An interesting way to join the community. 8o)
Nathalya drove around the corner for a few minutes, looking for a parking slot, as she found one in the backyard of the doctor’s. A sudden pimples eruption had convinced her to go to the gynaecologist for a check up. She was glad she did not have to walk too long, the itches reviving at every step she took.
She stepped into the house and went to the lift. She selected Level 2. As the bell rang and the doors parted, she took on the right. She felt like a hiker on the Everest as she still had to climb the last few steps. The pain she felt was more unpleasant than tragic, but Nathalya loved to cultivate a certain theatrical attitude, even when she was alone. As a hypochondriac, it belonged to her natural abilities to think thrice as much as needed, the extremes always being the options that crossed her mind first. It was only her familiar environment to be thanked that Nathalya had been able to successfully survive in the perilous world surrounding her. Until then.
“The doctor is not there. Come back on Monday.” The secretary turned her head around and continued chatting with another nurse, explaining about her plans for the weekend, the delicious fish she would cook, the serials she would look at the TV with her husband… She looked again at Nathalya with a perplexed glance. “But if it’s an emergency, you should go to the hospital, okay? Have a nice weekend.”
The latter nodded silently at the assistant – she was not the most courageous person – and closed the door behind her. She sadly turned her head at the wide open window in the passageway feeling the mild breeze striking her cheeks, birds singing in the neighbourhood. That autumn morning was simply delicious, the first leaves declining in shades of yellows and burning reds in the city. But not went irritation pimples brought one to scream aloud and want to throw oneself of desperation through the window.
Nathalya had just pressed the button of the lift, as a tall man – he had to bend a little before going through the door – appeared, departing from a mother and her son.
“Nathalya? What are you doing here?” Bob’s smoky voice resounded at the other end of the corridor.
The couple greeted Bob with handshakes, and entered the lift, Nathalya having generously consented to with a smile. Bob’s strong hand caressed her shoulder, what made her turn around, and look into his deep brown eyes. “Time for a coffee?” His invitation was too engaging as to be refused.
Nathalya followed him in his office. It took a complete floor, stuffed with little ateliers, a big living room and a kitchen. There were several people there, preparing a salad for the lunch. Bob went to the espresso machine and drew two cups from the cupboard. “Let’s get outside on the balcony.”
“Great, then I’ll have cigarette. Ah right, you don’t smoke.”
It did not escape Bob that Nathalya did not feel well. She was already sitting as the long-haired man neared a chair. “Tell me how you are doing. You look… awful.”
Nathalya squinted at him suspiciously. “Well… let me see… what could an unemployed, state allowances-cut, pre-menstrual but still young woman say to her defence?” She smirked. “But thanks for asking.” She took a gulp of her coffee, tasting how savoury it was.
She glanced at him, and took a smoke from her cigarette, looking further at the tree before her. “I sent my candidatures at several companies. But they don’t answer, or when they do, it’s a refusal. Indeed.”
“Do you have financial issues?” Bob asked, cautiously. It was his habit to interrogate people, as a social worker.
“No, I have savings. And my friend.”
He acquiesced, patting his goatee. “So what does trouble your mind?”
Out of the blue, she turned to him and dived into his eyes. “You see I worked over ten years for an industry, I had a good job, secure, challenging, interesting. Until I was fired a year ago. But,” she looked deeply at him, “I am no sponger you know. I thought I could use that time to finally… make a dream come true.” She took a big gulp of her black beverage, a long puff from her cigarette. “I have written a novel, in English. It’s an action scenario with many women, special agents, baddies en masse, and romance. Lesbian fiction, you know.” Her eyes were shining passionately. “I have a few beta readers, but I’m not sure of the depth, the compactness, the true value of my creative work.”
“Great!“ Bob showed genuine enthusiasm at her reaction. But he knew too well the dramatic course existences took when it came to challenge life itself, make a dream come true, without making the appropriate preparation beforehand. A tragic end was no rarity in his work. “Have you already been published? Little things, poems or short stories?”
Nathalya’s voice took a sharp tone. “Nope.”
“So how do you want to know how good you are? I imagine it must be quite stressful to start such perilous enterprise without knowing where the journey heads to.” Bob was growing sceptical, which annoyed Nathalya in the darkest depths of her inner being. “If I were you, I would seek for others’ feedback. And not only from your beta readers, who might be too… biased,” he added, in a critical touchdown.
Ouch, that hurt. She considered his words. Was she going to mourn? No. She thought a little while, smoking and drinking little gulps. Eventually, she nodded. “You’re right. I need to know. There is no way around. In the end, when you send a manuscript, you ought to make a good impression. And it is no more no less than looking for a well-paid job.”
Bob squinted at her, worried about the course of action. “I feel you are parted in two now. What did you do in the past that you are not sure about your ‛new’ direction, to put it that way?”
Her eyes brushed over the landscape, before landing on her coffee again. She sputtered a few words, hardly ashamed of her deed. “Sales Area Manager; mainly acquiring customers, following up contracts and deliveries, achieving objectives, fighting against unrealistic budgets. Was not a hundred percent satisfactory, but I earned – and learnt by the way too – quite a lot.”
“Alright, but will it make you happy, I wouldn’t say, ‛again’?” Bob was poking into her sweetest spots, under the protection of her hard granite silence, like a very talented psychologist. “Will you do it for money’s sake or because you really are motivated to do so? I believe there is a meaning in you being jobless. You are at the crossroads, you have the chance to decide about your further life.” Bob looked around, before bringing his hands in a praying position in front of his face. “Let me tell you something. You see, I was not always a social worker; I was a chemist before and it took me guts and nerves as well as three long years full of dread and uncertainty to be properly educated in my new profession. But I did it because I felt it was the right thing to do for me. For sure times are not easy, but I don’t regret it a single day.” He moved closer. “I am realistic, and so do I judge you too. Insurances will always try to sell you the future as something you can secure and manipulate. But believe me that’s a lie. My Dad died with forty-five. I am personally that age. And you know what?”
Nathalya was silent, drinking each of his words, sometimes shaking her head.
“What would happen if you died now?” His eyes were tearing her soul apart. “Will your money give you life? Or your parents save you? What kind of life is this if you have to get up every morning, a stomach ache telling you to stay at home and not go to work? Is that what you want? No!”
Nathalya swallowed at the flow of enthusiastic words that swelled out of Bob’s mouth. “You know, my vision is not to be a free author and live from it. Not at first, at least.” She sank her gaze before going on. “My vision is not to bring the new Harry Potter to life but to have my own book in my own library, and at my parents’, and a personal copy for my beta readers. You know, the very first publication.”
Bob looked supportively at Nathalya. “I understand you well and I feel you are energetic. But I doubt about your power to accept refusals. You believe in you, you are interested and motivated. But how many failures will you be able to bare?”
“You’re right”, Nathalya answered, defeatist.
He looked at the tree, his voice softly distant. “The problem is just… how long will you have the flame? How many refusals will you be able to take, until you crumble like one of the people I take care of?” He turned his head to her. “If I were you, I would jump. Now.”
Nathalya glimpsed astounded at Bob. “Sorry?” Her voice shook.
“If I were you, I would try a cold jump: share my prose and creations within a community on the net. I don’t know, look around and get out of your oyster. Confront your essence with the world. But be ready to strip down further than your flesh and bones. Are you?”
Nathalya was overwhelmed. Bob, who had not known a single thing of her turmoil half an hour before, had cleared the rainy clouds with a blow of his common sense. “I am.” She stood up and embraced him.
“Alright, be a brave girl, and write so much your fingers will burn at the end of the day.”
A few hours later Nathalya was looking at the little red dragon revolving on itself before spitting a red and yellow flame at the reader – her avatar on AuthorsOfTheWorld dot net, and felt an immense and incredible satisfaction at the view of her first publication. It was not much, it was only her biography; but it was the start. She had dared to stand up to herself. The real adventure of her life could begin.