I learned there was an artist in our neighborhood who wrote gothic fantasy stories and illustrated them and his name was Brom. It gave me hope there were other freaks in the suburbs like me. His house seemed normal enough from the outside, though the red on the door was blood-red, which made sense after you met him.
I saw Brom out working in his yard one day and made small talk. Sure, everyone’s a bit awkward talking to strangers but Brom seemed a bit more so. I liked that and hoped we’d be friends, writer-friends. I thought maybe this was my chance as a writer to break out or figure it out, through Brom.
Other people we knew said they’d been to Brom’s house and met his wife. He had kids, was a real writer…even made money from it, did conferences and talks and stuff.
I sent him an email to try to arrange time. He said he’d be open to talking. I wanted to talk about writing. I wanted to talk about the story idea I had, I thought it was pretty good.
There was an evil spirit named Mr. Bingley who got into people by talking to them through snails or birds and then made them do bad things, was loosely correlated to mental illness, though I hadn’t determined how. I wanted to play with the idea of good and evil and madness, that was the theme. The nature of evil, for example. Killing. I think it was hard for me to accept the suburbs and brought me anger, all these temporary fences going up, the tearing out of trees…it made me fantasize about poisoning people’s water sources and climbing high fences trying to escape, to go somewhere I shouldn’t. I thought Brom could relate.
Because Brom wrote and illustrated, he explained they were different parts of his brain he needed to access, when he sat down to create. He said one was his writer’s head and the other, the illustrator head. He was pale in the sun with black, receding hair and walked with force when he talked, fluttered his hands. His hands were like birds trying to get out of their sleeves, I thought.
Brom never got back to me and I stopped trying. They moved away and the family who moved in did work on the front yard, repaved, put in potted plants.
Brom’s kids were grown up and gone off and so did Brom and his wife. In the local used bookstore there’s a section for rare, collectible books and they had one by Brom. It just had his name on the spine and I pulled it off the shelf, then slid it back. They wanted like seventy-five dollars for it.
The difference between me and Brom is he took the time to write while I was outside walking and thinking about it.
Later with Dawn, the late afternoon eased on and I played every Led Zeppelin song I could, going on about Jimmy Page and why his guitar playing’s so good, that he bought Aleister Crowley’s castle and all the drugged-out parties they must have had, the rumors he sold his soul to the devil and that’s why he played so well.
Or maybe he just practiced a lot, she said.