|Coming down into the lobby, I looked for a place where I could sit and wait for my wife.
"Excuse me, is this chair free?" I asked.
The man looked up from behind the book he was reading and made a vague gesture, which I interpreted as an approval so I sat down.
Looking around, I found nothing that could really catch my interest. Lulling lounge music dribbled from somewhere above my head. None of the guests or employees seemed exceptional in any way. I was bored. Furniture made of mahogany and dark leather. Five class hotel. Oh well. What unordinary could I expect? A marble floor that reflected the dulled light in such a spotless and perfect manner, that I would have not hesitated a second to eat my dinner from it - if it would have happened to get served there. Which I found to be not the worst idea after all. I was getting hungry.
I was startled from my thoughts about what to order for my marble floor dinner.
"I beg your pardon?"
The man behind the book was still looking at me and I was not sure whether he was amused or annoyed. Maybe he is just irritated by my German accent.
"You're waiting for your wife as well?" he specified his question.
"Oh. Yes. I wait for my wife." I replied.
For a few seconds, we just sat there and said nothing. The man was still holding his book up. I could only see his eyes and nose. He kept on looking at me, but said nothing. I was starting to feel a little discomfort. American people are strange. They look too much television. Not that looking too much television would always lead to staring at other people without speaking, but it sure makes people strange.
I decided to do something against the discomfort.
"So, what book are you reading?" I asked. I wasn’t really interested. Obviously, it would have been an book written in English anyway.
He hesitated, looked at me and then closed the book and put it on the table between us.
"Nothing that I wrote myself."
I looked at him, too much puzzled to be able to reply. His voice had sounded… what? Annoyed? Angry? He raised his arms and held his hands up half-way as he would surrender to me. (I want to assure you at this point: I had no gun.)
"Okay, you have your five minutes." he said.
Five minutes? My five minutes? This man has more problems than just watching too much television.
"I beg your pardon?"
At least he now put his hands back down. I did not want my wife to come into the lobby and see me sitting face to face with a stranger who held his hands up. Yes, I was hungry and yes, the town I was in was well known for expensive restaurants, but sometimes things are just not what they seem to be.
"You did not sit down here because you wanted to talk to me?" he asked.
"Talk to you?" (Oh boy!)
"You're really waiting for your wife, huh?"
"Yes. We go out for dinner." I pretended to shift my weight on the chair a little just to have a better look at the elevator. In reality I was getting ready to run. Muscles tensed. Would the marble floor be as slippery as it looked? I would have to run carefully. What if the waiter would bring my dinner now? I would have to run over all the delicious food. No, wait! I hadn't really ordered. That had only been a day-dream. I looked at the stranger. No. No day-dream there. Bummer!
"I have to apologize. I thought you recognized me and wanted to take a chance." he said.
Wohooo! Now wait a second! Take a chance? What chance? Do I look like I … you know … like I wear pink underwear? A little more of this strange stuff from you and I will punch you. Right here in the lobby. I promise.
"I beg your pardon?"
He offered his hand to be shaken.
"I think we had a bad start. I am sorry. I'm Stephen"
Okay now, wait, wait, wait! We have no start here at all, you pinky-dinky televisionfreak. Forget it! (I will punch you! Seriously!)
In this moment, an hotel employee came to our table. He was twisting his fingers with intension. I felt somehow hypnotized just by watching them.
"I am very sorry to disturb, Mr. King, but your wife called from your room. She will need a little longer than expected."
I might not be a genius in mathematics, but I do understand basic logic. When someone introduces himself to me as "Stephen" and a little later some other person addresses the same man as "Mr. King", I come to the conclusion, that the full name must be "Stephen King" most of the times.
In the back of my head a distant bell rang. The employee went away from our table. Went backwards. Stooping. The absurdity of this whole situation somehow made my brain buzz a little. My hypnotic state was becoming deeper.
"Seems like your wife will make the race." said Mr. King
"Errr, uhm?" I asked.
"Seems your wife will be ready for dinner first."
"Ouh. Yes. Maybe yes. Probably. No?"
I tried to sort out things. Stephen King… Something with that name… what was it with this name? The hotel-guy had said, the wife of this guy had called. So he is married? What the flipflop is he then trying to take pinky-dinky chances on me for? King. Hm. King. Is that guy a monarch?
"You like to read books, …?" he asked me.
I realized that this were two questions in one.
"Oliver. Yes, as a matter of fact I read tons of books."
"Yes, since I had been four years old."
"Four? That is pretty young to start reading."
"I think so."
A few seconds of silence. My fingers twisting a little. Just a little. Now what?
"You like to read, too?" Well, smartass, the man has a book. What you guess? Oh well, doesn't matter. A little bit of small talk and then Elena would come. Where the flipflop is Elena?
I looked at the doors of the elevator. Tha force not strong in this one, Luke. The doors did not open. No wife.
"Yes. I read and I write a lot. I do this for living." he replied.
"Oh? That so?" I turned away from the elevator and looked at this nice fellow with his sympathetic smile. My wife can wait. I see her every day anyway, no?
"That so!« he answered, "I am a writer. I write books and live from it."
This is the last moment I remember personally. My wife told me later that evening, she found me kneeing on the floor, crying, with both arms raised. I was babbling about how desperate I am. Having to work ten hours a day, having a family with a four-old daughter I always have to pull quite a few tricks to have at least two hours for my own. In this two hours I read - no - I devour as many books as I can and I write as much as I can. But how much is two hours? It is very little. No, it is less than little. One hour reading, one hour writing? I try it this way, but it does not work very well. I do not know about you, Mr. Imperator, but I always need some time to warm up when writing. After 30 minutes, usually, I start to feel the flow. And then, shortly after, I will feel my eyes becoming more and more heavy and of course I struggle as long as I can. But most of the times, my wife wakes me up in the morning in front of the Macbook in the living room and is not amused that once again I did not come to bed. With the burning desire to read, the craving to write, I often feel like life itself stands in my way, Mr. President. How many times I asked myself whether to quit the job and just go for it. But how can this be done with a family that needs me? (Well, with a family that needs the money I earn so to speak.) How many times I thought about a more strict way of planning the day? After work one hour for the family and then reading, writing, reading and writing. But looking in the eyes of my four-year-old when she asks me to help her with this thirty-pieces puzzle of Winnie Poh, (pleeease, daddy) how could it be done? How can it be done, Mr. Prince? How can the normal life be combined with serious writing? I do not see the answer, Mylord. I do not know.
Regarding to my wife, this was about what I said and asked to Mr. King while I was kneeing on the floor.
Regarding to my wife some of this was quite new and quite interesting to her and she will talk to me a bit more about it a little later.
The tragic is, I do not remember what you, Mr. King, replied to me yesterday evening. I lost track of what had happened just before your wife came out of the elevator and saw you sitting there in the lobby, Mr. King. And me kneeing there. And the other people standing there, watching. Well, you know. My crying wife. The hotel manager. The concierge. That stuff.
My doctor says, the memories might come back though.
Until then, at least I have some time to read. A good friend gave me this book a long time ago and suggested, I should read it. "Das Leben und das Schreiben" (English orig.: "On writing") written by… some emperor. I do not remember.
I think I will read it today. I have an hour or two.