Celebrate tonight and worry tomorrow. The first part hadn't really rung true, but as the morning dawned and Jay skimmed the book for the third time, reading glasses settled on his nose, he came to the realization that the second part of Playa's words would have to occur. Have to-for his family and, to an extent, for himself.
Once Audra left for school Jay put aside the book and the couple moved to discuss what would happen next. Playa's eyes were bleary and hungover but expectant; for all of the choices Jay had made throughout the years she always trusted his judgment. Meanwhile Jay didn't really know if he could trust his own judgment, as the book rested on the nightstand and his elbows hit the old table they'd always wanted to renovate but never had the money to.
That morning the light blue suit rested in his closet. He felt bare without it. Like being too far away from The Wealth of Expectation, being without the suit was shedding a skin Jay had been confident to take leaps in. Without the suit he was not only bare; he was susceptible to reality.
"Jay," Playa said, her voice husky and rough as she pushed her hair, now braided, behind her ear. "Did you give them your two weeks, at least?"
Jay looked up with her and felt his throat constrict, even as he tried to keep composure. In vain he searched for that wild, bright energy that had compelled him to make those leaps, and he thought again of that book and wished that he could have it in his hands, his own security blanket. "No," Jay said. "I told them I was...pursuing something elsewhere."
"You're pursuing something," Playa repeated, and then she rubbed her forehead and closed her eyes. "Hm. God. I'm going to need a coffee for this."
Jay looked down at his hands and took a breath. "I think we're out," he said, trying to calculate how many cups of coffee he could have bought instead of the suit. "I think Audra might have brought back some cheesecake-"
"She's a sweetheart," Playa said fondly. "Takes after her father."
Jay wanted to smile at the compliment but he knew it was nothing but a distraction. "So..." Playa said. "You're pursuing something." She looked up at him with dark, thoughtful eyes. "Something's happening, isn't it?"
Jay wondered if Playa knew just how drastically things had changed inside of him. "We'll see. It's just-"
"I thought you liked the deli," Playa said. "Wasn't there a promotion?"
Again, the guilt. Jay deliberately looked away from her. "I'm thinking about...maybe publishing something," he said, trying to compose the words in a way that was appealing and promising. "Something that I can really be proud of. It's...always been something. It's been a dream of mine."
Playa looked down just as he chanced a glance at her. "I didn't know that," she said.
"I didn't tell anybody," Jay swore, swallowing to get the licorice off his tongue. "I've wanted it for so long, though. Playa."
At her name she looked again at him. "A dream of yours," she reiterated. "I've seen those books, on the bookshelf. I thought you were collecting quotes or something."
It was a huge oversight for her to make, but as Jay thought about how little Playa remained at home he realized that maybe he'd been more secretive than he'd thought, like pulling the blinds on the sunlight. "No, not collecting," he said, and then smiled. "Writing things that I hoped were quotable, maybe."
"Ah," Playa said as she leaned back. "So you are a writer. I guess I'm not surprised. You always had...such a way with words."
Something jolted from his stomach-or was it his heart?-to the tips of his limbs. "But you're not just a writer. You're a writer who wants to see his works on shelves...throughout the country," Playa assessed.
"That's the dream," Jay said. The statement sounded final.
"Are you a good enough writer?" Playa asked; her tone was joking but her question made Jay ponder.
Uncomfortable, he rubbed his neck. "I sure hope so," he said lowly.
"Well..." Playa said, again placing her elbows on the table. This time she leaned close enough to Jay for him to be aware of their proximity. "Can I read it, at least?" Her lips curled upward. "What have you written, Jay?"
Jay shrugged. "Stories."
Playa nodded and looked thoughtful. "Stories about what?"
He thought back on his decades of work. "Love," he finally said. "Life and love and other things."
Playa pondered again. "Were they tragic?"
"Sometimes," he responded.
She stood up from the table and began walking towards their bedroom. "Then you're misleading me," she said. "That's not life or love. That's death and heartbreak."
"You can't write about light if dark doesn't exist," Jay responded, following her.
Playa looked up at him with her large eyes before turning to the bookshelf which had been an accomplice to Jay's secrecy for years. "What a way to put it," she said.
He watched her as she traced the spines of his books. "What one is the best?" she asked him.
"I don't really know," he professed. "I was actually thinking..."
But he trailed off as Playa picked up a book with a blue cover.
Starlight by Jay Halloway was likely one of his more vapid works. He had been too ambitious when he had started writing it as a teenager, trying to relate science fiction and fantasy and love and, yes, death and heartbreak into a couple hundred pages. As a result it was beautiful yet not passionate, nowhere near like the raw poetry he had the capacity to write. It was a story about a girl named Vi, a shooting star who had landed on Earth and transformed into a human who'd fallen in love with a new world and with a new man. Vi's story took a turn when she realized that she was needed to make other people's wishes come true-that there was no time for love in her reality.
Thinking of the summary made Jay feel as if he could grimace; that notion became an action as Playa opened towards the end of the book.
"She had only one hope," Playa said softly, and Jay winced as he recalled the passage. "She'd never be with the one she loved. He'd be an atmosphere away. Her misery would emanate from her being, but from where he'd stand on earth her star would be emotionless and shining. And one day maybe he'd come to find that it was all just like a dream, that stars were stuck in the sky for a reason and flew every once in a while in a fit of recklessness rather than desire. With any hope he'd realize one day that she was an interchangeable fixture, that love was needed yet it did not have to necessarily be her own. As for her she'd love him for all time-so it was out of love that she wished he'd find..." Playa's eyebrows furrowed. "Find a love that was so like hers that he couldn't care to tell the difference, a love that had a wider nose or greener eyes or a greater proclivity for gardening. The chemicals inside him would react the same and this new girl would spark the same talk of marriage and family that he'd once mentioned for Vi. It would all be so close it'd be the same. The only real difference was one only Vi knew-that this nondescript girl of times to come would fulfill that promise in a way Vi never could. Stars may look as if they twinkle, but it is true that all they are is a burning ball of hot gas. Nothing more."
Playa looked up at him. "You wrote this."
Jay took a deep breath and then nodded. "A long time ago," he said, as if trying to cover up a misdeed.
She turned the book over in her hands. "Do all your books end like this?"
"I don't know," he said slowly.
"I mean, not like this exactly," Playa clarified. "What I want to ask is if they are all so...cynical."
He blinked. He had assumed she'd criticize the verbosity of the passage she'd chosen. "Um," he said, but before he could try to formulate something else to say she put the book back on the bookshelf and turned her body towards him.
"You want that to be published," she said.
"You don't like it," he responded in turn.
She thought for a second too long. "It is very well-written," she said finally, but Jay understood what those words really meant.
"You want that to be published," she said, again.
"Why don't you like it?" Jay said; decades after being snubbed by his father the same feelings rose up inside of him.
"I like it fine," she said shortly. "I just did not know you felt this way about love."
"What do you mean?"
"You think that love is interchangeable," she said, her eyes narrowed slightly. "Like love is like a recipe-like adding a spoonful of sugar or-" she scoffed as his stomach turned- "a proclivity for gardening makes the same cookies, but maybe a little bit sweeter or chewier."
"That's not what I meant," Jay said.
"It's still a cookie in the end though," Playa continued. "Just another cookie recipe. Still the same type of cookie."
"That's not necessarily what I believe," Jay bit out.
"You wrote it," Playa retorted.
Jay felt himself becoming angry. "It's a fictional story. I wrote it when I was in high school. I didn't even know what love was. Do you really think that there's truth in that?"
Playa shrugged and began to walk out the door. "You thought of the words and you put them on the paper. I know that I could never think of those words and would never dream of writing love the way you do, so you tell me."
"So what?" Jay said, his voice oddly loud as Playa put on her jacket. "You want me to go back to the deli?"
Playa took a breath and stared at him, and at her dark eyes other feelings occupied the acute sensation he'd gained during their conversation of having his spirit punctured. "No," she said, her voice low. "I think that you should do whatever your heart tells you to do."
She took her hair out of her braids and tousled it with her hands. "I might be staying late tonight," she said. "I might have to talk to Carlos about what happened at Mirrors." Talk was a great way to put it. "In the meantime you should start looking for publishers; it's competitive."
He nodded. "All right."
Her hands grasped the doorknob and she turned her back to him. Sighing and softly, she said, "I just wish you'd write something happier."
About love-it's hard.
You may be wondering how a book about dreams can also be a book about love. The truth is that the two are about the same. Both rest in clouds out of immediate reach. Some people dream of love, after all.
Maybe you don't.
If you do, I guarantee this book has something for you. Why? This book is about dreams, but as an extension it pertains to life. And what is life without love? It's not a life worth living.
But love. The word spurns itself. It is one ugly syllable and nothing much more. It's used inappropriately a majority of the time and normally it only resides behind a television screen. Yet said by the right person it is a wonder (or a dream). What good can come of love, a concept that is ugly and twisting and tempting and pleasing? And how good could it be that people want it like a drug-and want it for forever? Through good, through bad, through sickness and through health?
Well, I am a book. I wouldn't know for I have never loved. I exist as words so that you, the reader, can take these words and make them action, movement, difference. I know that you can. If your dreams are ones of loving another, I guarantee that there is possibility waiting for you. There is a correct way to go about things. Everything is a process. Everyone is a mechanism in that process.
So, rework the system. Make it your own. You have the power.
You cannot be afraid of power. You cannot be afraid of the person that makes you feel like you have lost all power. They probably don't recognize the power that they have over you, which means that they really do have no power over you. What is a monarch without knowing he has subjects? Not a very good monarch.
As for those who already hold love in your hands-good luck. Hands are not very large. Other dreams can be large. And love is already so transient-like trying to hold water in your hands. You might be surprised how love can change when dreams are involved. Sometimes dreams can better love. Other times it can mutate it.
Well-it's hard, that is for certain.
Once Playa left, Jay took the time to look at his box of poetry.
He hadn't brought it up when Playa was around-once she had read the ending of that atrocious book the conversation had taken a terrible turn-but he had wanted to show her this. If he was going to show her anything, anyway-he didn't know if he could trust her with it anymore, afraid of what she could say about it. He couldn't bear to hear that tone in her voice for a second time. "It's well-written," she had said.
He shook his head as if trying to shake those words out of his brain. It didn't work and, grumpily, he grasped the edges of that years-old box.
She just didn't understand. His stomach turned at that, because it reminded him of The Wealth of Expectation and what it had said about trying to have love and dreams together. He had, after all, dreamed of having her-it just felt too far to be real. Before it had just been that their hands couldn't grasp, that their lips would never touch; now it felt like an atmospheric difference. Perhaps this was the acute pain he should have written about at the end of Vi's tragedy, pain from a separation not by death but by choice. By sacrifice.
For a second time he shook his head to banish his thoughts. He rationalized that the story hadn't been that good anyway-nothing like his poetry.
So he spent the next hour looking through each leaflet of paper that was in the box, reading it. It was helpful for two reasons: one, that it was necessary to find works he could potentially publish-and two, because it was therapeutic to read.
A lot of his poems were about Playa, too. About the type of love she might have liked to read.
The sky's smaller when you're away
And the stars squint as if to focus;
But then the sea, the air, the ground
Begins to sing but I don't notice.
You move in dance, you speak in prose
You warm like fire, glow like sun
You tell me tales of ever-afters
And of fairytales begun.
Like grasshoppers in summer wind
You whisper and you soothe my soul;
And like those birds that chirp in dawn
I am awakened and feel whole.
Not a puzzle, but connected
As if we have been from the start
From then 'till here, from here 'till then
In days and nights, you have my heart.
It was a good poem and he could have used it in whatever grouping of works he was making-but it felt so personal that it almost smelt like Playa herself-and it seemed sacrilegious to use these words for something she almost scorned, even-
A lot of poems fell by the wayside in this manner. As he read them he couldn't imagine publicizing this pseudo-romance he had never initiated throughout the years. Playa and he were intertwined, yes, but it was gossamer thread that kept them together, delicate and shimmery in the sun.
He couldn't chance breaking it all apart.
Out of a couple hundred poems, then, Jay was only truly satisfied with publishing about one hundred. They ranged on a variety of topics, but none of them dared tiptoe into that complicated area of his life that Playa occupied. There were poems about his daughter, poems about things as simple as that bread in the deli. There was a poem about Jodie-he'd have to call her, she'd always been supportive-and there was a poem about those friends from college and how Jay had never felt comfortable with them. Even April 4th made the cut. The only notable exception was Playa del Toro and Jay had been satisfied with that.
Then, the buzzer rang.
Jay knew Lana Susteri the same way that people know strangers in the back of a photograph. They're there. They clearly exist. But by living a life which extends in an entirely different direction, the possibility of an intersection between the two people is not one that often happens, if it ever does.
Jay knew few things about Lana. He didn't know her name. In the deepest, most cobweb-infested parts of his mind, he might have remembered that he had stepped on an elevator with her at one point. If he had thought of her then, it had been that she had the good fortune of living on a floor below floor 86. That was as far as their engagement with each other went, and when she had stepped off that elevator she had stepped out of the stage of his life, potentially for forever.
To have the forever unseen suddenly interrupted meant that it took him a while to gather his bearings, to try to recall who this woman was and what business she had at his door. After he gleaned some idea of who she was-and really, it was an inconclusive ghost of an idea-he thought of something else, something he wouldn't have expected himself to think.
She was actually very lovely.
It was in a way that was entirely different from Playa, but that initial moment-that buzz-was enough emotion to disrupt Jay's thinking process before he'd even asked who she was. She dressed young, and he'd never know why she'd chosen to wear shorts in the middle of winter, yet it was clear she was a woman and radiating innocence was responsible for the youth in her face. Her hair was long and her skin was pale; Jay couldn't help himself from noticing also that her legs were long and her eyes were bright. Her nails were robin's egg blue and chipped, and right nearby her hands Jay noticed a band of skin not covered by her shirt or her shorts...
It was this gesture, however inappropriate, which brought Jay to the real reason why Lana Susteri was at his door: though her thumbs were in her belt loops, the other fingers held a skinny and rectangular envelope.
He cleared his throat when he realized that this realization had taken a bit too long. "Hi," he said, and then realized he probably sounded stupid. "Hello."
Lana smiled widely. "Hi," she said. "I don't know if you know me-"
"I don't think we've met," Jay replied.
"Oh," Lana said, removing one of her hands from the envelope and belt loop and using it to shake his hand. "I am Lana. Floor 25."
"Lucky you," he joked, and she laughed in turn.
"Anyway," she said, "I would ask for your name but I think that I know it." She held the envelope up. "Jay Halloway. I found this in my mailbox and I thought I'd return it to you."
She handed him the envelope and briefly he inspected it. It was mail from his college that he'd dropped out of over a decade ago. Even though he'd never graduated, they'd never shaken the fact that he had, for whatever reason. The Alumni Association would never need him but damn if they'd ever stop asking.
It was this idea that caused Jay to chuckle and ease. "Thank you," he said. "It means a lot that you'd go out of your way to return this to me."
Again, the mail itself didn't really mean much of anything. Jay found it amusing at the time that she'd return something so insignificant. Soon enough he'd find it miraculous, and in time he'd find it almost as treacherous as that book arriving in his mailbox.
Of course, being too hazed by an inability to know the future and by seeing the slightest bit of Lana Susteri's belly button, Jay could only return Lana's grin as she said, "So, you're a Jaguar?"
Without thinking Jay refrained from the truth. "Yes," he responded. "Did you go there too?"
"Nah," she said. "I just have a lot of family that goes there. I didn't go to college. I'm more of a..."
"Free spirit," Jay supplied.
"Yes, exactly!" she said, brushing aside her bangs. "Free spirit. That's a good phrase to use the next time my parents ask me what I am doing with my life."
"What are you doing with your life?" Jay asked. "If you don't mind me asking."
Lana tucked her hands into her pockets at the question. "Hmm," she thought. "It's hard to explain. I guess I work out of my apartment...as an artist if you could call it that." At Jay's look of confusion, she elaborated, "Well, an artist with a bit of a green thumb... an experimental florist...a lot of smaller flower beds...light manipulation?" She scratched her head. "It's really, really hard to explain."
A greater proclivity for gardening. Was this a joke?
Jay would have asked that, but, figuring it to be an impolite and random question to ask, instead shrugged and smiled. "It definitely sounds interesting," he said.
"And you?" she asked. "Once a Jaguar, always a Jaguar. What was your field of study?"
It was another opportunity to leap, and this leap came fluidly from his lips, encouraged by her smile. "I did a lot with English," he said. "I'm a hopeful writer now. Looking to publish."
Fate made another appearance as Lana's eyes widened. "No way," she said. "That is really, truly interesting."
For a second he felt insulted at what sounded like sarcasm. He must have looked offended, too, because almost instantly Lana said, "Shoot, sorry. No, I'm being genuine, I swear. It is really, truly, absolutely interesting." Her smile stretched across her face. "Would you like to know why?"
Jay's eyes had begun to widen too while Lana talked. "Come with me," she told him, wrapping her hand around his wrist and beginning to move before he'd comprehended what she'd said. "I have something life-changing to show you." She paused. "And no, not my artwork. But that is pretty cool too."
This was the first time that Jay had been in an apartment room other than his own. In his mind, if he'd ever wondered about the thousands of other people that occupied the same building as he did, he had just figured that all of the homes looked as lacking as his did with Playa and Audra. Shaking this off as a sad fact, he hadn't tried to think any differently because the topic itself depressed him.
Walking into Lana Susteri's apartment, this idea that he had was crushed instantly, crushed as soon as he saw what "experimental florist" really meant; "pretty cool" was a horrible appraisal.
First, Lana's talent proved to be in every facet of gardening, including decoration of the pots that she put her creations in. They were sometimes painted, sometimes embellished with beads or craft-store jewels. Some pots were even sculpted by Lana herself. For every creation that she made Jay was amazed and overwhelmed.
And that was not to discredit the flowers, which Lana truly excelled at. Some flowers were hybrids; others were clustered together in a way that was so spontaneous Jay almost wanted to accuse it of being meticulous. He honestly hadn't known that flowers could be so many colors.
The most impressive thing in Jay's mind was the "light experimentation" she'd had such problems explaining. He didn't know how she did it, but for many of the plants (and there were many, haphazardly scattered throughout the house) the stems twisted and turned. In some, a couple of flowers would spiral around each other; in others the flower would almost be zigzagging. It was too fantastic to be real.
Lana led him to the table in the middle of her kitchen; predictably, it was covered by pots of these fantastic flowers. "Do you like it?" she questioned, and being at a loss of words Jay nodded soundlessly, taking a seat at one end of the table while she took a seat at the other end.
Amused, she moved the flower pots aside so she could see his face. "These must sell for millions," Jay finally said, still a little stunned at it all.
"Ha, ha," she said. "That's very sweet of you to say, but it is extremely inaccurate."
"That's crazy," Jay responded. "To be honest, I don't see myself leaving your home without buying one."
Lana fingered one of the wilder plants-Jay had never known flowers were capable of so much-as she smiled. "Thank you," she said. Then she blinked. "I'm sorry. I didn't bring you down here to solicit your money."
She stood up from the chair. "Would you like a drink?" she asked. "Water, tea, coffee-something stronger?"
The last two suggestions brought Playa to the forefront of Jay's mind, one a representation of how he had disappointed her and the other a representation of how she handled her disappointments. "Water would be great," Jay said, and though his tone was light-hearted beneath his eyelids were those dark brown eyes after reading Starlight. "As long as my money's being solicited..."
She laughed. "You're funny," she said, putting a cup under the sink and turning on the faucet. "Are you a comedy writer?"
And like that water another memory of Playa appeared in his mind. "That's not life or love. That's death and heartbreak."
Jay swallowed and the sound rippled in his mind but not enough to banish the image. "I write a lot of things," he said finally. He would watch his words this time around.
"Ahh," Lana said. "So you are an experimental writer." She handed him the glass of water.
Jay took a sip as he said, "I don't think I am as good a writer as you are a florist."
"Please," Lana insisted. "I'm sure that's not true. I'd love to read what you write." She continued to bustle around the kitchen, clearly looking for something. "I know someone else that would like to as well."
She bent over to check in a bottom drawer in the kitchen; Jay struggled to keep looking at his cup of water.
God. He was in his thirties. Surely he had grown out of this sort of behavior, this cheap way of objectifying women. Lana Susteri was offering him an opportunity and here he was, acting like a pig. It was all really disgusting when Jay thought about it. Really shallow.
It was just that there was some sort of energy, some sort of hope, that Lana Susteri wore even better than those damning jean shorts. It was as if she was a star, not unlike Vi, who had crashed into his life and promised him something that felt as if it was out of this world. It was the sort of thing that scarcely existed in his apartment, something that Audra and her vivid violet eyes had questioned when she was at her most argumentative.
He had never seen flowers do what Lana manipulated them to do, and he had never felt this way about his buried dream, a thought he'd never once imagined even a few days ago. It was wild and made him feel so much younger, though the time had long passed where he could look as young as Lana did. Still, it was revitalizing to meet someone whose blue suit was pale skin and chipped nails. It gave him hope.
But hope didn't really satisfy him as an excuse to not be a gentleman, so he pointedly looked at the bottom of his glass and said, "What do you mean?"
Lana was stuck in the middle of a pile of papers in the bottom of the kitchen drawer, so her response was muffled as she said, "I know somebody who works in the business, actually. Someone who has been looking for a new person to generate some buzz." Something fell out of the drawer and clanked loudly on the kitchen floor as she continued to rummage. "Dang it. That probably was worth something." She laughed. "This drawer is a black hole."
Jay wanted to smile but the idea of encountering a publisher was so fortuitous that it took him awhile to regain his ability to speak. "Someone who works in the business?" Jay asked, choosing his words carefully.
"Yes-aha," Lana said, finally retrieving from the disorganized kitchen drawer a skinny, rectangular box. "Here it is." She came back to the table with the box. "I wonder if there are still some in here-the house is a mess, if you haven't noticed," she joked. She pulled off the top of the box and, seconds later, re-emerged with a business card.
"There we go," she said. She handed him the business card.
Alec Chrystopolous, the business card read. Assistant Publishing Manager. Enya Govi Publishing.
Jay read the bottom line aloud. "'Out of this world publishing.' How do you know him?"
At the slogan, Lana grinned, and her smile didn't fade at Jay's question. "He's a little bit goofy," she explained. "He's always been very good at his job. Incredibly talented at recognizing someone who is serious about their writing."
"Ah," Jay said. "So you think-"
"I think you'd be perfect," Lana said. "Which is quite the compliment, seeing as we've only known each other for an hour or so."
Jay looked up at her. "Thank you very much," Jay said, his voice rich with gratitude. "You don't know how much this means to me. Truly."
Lana looked down at the rectangular box. "Well, sure," she said. "What can I say?" She met Jay's eyes. "I love to see dreams come true."
Within this book your dreams may lie-within Jay's own book, which had once been a whisper and was now a roar, he might find that his dreams would be realized.
"I'll talk to him tonight," Lana promised. "He'll be so excited to hear this, too. Brace yourself for a telephone call tonight, and prepare some of your best stuff for Alec. Show him what you've got."
While the words she was saying were beautiful and full of potential, it was right around this time that Jay noticed something about his new friend Lana. As she spoke, she lifted up the rectangular box to put it back where it belonged, and for the briefest of seconds something on her finger glimmered in the light. Before she finished what she was saying, Jay Halloway realized that Lana was just as entangled in love as he was.
Maybe not entangled. She had an engagement ring, and objectively Jay had to admire what Alec Chrystopolous had given her. It was a band with small diamonds spaced throughout its circumference-so that, at any angle, it was gleaming. It was something that fit the style Lana presented perfectly.
And though a part of his stomach sank a little to see the ring on her finger, he understood that it was for the best. He didn't need an engagement ring to know that he had someone else in his heart; even if she felt incredibly far from him, it was a feeling that was impossible to stop. The ferocity in which it had taken over in November had never really ceased, even as they raised a family together without ever officially being a couple. That was the sort of person Playa had always been to Jay.
As for Lana-well, he'd get over it. Everyone deserved to have someone. This fact was assuaging, but, for whatever reason, Jay was not comforted enough to quell his curiosity. "So you and Alec are engaged," he said.
Lana closed the kitchen drawer and looked up at Jay, somewhat bewildered. "Oh," she said. "Yes, we are engaged. Have been engaged for quite a while." She stood up and walked towards the table, her fingers lingering in the plants as she walked along. "He is a brilliant man, really he is. He cares a lot about the work he does." Her lips curled as she said, "Actually, you two are rather similar."
"I'm happy for you," Jay said, and it was true. Lana deserved to be happy.
"Thank you," she said warmly. "And I am happy for you. I know that we've barely just met, but...you know...I am just so pleased," she said, "that a door is opening for you...that your expectations...are paying off." She sounded like she was picking her words cautiously; he didn't know what impact she wanted her words to have, but instantly he thought of the book that rested on his nightstand.
Unconsciously he straightened somewhat. "Of course," Lana said, "I've never read anything you've written. So I guess the door is unlocked now and it's your talent that's opening it."
"Let's pray I have the talent," Jay said, laughing.
Lana laughed too. "Alec will probably call you within the next couple of days," she promised. "A word of advice to you when you give him some of your work. He has published books of all types and forms. Poetry, biographies, you name it. But...from what I know of his work...he loves work that is at its most raw. Raw and relatable. He thinks that it is a miracle to find a writer who knows how to write emotion."
"He's passionate," Jay replied, and Lana nodded.
"He loves what he does," she said. "And if you can write him something that strikes him to the bone, I have no doubt you'll be on the bookshelves in no time."
"I'll be dreaming," Jay said. He put the business card in his pocket and walked towards the door.
Lana walked with him to the door, and as he walked out into the hallway and away from her she rested on the door's edge, looking at him. "You almost forgot," she said, her eyes bright; he turned around in time to see her retrieve one of her many creations.
It was beautiful. Within a pot with glittery beads embedded in the clay there were two flowers, intertwined in each other. At the very top they diverged as if a magnet was setting them apart.
Jay took it from her graciously. "I can't thank you enough for what you've done," he said. "Everything." He looked down at the artwork in his hands as he asked, "So how much does this cost?"
Lana rested on the door's edge again. "Don't worry about it," she assured. "Maybe you can give me an autographed book or something when you're famous."
He took a deep breath. "Are you sure?" he said hesitantly. "I couldn't take this for free-"
"Jay," Lana said evenly, and he stopped what he was saying. "It has been enough for you to come and visit me.
"One more thing, though," she said. "You said that you'd be dreaming." She looked at him in an indecipherable way. "I have a bit of advice for you about that."
Jay was taken and Lana was taken, but something still buzzed in him as he said, "What sort of advice?"
"Don't dream," she told him. "Do."
I am a book and I am ink strokes. I have no feeling for emotion.
I can say this, though: after that visit with Lana Susteri, the sun now in the center of the sky, something within Jay changed. She had unlocked a door for him, a door that was greater than a moment with Alec.
It was another thing, another feeling.
It was something that, when he returned to his apartment, compelled him back to those leaflets of poetry which he'd spent an hour organizing.
It was something that brought him to read over those poems he'd written for Playa del Toro and, hesitant at first but increasingly confident, put them in the pile reserved for publishing, the pile now devoted to Alec Chrystopolous.
It was a something about change and hope and chance. It was something about dreams.
But it was not something about love.