck would do a 180 degree turn. He’d be rich, and would have to constantly fight the unwanted attention. He’d be reluctantly famous for that one glorious novel, and would retreat into the woods to feel the despair he felt in his twenties, when he anonymously wandered around the streets of New York, or Chicago, or L.A., or whatever big city he had lived and had honed his writing while working odd jobs on the side. For he knew it was only then that he could write again. Only then, when that hole in his chest would open again, waiting to be filled, he could write like he did in his almost starved youth.
That’s how it was supposed to be. At 39 years of age, things were a lot different from what he had imagined. His oldest son was to begin high school and his daughters, the twins, would be in third grade. His wife was the model 21st century woman, perfectly balancing a storied career in journalism while being the best maternal figure for their kids. She could do all that because he had done a lot of heavy lifting in the house. He did, after all, work from home. He was, after all, what he had always dreamed of being. He was, after all, a writer.
He got his first job while still in college, to the chagrin of anyone who doubted his decision to major in English, in a smaller marketing firm in town. He would later realize it was in those formative years, as a copy editor, where he found his voice. No, not having a wild life that birthed many anecdotes, but by painstaikingly checking the rules of grammar, style and brevity, where he’d learn to be a writer. That was also where he met his wife, when she was only an intern and still in college. They moved to Arizona after she graduated. The lived in Green Valley, a suburb outside of Tucson, where she had gotten a job. He didn’t have or needed one, he just wanted to move. Born and raised in Kansas, he just needed a change of pace, and he had learned all he would learn there. Without a plan, he was ready to hit the bottle and wait for the muse to hit him, but the landscape didn’t help his dreams of grandiosity much. Neither did his wife’s pregnancy, which rushed him into sending any and all unpolished pieces of work he had in hand to all the papers and magazines he could think off. Afraid of getting chastised by some editor he would never meet he’d use pseudonyms to mask his many short and insipid stories. And after only a few weeks, among the pile of many rejection letters accumulated in his desk, there was his first check. A check for $50, the one that would officially make him a writer.
Of all the half inspired stories he sent, they had picked what he had thought it was his worst. “The missing tooth and the fair faced fairy” was a 10 page semi erotic detective story he had written while still getting used to the steamy nights in Arizona. It had been so well received the publisher wanted a sequel. And the sequel became a 5 issue story arc that landed him, or his pen name J. C. Kirk, his first publishing deal. By the time his son was born he had barely managed to make the tight deadline for his first book. The publisher sent it to the press without revision immediately, and within a month he had sold almost all five thousand printed copies. He was elated and looking forward for the second edition, the book tour and the interviews. To this date, there are still a few dozen copies of the first tirade in his basement. Leftovers that never sold.
Pressured by the publisher, he wrote a follow up. This one took him only two months. And the next one only one month. Next thing he knew he was writing 2 short stories a week and another novel almost every month. By the time his son was 4 years old, his wife had switched from covering sports to covering politics, traveling to Phoenix often, and then switched again to covering arts and culture. Respected in her field she became the editor of her section soon after the twins arrived, which meant longer hours but less traveling. By that point he had 3 alter egos, 27 novels across all of them and easily more than a hundred stories published across a wide range of magazines. No one knew his name and it barely mattered. Their houses in Arizona and Kansas, the latter they had bought to have a place close to their families, spoke for themselves. By the time 2007 hit they were able to properly water the hard times and even kept the vacation house they had just bought in Florida. She lost her job but he kept on trucking. Entertainment is, after all, a recession proof business. And that’s what he was a part of. The entertainment business.
Soon after that, they moved to Overland Park, just outside of Kansas City, and sold their Green Valley home. They were closer to their parents and were able to help them out too. Less than two years since being laid off, his wife found a new job in the digital department of the largest newspaper in the city. In spite of that being a learning curve for her, they kept doing just fine. Around that time, his 20th year working in the industry would have gone unnoticed if his Google-enabled metrics wouldn’t have alarmed him of the cumulative sales of his books. The 200+ books he had been a part of, solo or anthology, under 7 pseudonyms by then, had hit five million copies sold. To top it all, some studio had optioned one of his books for a movie. The production would never see the light, but that wouldn’t negatively affect his bank account. Equally beneficial to him were the other three books whose rights would be sold over the years only to never be produced in the stipulated 5 year period.
Now, only hours away from his 40th birthday, he finally found himself there. Around 300 books, more than a hundred of those in ebook format, and after several million of dollars in professional writing later, he finally found himself there. Having ingested copious amounts of cheap alcohol, he had finally found that feel of despair, as he anonymously stood by the streets of the city. Not quite New York or Chicago, but his own downtown Kansas City. The skyline populated with buildings of about ten to twelve floors, the highest being probably only thirty stories tall, and sticking like a sore thumb.
-Hey man, are you alright? — asked one of his pals, who had come outside the bar to check on him.
-It’s all good, — he replied as he puffed his fourth cigarette in the last fifteen minutes. — I just came for a smoke break.
-Ok, just come in quick. It’s almost midnight.
His friend went back to the bar and the writer was left alone to his thoughts again. Only then, that hole in his chest was open again, waiting to be filled, reminding him he could write like he was supposed to have done in his almost starved youth. He needed desperately to fill that void in his chest.
A look at his Apple Watch — 11:58. He abruptly stepped on his almost new cigarette and went back to the bar, having to again put on a fake smile on his face. He’d buy a new Tesla in the morning.