The one that got away

The floor was littered with discarded tissues, all aimed in the general direction of an already overflowing trash can. On the table were a few mugs of coffee. Some looked a day old, some just short of turning into coffee kombucha.  On the corner of the desk were coasters for the mugs but none of them had been used because the desk was pockmarked with rings from the cups. Sitting in the middle of the desk was an Apple Macbook, open on a blank page with the cursor blinking as if waiting for someone to tell it what to do.

Matt stood by the window staring into space. His eyes were red and watery like he had been crying. The mild breeze caught him in the face and ruffled his hair, making him rub his eyes. He sniffled, closed the window and turned back towards his desk. He let out a huge sigh as he looked at the clutter around his study. He’d been cooped up for a week straight trying to create an anti-climactic end to his book. His agent, Dave had called him incessantly during that time and left numerous messages. He’d even stopped by and almost knocked the door down.

Matt had been working on his new book going on six months now. It had been due two months ago. The publishing house had been patient in the beginning but they had started to lose interest and his agent was starting to lose his temper. Matt had most of his chapters done but he wasn’t ready to share them yet. He wanted this one to end differently which might need him to rewrite some of his chapters and he didn’t want the publishers or anyone else trying to influence him. If he could just get past his writer’s block, he would have what he needed, except his block seemed to made a permanent home in his head! He needed to shake it loose else he was going to lose this contract!

He considered going for a walk, maybe sitting at his favorite coffee shop Moe Joe’s and watching people amble around going about their day. Usually being out in the world helped him but it was spring and the pollen count was through the roof. It was doing him no favors this time. He was downing Claritin like it was candy and he was still suffering. He needed to get out though, so he did.

Just as he got his coffee and sat down at the corner table, his phone rang. It was his agent again. Matt knew he had pushed it too far so he took a deep breath and answered the phone. “Good Morning Dave! What can I do for you on this beautiful day?” he said cheerfully. There was a second of silence followed by “Fuck the day! I see you’re alive so that’s good. I’m guessing you haven’t heard any of my previous messages. I was just going to leave you my last message telling you to find a new agent because I’m done with you!” Dave hissed. “Now now” Matt said affably “I know I’ve been MIA but you know how I get when I am in the trenches.” Another pause. “Oh? Trenches eh? Well, considering you’ve been in there for….let’s see….over a week, you better be telling me you’re done with your book!” Dave said, trying hard to keep his voice from rising.

Matt knew when to stop pushing Dave’s buttons so he sobered up and said “Look Dave,  I’ve been trying to work on it. You’ve known me for over a decade now and you know I don’t fool around. I just can’t seem to create a good end. I’ve written it several different ways. None of them work. I need to find something and yes, I know I need to find it fast. I’m onto something this time I think, but I need two more weeks. Promise! If I can’t deliver in two weeks, you can quit.” There was a long sigh. Matt could sense Dave weighing the seriousness of his words. “Matt, I’ve always known you to deliver on your promises but this time something is different. You’ve been elusive and secretive the whole time. You won’t let me even read the chapters like you normally do. So what if the climax isn’t ready. We can at least send the rest of it to Mercer Publishing so they don’t think we’re yanking their chain.” Dave said.

“Dave”, Matt started slowly “it’s not that. I told you, how I end this book may change some of the chapters up front and I don’t want Mercer to exert unnecessary influence on the outcome. I need to do this right, Dave, please!” Dave sighed again. “Some days I just don’t get you. I think I know you and then suddenly you’re a completely different person. Right now you’re being downright cagey and I don’t know if I should believe you. You haven’t been the same since Megan walked out on you and you know it. For all I know this book is your theory on how to win her back!”

“Don’t!” Matt’s voice was a low growl. “You’re walking on thin ice, my friend. Megan and my relationship is off limits for you. You’re my literary agent and I suggest you stay limited to that role. I knew when Megan invited you home and brought you into our personal fold, that this would cause issues in the long run.” Matt winced as his outburst wore out. Dave had been more than an agent to him, almost a brother. He’d given Matt an opportunity when he was a nobody and had stuck with him through some bad times. Dave didn’t deserve the lashing, but Megan was still a sore subject and Dave had actually come mighty close to what the book was based on.

It had been eight months since Megan had walked out the door and this time she hadn’t come back. He had called and called and even stopped by her brother’s house where she was, to apologize. Her brother had finally told him he would call the cops if he showed up there again and that Megan wanted nothing to do with him.

“Matt, you still there?” Dave asked, his voice tense. He knew he had hit a nerve and while what Matt said hurt, he knew better than to take it personally. He’d seen girls come and go and usually Matt was the one breaking it off with them. This time though, Matt had actually seemed serious. He was genuinely smitten by Megan and if Dave wasn’t mistaken, Matt had been in love, a first probably for the debonair writer. No wonder the rejection had hit him hard, but it was coming upon a year and Matt was still moping around. He had cut off all ties with the outside world and turned into a recluse. It was almost as if he thought he might miss Megan coming back if he left his apartment.

That wasn’t too far from the truth either. For the first month, Matt had carried his cell phone everywhere in case Megan called. He stopped caring about himself, stopped showering, shaving and pretty much gave up any social interaction. After being reprimanded by Dave for missing a few high profile book signing events, he told Dave not to volunteer him for any more for a few months while he collected his bearings. Dave obliged but that was seven months ago and Matt was showing no signs of a comeback. Dave had begun to worry and was considering suggesting therapy, although he was sure Matt would much rather jump off a 20 story building than go to a shrink.

Matt hung up the call with Dave mid-discussion, tossed his still untouched coffee into the trash and trudged back to his apartment. Back on his couch, he mulled over how his life had taken such a depressing turn. He used to be the life of any party and his fans adored him. They would flock to his reading and book signing events. That was in fact where he had met Megan and she had bowled him over. He stopped himself. He didn’t want to go down memory lane again. Megan had clearly moved on and just recently he’d seen her in the supermarket walking hand-in-hand with another guy. It was time for him to let go and move on too. He needed to get a grip on it.

He stood up and walked to his study to survey the mess. He let out a huge sigh and then started picking up the tissues, coffee mugs and began straightening up his desk. 20 minutes later, he was ready to make another go at it. Unlike his usual novels, this was going to be a guide to winning back the love of your life. Each chapter was dedicated to a strategy, learned from years of experience. But then again, he’d never been in love before and he had never been dumped by anyone he didn’t want to dump first. He stared at the blank page thinking of all the good times he’d had with Megan – the concert in midtown, the picnic to the local park on her birthday, the sushi dinner in bed, the countless weekend hikes and the cuddling in the tent after. He smiled reminiscently. She had definitely been the one for him and now she was gone. “Megan, babe, this chapter is for you.” He sat up, took a deep breath and typed the title – The one that got away.

As Dave stood along the shelves of the Borders bookstore, he couldn’t believe what a success this book had been. “10 ways…scratch that! 9 ways to win back the love of your life” was the odd title. The first month it was out, it sold an astounding 295,000 copies. There must be a lot of heartbreak going around, Dave thought. What did he know. He had been married and out of the dating game for over two decades. He looked across the room at Matt. Matt hadn’t really made a comeback. He had emerged a newer person. There was a calmness to him, like he had lived, loved and lost and had made peace with himself. Matt looked up from the book he was signing and caught Dave’s eye. A knowing look passed between them before Matt was interrupted by a brunette wanting him to sign a book for her sister. Matt smiled, signed the book and said “Good luck to her!”. Dave was stunned. The brunette was Matt’s type and the old Matt would have been all over her but not today. He had definitely come a long way!


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