“What’s wrong with you?” Marija asked as she set a little cup of Cuban coffee in front of me.
“I had this awful conversation last night,” I replied groggily peeling my face off my hands and reaching for the miniature cup of caffeinated goodness. Full of sugar, full of coffee, full of erasing last night’s late night.
“I thought I heard you talking to somebody, who called?”
“No one, well, no one on the phone,” I took a sip. “A really, truly horrible conversation. I feel sick.”
“Who did you talk to?” Marija demanded, sitting next to me as she set down two bowls of fruit.
“My muse,” I replied, attacking a particularly succulent piece of pineapple.
“Who’s your muse?”
“Some ethereal, incorporeal being who constantly tortures me with ideas? They’re not all good ideas, but I know they’re all from her.”
“So you are speaking a la Greek mythology, how can you have a conversation with your own inspiration? Sometimes I worry for your sanity.”
“What do you care about my mental state? The rent gets paid. Anyway, if I can I write dialogue I can have a conversation with a voiceless being. Don’t question my mental stability, you’re the one with the restraining order.”
Marija pursed her lips, “So I have a temper, that doesn’t make me nuts. Anyway, what did your muse say to you?”
“I’ll tell you the whole story. I woke up this morning at around one to the phrase ‘swaddled in selfish darkness’ repeating incessantly in my head. Then along comes ‘praying for sunlight/bargaining for midnight’ joins up and I have to roll over and grab my pen and paper. My pen is out of ink after writing ‘swaddled’ so I blundered around my room for a good twenty minutes in search of a pen.”
I swallowed the rest of my coffee, Marija was still sipping at hers as I paused before continuing. I checked the interest of my audience, yes it was still advisable to continue. She was focused on me.
“I write these phrases down, finish the poem and proceed to write a ten-page story about a panda in captivity then throw everything I just used to write against the wall.
I stared at her for a second, affecting a long-suffering expression for being interrupted. She waved a noncommittal hand at me, I went on.
“I was frustrated. Maybe the only thing worse than not being able to write anything is having the sudden urge to write everything. So I say, ‘Muse! Muse, you will talk to me.’ To my surprise she replies. ‘What?’ she says, not even nicely. It was a pretty rude ‘what,’ but I was willing to overlook it.
“’I have entire days to myself where you’re never around then out of nowhere in the wee hours of the morning you come knocking and you won’t leave me alone until I do what you want!’ I said, I’m pretty angry at this point.”
“Anyway, ‘You should know better than anyone that the price of having a muse is being on her schedule. I have things to do!’ she said. ‘Really?’ I said to her. ‘That’s the only price? Never mind the depression, alcoholism, loneliness, frustration, and then of course the endless struggle of trying to sell these inspired creations of yours. After all that, you couldn’t give me a story at around say three in the afternoon? It has to be early in the morning?’”
“Why didn’t you just sleep in?”
“Marija,” I said with a smile. “You make Cuban coffee two days a week and those are the best two mornings of my week. I don’t have to do anything to feed myself, and I don’t have to eat alone.”
“Depression, alcoholism, loneliness and frustration. How do I stand living with you?”
“That’s a conversation for another day, I’m in the middle of a story.”
“In that case you forgot ‘self-absorbed.’”
“Wrong suffix for the series, but touché. Anyway, to continue my saga.”
“It’s a saga now?”
“Seemed better a saga than a chronicle. You know what she says? The little bitch, she says, ‘I’m on Athens time. It is three in the afternoon.’ I got mad, and then I did something really stupid. Something that makes me wish I’d chosen metal working as an art.”
“What did you do?”
“I was so mad at her, I went to the computer and deleted every last poem I’d ever written. Not the stories this was only meant to be a threat. ‘There,’ I said. ‘I’m not writing any more poems until you can come at a reasonable hour.’ And I went back to sleep. My agent called this morning.”
“What did she want?”
“For me to put together a poetry anthology,” I pushed the empty bowl out of the way and banged my head repeatedly on the table.