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Monday, 15 October 2012 13:11

The Quality of the Rain


It was a rainy day in October, well, actually it wasn’t raining, more of a pervasive mist that continually hung in the air, neither falling nor rising, drawing a watery curtain across the city through which people passed in a perpetually beaded haze. My glasses had become so bespeckled from my bike ride down the hill I could hardly see anything in front of me – is that a pothole or a person? – and yet when I arrived at the cafe where I’d chosen to work that morning, my clothes were almost completely dry.

For the past few months I’d been working for an internet media site, let’s call it The Louse, even if that’s not its real name, which was dedicated to high society gossip in the early 20th century fashion of that newspaper in Proust’s novel that my editor was always referencing and I could never remember. The Louse frequently encouraged its writers to cover soirees in the Hamptons, villas in Tuscany, an occasional wedding in Napa Valley. The funny thing, to me, was that somehow I’d been hired onto this site as a writer despite the fact that I lived in a small city in the Northeast, isolated from all major metropolitan hubs, that was more known for lumberjacks, girls in plaid and organic farming than Prada and benefit galas. Thus, there wasn’t much work for me here, and thus I didn’t have much money, and thus I seldom had the means to travel anywhere that might throw the random masked ball in the middle of the woods.

As you can see, it was a vicious circle, which only got more vicious, the noose tightening, when my editor at The Louse started making noise about my lack of productivity. “Want to relocate me to New York?” – that’s what I wanted to say, and then I’ll get you plenty of dirty gossip trash that you can pin to your forehead. But I didn’t say that. Instead, I said, “been feeling a little blocked recently.” “How 'bout you write us a Manifesto?” my editor asked. I couldn’t tell if she was kidding or not (none of her usual emoticons). I let a few minutes go by without a response, just to see what would happen. Then, “I’m serious. Write one for me. < 300 words by the end of the day.”

Shit. Now what the fuck was I supposed to do? What kind of manifesto? What is a manifesto anyway? How does one write one? This smelled like a shameless manifesto ploy for Louse publicity, but what could I do? I had to write her something, even it if was just a token, unless I wanted to lose my job, which, contrary to what I may have presented, I desperately did not want to do.

I typed “How to write a manifesto” into my search window and found a bunch of youth group trash, including an especially sleazy manifesto by The Art of Manliness, one of our gossip rag competitors. Their manifesto was a Man-ifesto. Oh lord, I sighed, what had I gotten myself into?

 As I drank my cappuccino, I made to-do lists:

·      Get double cappuccino

·      Look up Cyborg Manifesto

·      ½ & ½

·      Call Mom

·      Write goddamn manifesto

·      Bottle of wine (reward)

By the time I crossed double cappuccino off my list I had come no closer to writing the manifesto (or crossing off any other list item) than when I’d arrived at the cafe. I had nothing I wanted to declare publicly to the world, certainly nothing fit for a gossip website. The thought of writing A Society Girl’s Manifesto, or A Society Writer’s Manifesto, which I knew was the type of thing The Louse wanted, made me cringe down into the core of my being. In fact, I couldn’t physically bring myself to write such a thing; the pen would fall from my petrified fingers if I tried. And I called myself a Society Writer? Didn’t I see the contradictions? Of course I did. But did it cause me to examine my scummy life? Not at all. I needed to eat and pay rent, and thus, I decided I better psych myself up and write this damn thing.

 At about three in the afternoon, I got a message from The Louse: “How’s it going?” Hmmm … I considered lying, but then thought better: “I’ve got a start. Will send soon.” It was true; I had a start, or at least an idea.

 By five o’clock and two double cappuccinos later, I had a working draft, almost ready to send to The Louse. My hands were literally shaking (from the caffeine, or something else?) as I read it to myself.

A Society Writer’s Manifesto

from the Far Northeast Quadrant

Where Nothing Society Ever Happens

1. Try to find something to write about – fail.

2. Try again to find something to write about, maybe an art opening in a lobster shack, maybe a gala at The Umbrella Museum – fail again.

3. Drink too much coffee – mutter – worry – call mother – mutter – ignore  editor – mutter – fail better – think about people with tons of money who don’t get, will never get, enough attention.

4. Try again, do anything, write anything, thank god.

5. Die soon.

I looked it over, twitched a few times, and sent it.

Almost immediately, my editor sent back a message: “Are you serious?” I didn’t reply.

Then, “I love it! I absolutely luv it. It’s so funny!”

Funny indeed. The post went live, soon scoring the most hits in The Louse’s history. My job was safe, in fact, more than safe; on the strength of the post, The Louse scooped me up from my backwater and relocated me to New York City, where I thought even the rain had a higher quality, where I went on, if I can be honest with myself, to never write anything half as good or half as honest as that manifesto ever again.

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