The Book I Will Write by John Henry Fleming is a serial novel-in-emails about a would-be writer named John Henry Fleming who is desperate to publish a book. The Book I Will Write is a work in progress; readers are invited to make comments and influence the outcome. Fleming has been exchanging emails with an editorial assistant and a senior editor at Knopf, as well as with an agent. He’s been kicked out of his apartment, and was living at the library before being kidnapped by an organization known as The Zeppelin Society. Now he seems to have been rescued by a mysterious figure on a motorcycle. Here’s the latest email from the editorial assistant.
I WANT TO ENJOY MY WALLOWING
Dear John Henry,
I haven’t written back to you because I’ve been afraid your captors are reading your email. But now I can’t help myself. What’s going on? Are you okay? Did you escape? Who’s the old man on the motorcycle?
I’m nervous. I took some time off from work at the recommendation of the Board. They haven’t fired Ms. Hollymore. Yet. They’re waiting to see how everything plays out. So far, it’s not playing out in Ms. Hollymore’s favor. She seems to be doing everything she can to keep herself in jail.
For the past few days, I’ve been taking walks in the city. The weather’s been lovely, crisp and bright, and I love putting on my old purple scarf and my long dark coat and seeking out an unfamiliar block where I feel lost, if only for a second or two. I meet the slow dog-walkers who are different from the morning dog walkers because they aren’t in a hurry. Even their dogs poop slowly while their owners stand there with their plastic poop-bags swaying in the cool breeze. They make me smile.
Sometimes, when I think of you as my ex-lover, I imagine having memories of us walking around the city together, hand-in-hand, back when we were deeply in love and before life got in the way. We would stop and pet all these dogs, and we’d duck into one coffee shop after another for a taste test. We’d have heated, mock-serious discussions about the flavors like we were coffee snobs.
Now, of course, I drink tea, probably because coffee has those memories attached to it. Or would have, if those memories were true. Sometimes I wonder if they are. Is it unhealthy to wallow in our fake past this way? It might be weird to say, but the more I wallow in it, the more hopeful I get. That’s because the wallowing is so movie-like it makes me feel there’s a light on the other side, the way there always is in movies, and maybe we’ll get back together, or else I’ll finally move on.
For now, I don’t want to move on. I want to enjoy my wallowing. Yesterday, I ran into a friend who was on her way to lunch with several co-workers from the Soho art gallery she does press releases for. She put her hand on my arm and took me aside. “You don’t look happy,” she said.
I smiled. “I’m enjoying myself,” I said. Which was true, but only at the moment. When I got back to my studio apartment, I sat in bed and drew the shades and pulled the covers up and read your email on my laptop. I’m lonely. I’m worried. Can you please write back? I can’t even remember the fake times we had together until I know where you are now. I only half-remember the day, on our walk, when you stepped in dog poop, and you didn’t realize it until we got to that coffee shop on 4th that only lasted about a month, but I think that was only because…
No, it’s just not there.
I’m going back in to work tomorrow. I’m expecting big changes. More of life’s distractions. I’ll fill you in.