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Self-editing for Fiction Writers

by Nicomedes Austin Suarez



What can I tell you? That I would write you to fight the boredom? 


It is Saturday morning and the haze of the weekly activities peels off your skin in a rush as the morning express sheds the grey thick air of Florence proper.  This is freedom, on the move. No phone, no mail, no deadlines weighing on you, the bilious taste of anxiety… but enough. Leave it all behind.

         You, the speeding train, and the lub-dub heartbeat of the track below your feet are partners in an as-of-yet undetermined crime, and you must flee. The station disappears, enveloped in the mist of the recent past. You have made a clean break. This train is a refuge. The private cabin harks to another time. Look around, enjoy. Feel the luxurious red velvet seat caress your buttocks, and notice the tasteful baroque prints, one above each of six headrests. Inhale the air, the smell of old world musk and modern industrial cleaner mixing in your nostrils. 

          As the last fragment of the city vanishes, the bright, early morning sun hits the salt-specked window full on, and you shield your eyes but do not bother to close the curtain, and instead enjoy the warmth of the sun on your skin, and the smell of your warm skin, like a crayon in a child’s pocket… no, that’s not quite it. A sweet smell? Bitter? You are unsure, but who cares? The time for tedious description has passed. You are adequately aware of your surroundings. 


Now is the time to start living the stories that are worth telling about afterwards. You are anxious for such a story to begin. You await a sign.


An unpleasant sound like an offbeat drum roll reaches your ears from the next cabin as two Germans compete to see which can cough up the most phlegm in the course of an ordinary conversation. The sun is covered by a cloud, and the golden light turns a pale white. Bad omens, no doubt. Now you hear a heavy pounding on the glass door of your cabin. Total arruination! A fat Italian businessman is banging on the door, inclining towards you, his hot breath fogging the glass. You hesitate, look around the cabin. Yes stupid, you are quite alone. Indeed you are the only one he can be signaling. It is too late now to pretend to be asleep. You  have only yourself to blame. If you want this bloody story to turn out well, I will need your cooperation. 


The fat man bangs again, this time more vehemently. You must act. You rise from your seat and the open the door. He is breathing heavily, and you can feel the heat emanating from his loose shirt collar. He smells of ham, sweat, and a weekend tan.


You try to say something. “Um, yes. Hello, nice cabin, this…” you trail off. 


 He is indifferent to your presence and shoves past you, plopping down into the seat farthest from yours, a mass of cheap fabric, bad style, and loose flesh.  You could spit at him. You have a momentary fantasy of cramming his lumpy body through the open window, of… Wait, the stewardess has arrived to check your pass. She is looking at your ticket with a somewhat puzzled look. 


“Is everything in order?” you ask. 


“No, not exactly. There are two things, you see. One is that you have not validated your ticket. The other is that you are in first class and you did not purchase a first class ticket,” she says, “but don’t let it worry you. I’ll take care of it.” She winks, and then smiles at you. She purses her lips. She smiles again. She is beautiful. The muscles of her face are precise. She conveys everything with her eyes and mouth. 


You are enraptured. Your mind flies to thoughts of a wonderful story, something like an unforgettable memory. A perfect beginning to a perfect amorous adventure with the perfect Italian ostessa on a perfect Italian train. Scratch the fat guy. He is no longer part of your story. You and the smiling beauty are alone in the cabin. You close the curtains over the door and windows. You apologize for your oversight in regard to the ticket. You make small talk. You make her laugh. The story is yours now.  


            At last the moment has arrived to abandon the manual typewriter. It serves to describe the hard reality of a train or the clumsy, awkward interaction with a fat businessman, but the mechanical undifferentiated mark of the machine does no justice to the beauty of this woman that has appeared before you. From the left hand drawer of your desk you retrieve your calligraphic pen. This is the adequate tool, sensual and expressionistic. 


          This is the story, the one that you want to be part of your life. This is the story that can become important to others, important to your friends over dinner on Monday night. Their eager eyes are fixed on you, as you bask in the glow of that perfect weekend. They clamor for more; they long to live it all through you, “More details. Are you kidding? Was she good?” 


          You are in control. Feigned indifference is a must. “Well, really boys, you’d have to be there.” 


           They wait, expectantly. You take a sip of wine, making good use of the candlelight and heavy shadows to occlude your eyes, adding to that feeling of mystery that is so damn sexy. The wine, a good dry Chianti, like sweat in my mouth, or yours, or yours, and a contented sigh to say, “Ah, yes, it was so much of everything that is so much in this life.” 


          More clamoring among the friends, and the well-known mantra is heard again, “Details, details.” And you lay it out like it was; that damn double-snap bra, and her large brown nipples. The smile of her naked buttocks, worthy of Botticelli.  Her perfume, sweet, her sweat mixing with her perfume, sweet and salty on tongues around a kitchen table on Monday night. You procure to leave yourself apart from it all, as though merely an observer as well. This altruism for the sake of solidarity is not lost on the boys. They laugh and clap and drink the Chianti, and taste it, sweet and salty in their mouths, close their eyes and sway in the candlelight. One of them claps me on the back. “Nicomedes,” he says, and I lean back in my chair and shrug. “What can I say? It would be a better story with more props, a fig perhaps.”


          Somewhere, far, far away, a passenger on a northbound train is disgusted when a fat man belches. This passenger wonders why nothing interesting ever happens to him, why his life is so without excitement and adventure. In the grasp of chronic disappointment he drifts off into sleep. This passenger has no bearing on myself, on you, or on any story I would deem worth mention, and I am no longer bored.

I'm a 35 year-old Doctoral Student at SUNY Albany, where I'm in the process of completing my dissertation -- a detective-fiction thriller set in the wild city of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, with the working title The Circles of Hell (the urban layout of Santa Cruz is one of concentric, descending circles, much like Dante's Inferno) -- and prepping for exams.  I am the founding editor of Cement: UAlbany's Literary Magazine (now defunct). 


I am also currently the creator, producer, director, and star of a popular TV show here in Bolivia appearing on Cotas Cable (market share 60%) called "Nicomedes en el Pais de las Maravillas" ('Nicomedes in Wonderland'), a sort of NatGeo-style tourism show. It's a traveling fusion of Anthony Bourdain meets magician David Blaine (I am both a gourmet chef and a close-up magician of note, in the States, Europe, and South America).  If all this sounds a bit wild, believe me: I too find it so.

Find it here!     

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