“You’re a writer?” she said, as she looked up toward the desk where his typewriter sat.
“Well you don’t seem certain about it, either of you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well you said you ‘suppose’, you’re a writer.”
“Yes, but you said either of us? Me and who else?”
“The typewriter darling. It doesn’t seem sure about the whole thing either, there’s not even a ribbon in it.”
“There’s not?… Oh…I suppose…I had to step out just before you arrived.”
“Well, where to?”
“It’s a long story.”
“Well you’re a writer, and I’m in no rush to get anywhere, I only live downstairs after all. So tell me a story…”
“I hardly even know you. I don’t know if I want to.”
“Hardly seems relevant, it’s your job after all, nobody is supposed to want to do their job are they?”
“Well you don’t even seem sure you are one, so stop worrying so much and tell me a story.”
“I’m not a storyteller, I’m a writer. There’s a difference.”
“I don’t see that there is. Well what is it then?”
“I write! I don’t just make things up, and tell people stories.”
“It’s all the same in my book.”
“You seem more the storyteller type.”
“Suppose I am.”
She lit a cigarette and they both watched the blue smoke slowly spiral towards the ceiling. Arching just beneath the chandelier, it doubled over on itself and descended again.
The birds had started to chirp outside the sun was nearly fully up.
“Where do you think we’ll be in fifty years time?” She began again.
“What do you mean?”
“You know, what do you think the world will be like, what do you think you’ll be doing?”
“In fifty years? We’ll I’d better at least be published by then. Written something of real worth y’know?”
“I don’t suppose they’ll even need typewriters by then.”
“Well surely somebody will have dreamt up something else, you know a machine that just listens to you speak and does the typing for you.”
“It isn’t. It seems perfectly plausible. I mean think of it, it’s not so long ago people would have laughed at you if you’d told them we were driving around in motor cars, and writing on machines instead of with a pen.”
“I still write with a pen sometimes.”
“So people will still want to write with typewriters.”
“I suppose, there’s always a few who cling onto things. Usually it’s either just because they’re scared to move on, or they feel they’ve got a statement to make by not doing what’s expected of them.”
“Either way we’ll still need typewriters.”
“Perhaps, maybe it’s you they’ll replace then.”
“Well you know they’ll probably invent a robot or something that’s better at it than you are. Won’t need a typewriter or you either, it’ll just dash off stories like a printing press, somebody will bind them up and put them straight onto a shelf in the bookstore.”
“What a load of rubbish! I’ve never heard anything that’s so absurd. How could a machine ever write anything? Let alone something anybody would want to pay to read.
They have no emotion, no passion, no romance. They don’t even have a soul!”
“I suppose. You certainly had plenty of all that up until now. Perhaps you should put more of it into your writing and less of it into intercepting girls as they come out of the powder room”.
“Intercepted? That seems a strong way of putting it.You didn’t seem to mind so much at the time”
“I didn’t. I still don’t.
I’m merely making an observation, you could have been here writing instead. If your typewriter had had a ribbon of course.”
“Well it just so happens that’s exactly why I was there.”
“To pick up a typewriter ribbon?”
“Yes.” It was the most certain he’d sounded of anything all evening.
“You were picking up a typewriter ribbon at 11 o’clock at night in a club on the lower east side?”
“That’s just what I was trying to tell you.”
“Before, when you asked me to tell you a story.”
“Well go on then.”
“It hardly seems worth it now, you aren’t going to believe me no matter what I say. You’re convinced I was only in that place with the intention of ‘intercepting’ you.”
“Or who ever came through the powder room door before me.”
“I was there to meet Ronnie.”
“I thought you were there to get a typewriter ribbon?”
“I was, Ronnie works in the club office, he said he might be able to lend me one if I swung by, there’s nowhere else open at that hour to get one.”
“And it couldn’t wait until morning?”
“You have to write when the mood strikes you.”
“So I’ve heard. You couldn’t use a pen like a normal person?”
“No, not this time. And there I was as you exited the powder room, and I had it exactly what I needed.”
“A typewriter ribbon?”
“No a story”
With that she pulled out the last of her cigarettes, slipped her legs from under the sheets onto the floor, and began to get dressed.
“Well it’s been lovely, I really would love to read your story when you finish it. But I expect my cat is missing me — he gets awfully fussy when I stay out, he’ll want fed” She said as she pulled on the last of the black dress she’d been wearing when they met.
“Let me know how it turns out.”
“I will” he said, looking confused as she slid open the window, sat on the sill and swung both her legs onto the metal landing outside.
“We really live in the same building?”
“Right upstairs darling, I told you. Why would I lie about a thing like that?”
“I don’t know.”
As she closed the window behind her and vanished up the fire-escape, he glanced at his wristwatch on the dresser beside him.
It was eight-thirty on Tuesday morning. He didn’t have anywhere else to be but he didn’t feel like going back to bed. After adjusting the pillows behind him and falling back onto them to consider his options he concluded he’d get up and make himself some coffee.
Perhaps he would head back down to the lower east side and see if Ronnie had clocked off yet. Maybe he’d gotten talking to a few more interesting girls as they made the trip from the powder room door across the floor of the nightclub.
Few of them ever had much of a story, or at least nothing original, and even fewer turned out to live in the same building.
It was those little details that made things interesting… the kind of things he couldn’t think of the word for, though it felt right on the tip of his tongue.
…”Anna!” He remembered her name.
As he climbed out of bed pulling on his underwear from the floor, he made toward the door for the kitchen. But suddenly found himself sat at the little desk where the typewriter sat.
He slid open the bottom drawer, pushed aside a few pencils and note pads and pulled out a small box.
He took the ribbon from it’s packaging, untied it, inserted it into the machine and began to type.
He didn’t stop until late into the evening. It was the little things that made the stories interesting, the anomalies.