for the Absence of Alternatives –
Sherry called me about the blog post that I emailed her earlier that day. I had asked her to read it before I published it.
“You cannot publish this,” she said.
She read me the last paragraph of my piece over the phone. Her voice had a tone of shrill mockery.
“Jason walked up to the plate, the baseball bat in his tiny outstretched hand. It was at that moment, the fifth inning of second game of the Queens County Peewee Little League season, that I saw my son become a man, confident and assured, a true athlete, a mirror image of his old man. “That’s my son,” I wanted to shout. “That’s my beautiful son!”
I was so proud of myself when I wrote that passage, sharing a touching moment with my readers, that I was shocked when I heard Sherry’s disapproval.
“You didn’t like it?” I asked, confused. “I thought you would be moved to tears!”
“What the fuck are you talking about? It doesn’t matter WHAT I feel. It’s not true. You are not a father. You do not have a son. You were never an athlete.”
“And how do I know it’s fiction.”
“Look at the very end of the piece. In the tiny print, it says — “this is pure fiction.””
“No, no, no. That doesn’t change a thing. A blog post has to be true. It cannot be fiction. Look, I know you are jealous of all of the mommy and daddy bloggers out there and all the attention they from the brands, but you can’t write a story about being a father.”
“Because it opens up a Pandora’s box that will allow white people to steal the stories of African-Americans, and men to write like they understand women, until eventually no one will know what is true and what is fake, and society will simply collapse. We must write what we know.”
“But it’s fiction! Tolkien didn’t know any Hobbits.”
“There are no real Hobbits. But there are real fathers. And you will never know what it means to be a father going to a Little League game. You can never write about it honestly. Even in fiction. Write about your own life. Sophia, Juli, your mother.”
“But it can be frustrating just writing about my own life. When I become too honest about my life, people become all judgmental about my life choices, and unfollow me on Facebook.”
“Stop worrying so much about other people. If you are honest and authentic, we accept you for who you really are. We WANT to know the REAL you and the REAL events in your life!”
“Is that true or is that just a platitude?” I asked, chuckling. “Do you really and honestly want me to write a blog post about the time you and Martha gave me those blowjobs inside the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland during that Disney Social Media weekend?”
“Stop it! You promised me! You can never ever tell that story. Especially since Disney is one of my biggest clients.”
“But it’s a true story, right?”
“Of course it’s a true story. But you have to maintain some confidentiality. You have to act like a professional and not just blurt everything out.”
“So, do you see the bind I’m in? I can’t make up stories about being a father because it isn’t true. And I can’t tell true life stories about getting blowjobs by mommybloggers during Disney Social Media weekends because it is TOO true. So, what else am I left with?”
“You can write a post for my “Campaign to Stop Bullying Blogathon.”
“I’m never writing an anti-bullying post. I like bullying. In fact, bullying was one of my favorite pastimes when I was a teenager. I bullied other kids. And that’s the God Honest Truth.”
“Neil, I don’t believe a word you’re saying. You’re a liar.”
“I’m a writer.”
“No, you’re not. A writer writes honestly and authentically, but without malice, and betters the world. You’re a fool. The world never improves from your writing. It just grows worse.”
Later that night, there was a knock on my door. It was Sergeant Anthony Rodriguez of the NYPD, 107th Police Precinct. He was a short balding man with a bodybuilder’s body that fit too snugly in his blue uniform.
“Do you know a woman named Sherry Koningsberg,” he asked. His eyes squinted, as if trying to read my face before I even answered.
“Yes,” I do. “She’s an online friend.”
“OMG,” I said.
“OMG. That means Oh My God in Internet talk.”
“Whatever. Your friend was murdered!”
He reached into his side pocket and presented me with a crumpled piece of paper. I unfolded it, as slowly as unraveling an origami bird. It was a printout of the blog post that I emailed to Sherry the previous night. And it was splattered with her dark red blood, the same color that was staining my t-shirt that read “Write What You Know,” the one I bought at the Strand Bookstore in December on that same day I was caught masturbating to that Thai Noodle cookbook in the Culinary Adventures aisle of the bookstore.
“You’re under arrest,” uttered Officer Rodriguez, and read me my Miranda rights. My eyes fluttered left and right, looking for an escape. And then I did it. I charged forward, pushing the officer aside, and sped down the corridor, like a gazelle running from a tiger, but before I could reach the staircase, I felt the hard cold knock of a wooden club smack me in the back of my head, and I fell to the freshly washed tile floor with a loud thud, and I was out cold.
tiny print — this is pure fiction.