On Friday a reading took place at a bar on the Upper East Side. I met one of the readers for a drink beforehand and recognized it as a mistake as soon as I sat down, because 1) he immediately told me he was reading last which 2) condemned me to sit through the entire event. Before him, atop the bar, stood an empty glass and a stack of notes. The stack was alarmingly thick. It was about the thickness of a commencement address.
My friend didn’t look at me when I sat next to him, so I asked whether he was in a bad mood. “No,” he replied. “Why would you ask that? I just had a weird day.”
What was weird about it?
“I dropped a package in the stairwell of my building, and then when I went to get it, I fainted.”
The cause of the fainting was unknown. A Russian immigrant who lived two floors below found him and conveyed him up to the correct unit, and for the rest of the afternoon, my friend said, a hole had burned at the center of his vision. That was earlier in the day. I was curious to know but didn’t ask if the hole was still burning.
Like a lot of writers, this person was prone to self-involvement. It wasn’t the seductive self-involvement of funny people or the charming self-involvement of dumb attractive people; just a persistent fog through which all conversation lost its way.
I ordered some drinks.
“Actually,” my friend said, “I am in a bad mood.”