One of the stupider questions I’m often asked is if that person has read anything I’ve written. The only way I can be sure this is a possibility is if a person:
1) recites something I’ve written
2) holds something I’ve written in front of me
3) comments on something I’ve written
4) tells me I’m a sick fuck.
I’ve found anything else is a dubious guess on my part. But that doesn’t stop it from happening. So much so I have some standard answers. Such as the obvious,
“I doubt it. After all, you haven’t run away.”
The vaguely frightening,
“Being who I write about I hope so!”
Or even turn it around,
“I can’t be sure. Do you hang around the men’s room at city hall?”
People have taken umbrage at my approach. I guess that proves if you have to ask, you haven’t read me. People have often become downright surly with my flippant answers. What do they expect? I’m not one of those people who believes there are no stupid questions. There are plenty of stupid questions. The good thing is I don’t respond outwardly to 99.9% of them. I just let them roll around in my head casting casual aspersions at your lineage.
Think about it, if I took time to respond to every stupid question in my day, by noon I’d be choking out people with the regularity of a pro wrestler.
Then we have the people who ask this question. Most of the time I smile and explain there is no way for me to know their reading habits. Even after they list the periodicals they read.
“Do you write for The Dollar Shopper? The Bingo Bugle? Latex Lovers Quarterly?”
Even after that I still have a smile plastered on my puss. It’s not a happy smile. But, for most, it still passes as sort of non-threatening. But there’s only so far I’m willing to go. Once I’ve given a few publications, maybe some TV and radio, maybe a web site, possibly my bibliography, I begin to become weary. Worn down. Downright surly it’s been said.
Don’t get me wrong, I want new readers. I’ve actually gone to places to pimp my work. I answer email. I talk on the phone. I’ll do whatever it takes to get one more person aware that I’m out there making the world safe for swears.
Through all this I’ve met people who read my crap. And, truth be told, some of them don’t look long for this world. I’m just being pragmatic. I appreciate anyone who buys a book, purchases a shirt, hires me to work, but I’ll need someone to fill that spot when they die which is why I talk to people.
As you can see, I don’t go out of my way to alienate people. It just seems to happen quite often. It could be me. I think I’m very patient when, in fact, it might be seen that I snap as quickly as gum in a whores mouth. But there’s only so far I can go before I rise up on my haunches and scream,
“If you were any more useless I’d work my ass off to get you elected to congress.”
But it’s not for any lack of trying. Such as last night. I was asked by someone to come to an art opening. As much as I avoid things like this (proving I have some self-awareness) the guy said the magic words,
“I want you to bring the books I ordered.”
Well, fill my mouth with Bubble Yum and call me easy.
I get to the event at the half way mark. In my experience, arriving then means people are already into their own things so I can run in, greet who I need to, meet who I must, and be out the back door before my wine has warmed.
I walk up to the host who gobbles up the books and brings me around as he distributes them. I meet my new friends and we have a lovely time.
I’m checking my wine level and see that fade out time is drawing near. I move the conversation in other directions to pull the focus off me. It’s an old trick but one that usually allows me to disengage and wander off.
It’s not a fool-proof plan because, if it was, I wouldn’t be writing this. I’m eight feet from this group, backing off undetected, when this woman introduces herself and jumps right into her resume. She’s a this scholar and a that fellow and a this is really annoying.
After completing a tour of her CV from Boretheshitouta U. she turns her focus on me. She begins by telling me what she’s heard. The weird part about this is I’ve often found out about things I’ve supposedly done this way. Let me tell you, the heard about Chris is much more interesting than the walkabout Chris.
I smile, thank her and gently begin to pardon myself. I’m not going out of my way to be rude it’s just that I don’t see my book in her hand so I’ve got to go pray to keep one of my readers alive.
Sensing that she’s boring, I mean, losing my attention she asks the stupid question. It’s from pseudo-intellectuals I most abhor this question. Mainly because it usually turns into oneupsmanship. I’ll answer and they’ll respond with,
“Oh my! I would never read that publication!”
Followed by a series of jabs at my limited scope. Followed by something to assuage my battered ego. If they only knew they’re emboldening the terrorist. Snide comments about me are like mosquitoes to bats. They keep me alive and tickle my throat.
“No matter who you’ve written for I’m sure, if Ben is a fan, you’re a very talented artist.”
What is she talking about? What I do is not art. I write foible fables. I sniff deeply of the bad breath of humanity and wallow in the bile of insecurity in search of the perfect dick joke.
She begins searching her vast database of past words read while asking, once again, if she’d read me. Once I uncover that she, in fact, does not speak Croatian, we disregard the groundbreaking work I did on Večeras s Joškom Lokasom. That Joško, he’s such a card.
The harder she pressed the more I wanted to kick her. There! The truth is out. You don’t want to know how many people I want to kick in a day. Trust me, kicking surprises them much more than punching.
“No,” I found myself saying at one point. “I’ve never heard of the Journal of Artistic Pretension much less written for it.”
Finally, when I’ve worn out my work experience and she is unwilling to believe Ben knows a writer she doesn’t, I take the bitch by the teats.
I pull a pen and pad out of my pocket, jot something down, finish with my scribbled signature, hand it to her and smile. Then watch as she quickly blinks and backs away.
Maybe I should have written something other than,
“You have officially read me. Now fuck off.”