It’s true I haven’t appeared here in months. I’ve been busy just trying to absorb all the changes my author L has written into the draft of the novel where I’m living. And now a new man has appeared in my life. I’m not talking about Nick, the romantic interest; he’s been with me since the first draft. I’m talking about a different sort of man.
Right now, his name is Bumper Sticker, but I’ve been living inside a novel-in-progress long enough to know that names can change according to the whim of the author. I have a lot of sympathy for Bumper Sticker, who seems to be one of the lost and lonely. He hangs out at the fictional public library where I work. It’s become his refuge—a public building that’s heated in winter and cooled in summer and has the comfort of other people reading and working and searching the Internet. For him, I think, it’s either hang out at the library or walk the streets or sit alone at home. He haunts the stacks in the history section, sometimes pulling down a book and scribbling a cryptic comment in a margin. His scribbles might amount to messages of some sort, but no one at the library can figure out who they’re written for, or exactly what they mean.
If you were to meet Bumper Sticker in real life you might say, “He’s a real character, that one.” He first appeared a number of years ago, in a short story L was writing. She never did finish that piece, but the man wouldn’t die, and now he’s shown up halfway through my story. I wonder, is this common practice among writers, to recycle old ideas in new ways? I mean, would Alice do this?
Bumper sticker wears second-hand dress pants and a scruffy sports coat and running shoes, one of which is tied round the toe-box with a plastic grocery bag from the Co-op. Knotted around his left arm, in about the place where a person would wear a mourning band, is an orange scarf. Two long tails hang from the knot. They swing when he walks. One of these long tails carries a message, spelled out in clumsy embroidery, big block letters.
Trouble is, because the fabric hangs in twists and folds, the message isn’t clear. I can’t help thinking that if only my author could decipher it, we’d have a key that would help us understand more deeply what my story’s about. Unless, of course, my story is about the fact that there are things we’ll never know.
I wish L would sort this out. I’m one of those people who isn’t comfortable with this idea of not knowing.