I’ve used blogs as brainstorming grounds for a novel for years; unfortunately, the most that came out of it was a fifty-page dead-end tale about a family stranded on an island (that predated Lost, by the way). I guess I’m at it again though, with a few more years of life experience under my belt.
I recently moved into my first very own one-bedroom apartment. I pay rent, utilities, the whole nine yards. I even steal Internet. It’s great.
The point is, I’m truly out on my own for the first time. I’ve lived in multi-person apartments before, but there are some feelings that you can only experience in “a place of your own.” Take the proud feeling you get when you realize that your place is yours, at least for the duration of your lease. You can cook whatever you want, on your stove, whenever you want. You can do, within reasonable limits, whatever you want. What could be better? It’s the feeling of unbridled capitalist angst! Then there’s that primal fear you get coming back to your own place at night for the first time. My apartment is plagued by a lack of good lighting, so coming home at night can be a frightening experience. I never know, until I reach the kitchen light on the opposite side of the living room from the door, whether some intruder might be lurking behind my couch, ready to pounce. Nevermind the fact that I was more scared of apartment invasion before I furnished the apartment than after. It still hasn’t been furnished with an adequate number of lamps.
My newfound independence has opened up a brand new world of potential experiences. I was thinking about writing something about a friendship between two very different next-door neighbors in the same apartment complex. College towns provide a surprising number of interesting stories, so I’m thinking about setting the book in Lexington or perhaps an invented or borrowed college town. I can’t help but make the narrator like myself–a college student who recently struck out on his own for the first time. But his next-door neighbor is shaping up to be a much more interesting character–a “non-traditional student” who fought in the first Gulf War returning to college to be a professor of history. All he has to show for his tour of duty is a certain anatomical defect rendered on him by a particularly nasty Iraqi, but his lust for life and optimism in the face of such a horrible experience pique the curiosity of the narrator. Read on to find out what it was!
Both men have lived in mild solitude for their entire lives; their friendships have always risen and fallen with their rights of passage. But the narrator, realizing that he is running out of rites of passage and cultural circumstances in which to forge friendships, takes a chance on true friendship with his neighbor. He at least wants to assuage the other tenants in the building, who have pegged the neighbor as a sex addict who sleeps all day and entertains all kinds of women at night. At first the two are amiable with each other, indulging one another’s questions and politely providing each other coffee and cigarettes. But as the narrator tries to push the friendship on, he catches the neighbor dodging his questions and even avoiding his phone calls. The friendship is on very rocky ground when a woman enters the scene, one of the narrator’s lab partners. The two of them see the neighbor coming up to his apartment with a woman in tow, and she inquires about him. The narrator ends up telling her the story of how they met and everything he knows about him. The woman senses right away that something is missing, and hatches a plan to get the neighbor to open up.
Things get vague at this point. The big secret is his so-called “anatomical defect”…an extremely compromised member (cut off by the Iraqi). I’ve toyed with the idea that the neighbor wants to be a father, and is constantly courting women in order to find one that will go all the way with him, but I’m not sure about it quite yet. As for the plan to get him to open up, I was thinking something involving alcohol or perhaps planned drugging…I’m waiting for inspiration on that front as well. And as for the big event that shakes things up…I’m clueless.
More to come later.