Isolation, Chapter 4
Chapter 1: Here
Chapter 2: Here
Chapter 3: Here
Josh’s words were hard, yet even. The control in which they were said surprised even Josh himself, though not a man of strong emotional displays, he did take his privacy seriously, and personally. The silence following his words made Josh wonder if he had gone too far.
The reporter still felt unsure of how to proceed. However, a flash of insight came from Josh’s speech, that being Josh had no idea the effect his poem was having on the literary world. With this knowledge, the reporter decided not to show his hand just yet.
“So, Josh,” the words helped bring the reporter back to the task at hand. “First, I just want to thank you for letting me talk to you today.” Josh only nodded. “And I also want to say that I loved the poem—just beautiful; it really touched me.” This brought another simple nod from the poet.
Switching gears, the reporter flipped open his commonplace book for inspiration. “So, tell me, have you written a lot of poetry, or was your submission to the website an aberration, you know, a one-time thing?” Oh, the reporter thought. He knows what an aberration is. Josh sat and looked at his guest. After a moment, Josh simply bowed his head as if in disgust. Sensing a possible faux pas, the reporter interjected, “I’m sorry, did I say something wrong?”
Josh looked up and simply asked, “Did you even read my poem at all?”
The reporter stopped, his mind raced back to the first time he read Josh’s poem, an e-mail from a colleague at a newspaper in Miami told him of an amazing new poem that was gaining an underground popularity among the college crowd. He found the link, read the poem, admitted to himself that it was a little “highbrow” for him, for he never though himself a big fan of poetry. He thought the poem showed insight, but, to be honest, he just let it slide through one side his brain until it exited the other. As a reporter he was more interested in the writer than the writing.
“Of course, I read the poem,” knowing Josh had really asked if the reporter had understood the poem. “I…well…I mean, sure, I read it…and…you know, it was really good…” Josh stood up and looked down at his guest. Cutting him off, he said, “Hey, I’m sorry,” the apologetic tone evident. “I guess I’m just a little sensitive about what I write. Hey, can I get you something, coffee, tea?” Josh turned and entered the kitchen as the reporter responded, “Coffee, black will be just fine.”
The silence helped both men, each using the time to think about how this interview could be a success. Josh returned and the gesture of warm stimulant in liquid form provided perspective for the two men.
Josh spoke first as he set down his cup of tea and returned to his chair. “So, The question, you asked about…” This time the reporter stopped Josh from speaking. “Josh, look, I’ll be honest with you. I read the poem and it was a little over my head.” The coffee felt good as it warmed from the inside. The fire only went so far and it appeared from the reporter’s perspective that the fireplace might be the home’s only source of heat. Josh let the reporter continue. “But even though poetry is not my thing, I know something about people, and after I—and others, many others—read your poem,” the word ‘others’ hung in the cold air, the affect on Josh apparent. “Being a newspaper man, I felt like there’s a story here. You’re a story, and I think people would be interested to know more about you.”
The reporter stopped. He learned years ago if he gave the interviewee time to think, he was sometimes rewarded with what he felt were better answers.
“That’s why I got on a plane a day and a half ago just to talk to you and ask you some questions about who you are and why you write. So, if it’s okay with you, I’ll just sit here, enjoy this coffee—and any more coffee you may have percolating on the stove—and listen to what you have to say.”
Josh looked at the reporter and wondered where he should begin. From the beginning, came to mind. “Robert,” Josh said. “Have you ever been to Southern California?”
The question caught the reporter off guard. “Um, sure, couple of times, why?”
“No offense, but unless you’ve lived there, you can’t understand what it’s like growing up in that environment.”
“Tell me about it,” the reporter said, sensing Josh might open up to him after all. But before Josh could answer, a question had to be asked. “Wait…what? Are you saying growing up in California was…..what? Tough?”
Josh just smiled as he let the subtle sarcasm escape into the cool air. “Now I know that even if you read my poem, you didn’t understand it—you didn’t let it become part of you.” Josh settled in his chair, the cat rose, stretched before his human subjects, and sauntered into the kitchen. “Okay, I’ll give you that—growing up in Southern California is not the worst curse inflicted upon mankind. I think my problem was,” Josh paused, a serine smile crossed his lips. “The problem was.….it was too perfect….I had it too good. That was my problem.”
“Too good?” asked the reporter. “You’re right, there’s no possible way I can understand growing up in that environment.” The reporter wondered if this young man, this week’s literary darling, was suffering from some sort of mental ailment, or perhaps a case of Anthropophobia.
The reporter thought of his own childhood. Oh, how many times had he wished he had grown up in California, going to the beach after school instead of trudging through the snow on Long Island during those long, cold winters. And during the few summer months when he did make it to a beach on the Atlantic, it was nothing like the beaches he saw on TV or in the movies. Those California beaches, now those were beaches.
“Well, even in Paradise, a hell can exist,” said Josh
“I suppose you’re right,” the reporter countered. “But you’ve still got to explain it to me.” The reporter closed his notebook and set it on the small table along with the half-eaten oatmeal. “You’ve a captive audience; I’m all yours. My flight doesn’t leave for several hours and I’ve got no where else to go.”