WanderLost: Hey, man.
BusyBuddy: Hey! What’s up, my friend?
WanderLost: Not too much. Just sittin’ at my computer and thinkin’ about stuff.
BusyBuddy: You think too much. Anybody ever tell you that before?
WanderLost: Yeah. I get that a lot.
BusyBuddy: Well, it’s true.
WanderLost: It’s annoying.
BusyBuddy: Like a squirt gun in the face, when you’re locked in and trackin’ down truth like a master hunter with his gun in the bush?
WanderLost: You should spend more time, like this, havin’ a way with words. Yeah. That’s exactly what it feels like. Sort of. Or not.
BusyBuddy: The truth squirts.
WanderLost: Oh har de har har har.
BusyBuddy: I got it. I’m freakin’ hilarious. Known already.
WanderLost: Say. What’s got you all chatty all of a sudden? Usually you don’t have the time. What are you doin’, down there near the southern tail of the state? Why you actin’ like a teenager who hasn’t learned enough morality to stop killin’ time?
BusyBuddy: Oh. Not too much. The wife and kid are away for the weekend. My Xbox is on the tweak. I just finished the article I was writin’, and I got no more in the pipe. I ate dinner already. The lawn’s mowed. The bills are paid. The house is painted. Nothing’s leaking. I’ve checked all my daily websites.
WanderLost: Huh. You sound kinda… bored.
BusyBuddy: Wow. You know, you’re right. Teenager. Wow.
WanderLost: You’re acting like the wall is down.
BusyBuddy: Hey. We don’t need no education. I’m comfortably numb.
WanderLost: You sound like… like… you don’t have anything important to do.
BusyBuddy: Shit. You’re makin’ me dizzy. Cut it out.
BusyBuddy: It’s weird. I don’t mind. Usually I get annoyed as hell when you make me uncomfortable and I have to remind myself to take your probes in small, carful, infrequent doses. But I guess I’m bored enough to be, like, glad.
WanderLost: Is it raining down there?
BusyBuddy: Nope. Just kinda cloudy and grey. You know. Boring.
BusyBuddy: Fuck. This is weird. It’s weird to not know what it was like to not know what to do with myself. Now you put words to it, they’re sentencing and squeezin’ me tight.
WanderLost: You breathin’ OK?
WanderLost: You know somethin’?
BusyBuddy: Some things. I doubt I know the thing you mean. Now. I smell trouble. Could be I forgot to flush my dump, though. Fan’s broken.
WanderLost: We could just, you know, talk and stuff.
BusyBuddy: Kinda girly.
WanderLost: Well, you said you were damned bored.
BusyBuddy: Damned was your word. I don’t feel like I’m damned. Not yet. When I start checking the L. L. Bean catalogues for non-flammable clothes I’ll know. But Hell, I do feel guilty about those mousetraps the wife made me put out.
WanderLost: I know what it’s like to feel guilty, man.
BusyBuddy: Hella shitty.
BusyBuddy: Talk, huh?
WanderLost: You said you were bored. And you’re always busy otherwise. And when we do talk, it’s like it’s through frosted glass. You’re like everyone else. We all got three bloods: blood, money and time. You always say you just don’t have the time. Seems like that’s life.
BusyBuddy: I know. It always seems like there’s important shit to do. I think Dracula said, “The blood is the life.” So being good English majors like we are, we should edit it. “Those bloods are the lives.”
WanderLost: And there’s the calculus of communication. I’m twice as likely to get a reply to a short email, and four times as likely to get a reply to a short, easy email. Rare makes eight. Say you do reply. I always wanna have continuous conversation. But some replies end with a line that adds up to “Good luck with life in the near future. I have no more time for you right now. Please don’t reply.” And that’s the end of the equation.
BusyBuddy: Dude. I said I was bored. And you hit me with math?
BusyBuddy: I do that? I mean, I write that stuff?
WanderLost: Here’s an example, from your own email. Hold on. All right. “Be good. And don’t shoot anyone who doesn’t deserve it.”
BusyBuddy: Right. I remember. We were talking about moral choice in videogames. We both like to be good, and wonder about being bad.
WanderLost: Yeah. Me? When I say I don’t have time, it’s always a half-truth.
BusyBuddy: It is?
WanderLost: Or it’s a lie. It feels like a cover. It’s… well, I call it the “timeshield”. It’s all painted with pretty, essential heraldry, and important things deflect off it, challenging things that might be harmful, or just uncomfortable otherwise. I feel like I see other people jerk that shield up to protect lots of things, and all the time.
BusyBuddy: Did I tell you you think too much?
WanderLost: You did. Yeah.
BusyBuddy: Consider yourself retold.
BusyBuddy: Fuck. Well, I said I was bored. Why the hell not? But if we’re gonna do this girly shit, I’m gonna go get myself a six pack outta the fridge. You want me to bring you a can?
WanderLost: Har de har har har.
BusyBuddy: Right. You’ll get your own.
BusyBuddy: All right. I’m back.
WanderLost: Good. I keep hearing the warning sirens and seeing the flashing red lights inside my skull when I communicate like this. I thought you might not come back.
BusyBuddy: Sorry for the wait. I was just trackin’ down a cooler and some ice from the big freezer in the basement. I don’t want this can’s five brothers to get all warm, or even fuzzy while they wait. We’ll have that girly shit covered, I think.
WanderLost: No problem. I made a Jack and Coke. If the wait gets big, I can always try mediatin’ for the angry birds and those pigs.
BusyBuddy: Those birds speak soft and carry a big, sling-shotty stick.
WanderLost: I do have to listen close. And speak pig.
BusyBuddy: Fuck. This beer tastes like piss. I hate it when she buys cheap swill.
WanderLost: You won’t care, by number two.
BusyBuddy: What does takin’ a dump have to do with it?
BusyBuddy: All right. How’s your Joke? And where were we?
WanderLost: Joke? What j…. Oooooo. Nice one. Short for Jack and Coke. That’s tasty. And mine’s tasty too. Bubbly. Even though you don’t write the books you should, you are a writer.
BusyBuddy: Is that why you’re here on my screen and girly-fyin’ my house up?
WanderLost: Most definitely.
BusyBuddy: Did I tell you you drink too much?
BusyBuddy: Good. So. You don’t drink enough.
WanderLost: Seriously, though. Why don’t you write more? You keep sayin’ you wanna write another book. Your first was decent. But you gotta keep writin’ to grow. You gotta love that bein’ challenged and bein’ uncomfortable. It’s why I love scary things. That’s the muscle they work. That’s where real growth happens. You’re not just gonna write a great book because “the time is right”.
BusyBuddy: The time is write.
WanderLost: You make it sound like a joke.
BusyBuddy: Sorry. You know what it’s like for us English majors.
WanderLost: Waitin’ for the right idea won’t do it either. You’re either growing or shrinking as a writer. Your choice. Do you ever feel like your creativity is some finite reservoir? Like you gotta be careful what you dole out?
BusyBuddy: Time’s that way. Don’t get used to me treating you like this. I’ll have to leave, when something important comes up. Friendship lives on though buddy. But I do feel that way about fiction, sometimes. There’s one beer down. Brothers of number one; I salute you on my way to makin’ a john full of number one.
WanderLost: Your better half isn’t here. Go in the yard. You’re free.
BusyBuddy: Done! Good idea. I’ll keep doin’ that until the salt kills patches that spell my name. I should get another six-pack.
WanderLost: There’s never time in the present. There’s always time in the future. Then we die, and realize we always had to live in the present.
BusyBuddy: Jesus I must be gonzo bored, pontificator.
WanderLost: It’s nice to talk, I think.
BusyBuddy: Hell. I’ve got nothin’ to do. Imaginary bacheloritis! Wheeeee!
WanderLost: You ever feel like real talkin’ is important to writers? I mean talking by writing? This live way is energizing, but I feel like considered letters or email can stifle the emotional overreactions and miscommunications that derail tough stuff face to face. But people balk at real written communication, and not just because of time. I feel like it doesn’t feel like the “right” way to people. But I’m sure it’s important for people. People in general, but writers maybe in particular? Learning? Practice?
BusyBuddy: I don’t feel a loss. But writers of what? Fiction books? Like the one you’re houndin’ me about in my own home?
WanderLost: Sure. Start there.
BusyBuddy: I think that writing a good fiction book is good practice. And reading good fiction books is good learning.
WanderLost: You ever been on an exercise bike?
BusyBuddy: Not tipsy like now. But yeah.
BusyBuddy: I don’t wanna fall off.
WanderLost: No. Not why not now. Why’d you get on sober?
BusyBuddy: That’s a stupid question.
WanderLost: Was it to get better at riding an exercise bike? To practice?
BusyBuddy: Now that’s a stupid question.
WanderLost: So you admit it.
BusyBuddy: I admit nothing! Wait. Admit what?
WanderLost: That doing something that’s not directly related to a thing you do can help you better do that thing.
BusyBuddy: OK. I admit one thing. That.
WanderLost: And it can help in a unique, important way. You don’t get strong legs and a strong heart by just going about your day. But having strong legs and a strong heart from time on an exercise bike helps you go about your day better, right?
BusyBuddy: If you say so. I get plenty of exercise from sex. But not everyone is so lucky. Hint hint.
WanderLost: Har. Seriously. You said you’d go for this talk. Don’t keel over on me. Don’t you feel like writing like this, a continued conversation with me, is valuable? Isn’t it, say, great dialogue-writing practice? And even if you’re not a writer, isn’t it great learning about me? I’m a good friend, right? Don’t you wanna know me better?
BusyBuddy: Ack. Too many questions at once.
WanderLost: The best conversations only beget questions.
BusyBuddy: I need more beer. Hold on while I swig. There we go. Fizzy! All right. I think writing dialogue in a fiction book would be better practice. And you? I know you fine. You’re a friend. I don’t need to know more. You’d still be a good friend even if we never talked and I never saw you. That’s a real, strong friendship. That’s not the sign of weakness. That’s the sign of a bond.
WanderLost: Don’t you ever want something more challenging. Don’t you ever want a deeper bond?
BusyBuddy: Man, you’re turning my computer pink. Cut it out.
WanderLost: Have another sip and then suck it up.
BusyBuddy: I sold my funnel.
WanderLost: I mean the challenge.
BusyBuddy: Life is challenging enough without friendship piling on.
WanderLost: Shit. You ever think about the military?
BusyBuddy: As little as possible. It killed my Dad.
WanderLost: I didn’t know that. I’m sorry, man. Fuck.
BusyBuddy: It’s all right. I bought time with a good therapist with one of those three kinds of blood. The green one. The paper one. Strange how the word “paper” has a major connotation of weakness.
WanderLost: It’s still one of the three.
BusyBuddy: My wife would say love is another essential blood, by the way. But I know lots and lots of productive people who get on fine without it. But green blood makes me sound like a Vulcan from Star Trek.
WanderLost: Most illogical.
BusyBuddy: My point is I’m OK if you talk about the military. Even if the cheap booze wasn’t killin’ my inhibitions, I’m over it. Girl away.
WanderLost: Even if the military feels like the ultimate male thing?
BusyBuddy: Being in it and “communicating” about it are different balls of axe.
WanderLost: I just meant to say that guys in the military build bonds together, bonds like we never know. Fuck, I’m sorry about your dad.
BusyBuddy: I said I’m over it. Now you get over it. You’re right, though.
WanderLost: Yeah. They lay down their lives for each other, and a lot of times they end up with a kind of caring and will to sacrifice for each other that we never know. It’s pretty much a fact that shared challenge, sacrifice, and even pain builds the tightest relationships. Right? You for example. Are you willing to sacrifice an hour of time to read my novella?
BusyBuddy: I’d love to, if I had time.
WanderLost: Even if I told you how much it would mean to me?
BusyBuddy: I’ll think about it.
WanderLost: Sounds like the timeshield to me.
BusyBuddy: Seriously. Now shut up.
WanderLost: Drink more of your booze. Are you too busy now? It’d mean the World to me. And you’ll never know how much your comments on my first draft helped me make that much better final draft unless you read the final draft.
BusyBuddy: I’ll let you know if I find the time.
WanderLost: All right.
BusyBuddy: Now it’s raining.
BusyBuddy: How’s your Joke?
BusyBuddy: So, what else is on your mind, girly man?
WanderLost: I never get to share any hard things with my guy friends.
WanderLost: Oh fuckin’ come on! That’s not what I meant!
BusyBuddy: I know. Just a joke.
WanderLost: I made my own Joke. Have another guzzle of beer.
BusyBuddy: Way ahead of you.
WanderLost: Seriously. What do all us guys do when we get together?
BusyBuddy: Play games.
WanderLost: And isn’t that kinda like marshmallow time? Do we share sacrifice and pain?
BusyBuddy: You sacrifice your honor in the pain of losing to me.
WanderLost: I mean real sacrifice and pain. Life challenges.
BusyBuddy: Shit no. Not if we can help it. Life’s too short for those things. Unless I’m getting paid. God I love that green blood. I must be some kind of alien vampire. The blood is the life!
WanderLost: Maybe we should share hard things.
BusyBuddy: I’ll hold my hetero tongue.
BusyBuddy: And I do wish I had time. How about dinner sometime? There’s a great new restaurant in my town. Drive down sometime. You don’t have kids. We can talk face to face. I’ve always got time to eat.
WanderLost: Come on, man. You think I could pull words together like this face to face? I’m a writer. And I do have children, by the way. I write them.
BusyBuddy: Do you write lying down? I’d miss doin’ the horizontal mambo for offspring. But I digress, vertical cancan man.
WanderLost: Something else I think about is, well, this image I have of everyone having a built-in dry-erase board of priorities in life. Does that make sense?
BusyBuddy: A few pennies worth of cents.
WanderLost: Right. Push me away. Sometimes I hate English majors.
BusyBuddy: Right now, I smell self-loathing on you like you were in the next room. You’re not, are you? This isn’t the only computer we got.
WanderLost: I’d come in and gay slap you across the face if I were.
BusyBuddy: Calm down. Just explain what you mean, buddy. I’m just playin’ here. You’re still my friend. And fuck if I’m not, uh, not bored anymore.
WanderLost: It all comes down to emotions. I feel like they rule the roost, even for smart people who are sure they’re above being dangled like a puppet. I think of emotions like the curtain masters in our heads. They hide facts that go against what we want to believe, and reveal facts that we don’t want to believe. And usually we’re not aware of it, so we think we’re tapping all the facts.
BusyBuddy: Where the Hell did the puppets come from? I thought you were talking about chalkboards.
WanderLost: Dry erase boards.
BusyBuddy: Whatever. It was a dusty old idea anyway.
WanderLost: Fucking English majors.
BusyBuddy: Just get on with your dry talk about boards.
WanderLost: Don’t you ever feel, if I start to seem less fun, like my name gets erased from, say, priority ten and drops to priority, maybe, seventeen? If you don’t enjoy time with me. If we don’t play a great game. If there aren’t great snacks. Overall, if your emotions get fed a certain way. Are you like most people? Do you think that has absolutely no impact on how willing you are to spend your precious time on me later?
BusyBuddy: I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening. What were you saying?
WanderLost: Christ. I typed it! It’s right there in front of you, on your pink computer. I know it is.
BusyBuddy: Calm down. Just a joke. Me and my beer are havin’ a joke.
WanderLost: Does it have an impact?
BusyBuddy: That’s a stupid idea. I refuse to answer. You’re my good friend, and nothing will change that.
WanderLost: It’s not possible that you’d choose to read some book you bought instead of saying yes to time spent on me because your feelings got fed certain experiences and not others? And then they made their call, pointing to the book because of the past? When they might’ve pointed to me instead? Don’t you ever feel like socializing is time on stage for an audience paying in bloody time?
BusyBuddy: I guess it’s possible. But do you think my loyalty is fragile? I want to get angry. It’s almost like you just insulted me. Fuck. You’re still my friend, no matter what happens to us.
WanderLost: Even if I drift toward the “theoretical friend” side of the spectrum and away from the “practical friend” side?
BusyBuddy: Is there LSD in this beer?
BusyBuddy: OK then.
WanderLost: Do you ever feel like I’m a smart guy who’s interesting and funny and has good taste in games and more… but when it comes down to it, for a reason you can’t just place, a reason that frustrates you somehow, you just don’t feel that mystical, pleasant, alchemical element? That magnetism?
BusyBuddy: Now the mouse is pink too. I’m afraid to touch any of it!
BusyBuddy: Right. Sigh. Look. Why don’t you just stop making us uncomfortable? I’ve only got so much beer in the house. Why don’t you just enjoy life? Is it that hard?
WanderLost: Now who sounds gay?
WanderLost: You ever wish people could read minds?
BusyBuddy: So. How about those Red Sox? Are they bums or what?
WanderLost: Look. We can talk about what’s on your mind too. It doesn’t have to all come from me. They are bums.
BusyBuddy: No. Just another joke. I’m on my third beer now, by the way. I just peed again. Anyway, there’s nothing on my mind that’s as important to me as how important to you the things on your mind seem to be. Whoa. That was a royal clusterfuck of a sentence! Now my head’s spinning.
WanderLost: On just your third beer?
BusyBuddy: No. It was that sentence that spun. And four’s coming. Mind reading, eh? So you’re still reading from that “Best Science Fiction of All Time” list, I see.”
BusyBuddy: So. What about mind reading? You wish you could? I wish I could, but I don’t want anyone else to be able to. Fuck that.
BusyBuddy: Everyone’s a peeping Tom, underneath. We’re all ambulance chasers. It’s just unsafe to show it.
WanderLost: But what do you think would happen if everyone could read minds? After it all sorted out, after the chaos, and after a new generation learned to live with it, what do you think would happen?
BusyBuddy: Well, you couldn’t hide.
WanderLost: Would you want to?
BusyBuddy: Didn’t you love to hide, as a kid?
WanderLost: I loved to be found, too.
BusyBuddy: Fourth beer. I ever tell you you think too much?
WanderLost: So. How about those Red Sox?
BusyBuddy: Did you see that homer last night?
BusyBuddy: Must’ve come down in England. And they hate baseball. I bet the ball hit the queen on the noggin, and the whole royal family yelled like crickets! Wait. You were saying something before. Hold on. I can read it! There it is. Up above! Right. It’s like mind reading!
BusyBuddy: I don’t like being naked except when I’m all alone, and when I’m horizontal mambo-ing.
WanderLost: I wonder about the real me being all alone.
BusyBuddy: What happens in these FantaSci stories you’re reading? Start there. These groups where everyone can read everyone else’s mind? You tell me what the fuckin’ result is.
WanderLost: You first.
WanderLost: People understand each other. People have practice resolving differences. People learn not to be scared by disagreement. Conflict. They know how to do it, and it’s easy. It’s not hard (don’t start up with the fuckin’ gay stuff), and you realize it all comes down to practice.
BusyBuddy: I need practice takin’ a piss. OK. Back now.
WanderLost: They’re happy.
BusyBuddy: Like after a great piss?
BusyBuddy: Why’s that?
WanderLost: You know the shit that happens with secrets.
BusyBuddy: Well you know the shit that secrets keep from happening.
WanderLost: You mean like a girl’s ugly and you tell her she’s beautiful?
BusyBuddy: Or that her face has character.
WanderLost: Coming from a writer that must sound like a compliment.
BusyBuddy: Green blooded writing is all about character.
WanderLost: Don’t you think maybe there used to be a time, back in the bowels of evolution, where our ancestors could read minds? You know, before we got the throats for language. People say all the time that the ability is still there, and that it’s just untapped. Some get it back. Wouldn’t it be easier to explain yourself without needing clumsy words? You’d pour worlds of images and feelings and easy truth.
BusyBuddy: English majors would be even more unemployed. And fuck. I’m sooooo plastered, dude.
WanderLost: I can’t remember the name of that book about the girl and books and Nazis. It had a lot to do with the tyranny of words. You give someone a word like “Jew” and make it a target for massive bile for the masses. And by “you” I mean some kind of demagogue. Or you take “cockroach” and glue it to the word “Jew”. People start to seem two dimensional, squelch-able, and it’s easy to lose their humanity.
BusyBuddy: As easy as losing piss?
WanderLost: Come on and listen to me!
BusyBuddy: I am listening. Listen to me when I say beer six! Yeeeehaaaaaa! If I just vanish from your screen, it’s because I passed out in a pool of my own vomit.
WanderLost: I’ll just keep talking then.
WanderLost: So in this imaginary culture that can read minds, you don’t use a word that can be abused. You see the whole picture. It’s more than a movie. It’s everything, and no shade is left out. It’s three dimensional, or as many dimensions as reality has. A person. And people don’t hurt each other all the time. Don’t you and your wife have a hard time communicating? Don’t you hurt yourself and her, and your son, because of miscommunication?
BusyBuddy: Wife’s away. Kid too. I’m freeeeeeeeee!
WanderLost: Stay with me!
BusyBuddy: The whole World’s a merry-go-round in overdrive!
WanderLost: And time isn’t a factor. The mind has all the space for all the time in the World. And when people can be themselves, and be accepted, there’s real progress. I never stop having dreams about real human progress. They’re the most beautiful dreams I’ve ever had. We all even save the Earth. I used to miss dreams of flying. They came with the idealism of youth. But I suppose real progress is flying, too. And a free soul can always fly.
BusyBuddy: Too… much… motion.
WanderLost: Are you OK?
BusyBuddy: Flying. Spinning. Air… sick….
WanderLost: Just take a deep breath.
BusyBuddy: Can’t… handle….
WanderLost: I know. I should be boring.
WanderLost: I could call an ambulance. You probably don’t want me to drive down. Jesus. This is my fault.
WanderLost: Oh, man.
WanderLost: Well. You must be busy throwing up. Christ I hope you didn’t hit your head. And I need a new Joke. I’ve got the booze and soda for a few at least. Rum’s good for turnin’ off the computer.
WanderLost: I’ll let you go. Sigh, again. I appreciate you giving me time. It did me good.
WanderLost: Us, maybe.