“There’s nothing I can say that will help you. I know that.” After so many miles and so many words, only honesty can save me.
“Then why did you come? Have you even stopped to ask yourself that? Why would a thirty-something writer come looking for a teenage boy she saw online? Do you know what they call that?” She does not scream, though screaming would be my preference. Her demeanor disquiets me in its calm.
“Twenty-something,” I say, though I cannot fathom why. It is the weakest possible response I could give.
“Why are you in my home?” Evelyn transforms into the protector. Her eyes narrow as she stares me down.
“I want the world to be different than it is. I want to make it better,” I say. “The tool I have is the written word. It may be small and powerless, but it’s all I have.”
Evelyn melts. Her expression falls idle. She is spent.
“It’s not enough,” she says. “Passing words will never be enough to fix anything. Change does not heed brittle, thin, spare words cast into the void by one, moveable writer.”
Ouch. What did I expect? What did I want? What do I do now?
“I’m sorry I’m not a titan among writers, able to seal the void.” I work to keep sarcasm from my tone. This is hurt sarcasm that generally lashes out after pain. But I mean the words. I am sorry. I am so very sorry I am too small and too, apparently, worthless to make a difference.
“Go home. Wherever you call home, go there and lick your wounds.”
This miserable stillness creeps over me. I can’t seem to leave my chair.
“Or become greater than the ordinary writer you are. Dissolve into the story. Deliver it to the masses over and again, until they cannot refuse it or refute it. Use your lack of station to root yourself in the middle of the problem and solve it.” Evelyn’s hands grip mine. Her hot speech fevers everything.
“You make it sound like a simple choice. I don’t know how to do any of that.”
“I’ll help you begin,” she says. “If you are willing, I will help you begin and I will remain the face of the problem for as long as I can.” She smiles. Her face is beautiful. “Will you? Will you do this? Few people indeed receive the opportunity to truly live for a difference.”
Life races circles in my brain. What Evelyn proposes – I’m not even sure I understand what she proposes, but it feels final somehow. Like I’ll never return from it. Like it will become my legacy and my lifeblood. I think of my book and my editor. Of my parents and roommate. I think of my subscriptions and the foods I like and the fact that I’ve never made decisions this way before. I remember Helen. How she told me not to return unless I’d changed the world. I think of Sad Boy, who I’ve chased and never found. I look at Evelyn.
“You are asking. For this to work, you must know your answer. Your yes must come from your toes through your soul and out into my kitchen.”
I mean to say no. I mean to say, I have to go. I mean to say, I’m sorry to have bothered you.
“Yes! Yes, let’s do this! I’m ready.”
Evelyn jumps from her seat and squeezes me. She runs to get paper and a pen. My head spins. What have I agreed to do?