Who Me, Bitter?

“Are you bitter?”
I laugh, slightly embarrassed, slightly amused. Is it that obvious? How the hell did the conversation go from casual pool post laps chit chat to my deepest darkest psychological insecurities?

The chat had begun innocuously enough. “Is that a new suit?” Handsome Swimmer Man had asked.
“Nope, just one that’s been resurrected. I haven’t had a chance to get online to check out that site you told me about last week.”
He had nodded, shrugging, “Yeah….”
“I mean, the time gets away from me, you know? What with all these different jobs I’m juggling.”
“How many jobs do you have?”
“Three….four…depends on how you count them up…”
He shakes his head, “What do you do?”
“I teach writing….”
“You teach Montessori?”
Where the hell did he get that? I blame water in the ears. “No, I teach college level. At a couple of universities. Mostly grad students.”
“Cool, where?”
I feel a little under the gun at this point. Why is he interrogating me so? I mean, it’s a lot of questions, right? I’m game though, mostly cuz of his eyelashes.
“My wife got her MBA at FFU.”
“Ah….” Suddenly I know a lot about him. An MBA wife. From FFU. She’s businessy and crisp. “What kind of work do you do?” I ask him.
He sighs, lowly. “Software….” Then something I don’t understand.
“I know only how to use computers, not how they work,” I joke.
“Your tool is only as good as the person using it.”

It sounds like he’s said this a zillion times. I just grin. Feeling a little chilly, I stretch my leg up onto the deck lean my head toward my knee.
“So, if you teach writing you must be a writer,” he asserts, staring me down.
“What do you write?”
“Novels, short stories.”
“Under what pseudonym?”
I wonder why he thinks I’d write under another name? He’s just after that question people always ask when they find out you’re a writer: Are you published? And this is where the bitterness shows through I guess. Cuz I bristle at this query. Why must I be published? Why must I have a broad readership? Why don’t I? I’m such a failure.
Blah blah blah…..

And so, yes, I am bitter and I tell him so. With a teasing tone, of course. Hell, I don’t even know him, right?
“You’re bitter, really?” he asks.
“Yup,” I laugh.
“No…well…yeah….well…..” I hesitate.
He jumps in, “I’m bitter too!” he exclaims.
“You are?”
“For me?”
“Sure, why not?” he grins.

“Are you a writer too?” I ask. “Is that why you know that bitter taste?”
He chuckles. “No, I’m not a writer. Maybe I should take one of your classes.”
“Uh….well, you’d have to be a student.”
He shrugs, “True….”
“I do have private clients….” Why did I mention this?

“What kind of novels do you write?” he asks.
“I’m working on a novel about an artist, one of the later Surrealists, and his three muses.”
“Who? Breton?”
Damn, he knows Breton? How did he read my mind? This was getting to be a surreal poolside chat.
“Yes…” I answer, "but actually I just made most of it up…”
“Did Breton have 3 muses?” he ignores my assertion round the imaginative narrative.
“I have no idea,” I laugh. “It’s fiction.”
“Ah, of course,” he nods.

I can tell he’d keep talking if I did, and now I really was getting cold. “I have to get out,” I say, “getting cold.”
“Oh, yeah…sure…I’d love to read your novel.”
I laugh. “If I finish it, I’ll send it to you.”
He starts to call out his email address as I climb out of the pool, shivering now. I’ll never remember it and tell him so.

“That’s okay,” he nods.

He dives back underwater, falls into his smooth rhythm like he’d never been the interrogator of an unpublished bitter writer.
Yet am I really I bitter? Oh, sure sometimes. Who wouldn’t be? But most of the time, I don’t care. Esp. when I’m actually writing. Like right now. No bitterness in sight. Just words and more words and stories and dialogue and yes, the pool…..my first love and inspiration….


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