The Death of the Author

  • 17 Dec - 23 Dec, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

Instead, she does what any frustrated passive-aggressive person would do and walks as slowly as she can to the store, cursing him all the way under her breath and thinking how if only she hadn’t gone to the party that night in ’98 when she wanted to stay home, she would not be here with Amir, but would be somewhere else and would probably be a much better version of herself who was less petty and more truthful and had two beautiful children and was still writing and was maybe even published, instead of…

‘Gabi, hi!” Her train of thought is interrupted. She looks up. It is Ron. Ron Muller. A surprise to see him in this neighbourhood, which is not his usual stomping ground filled with celebrities and other personalities.

“Oh, Ron,” she says, trying to get her mouth to move in the way it would if she was happy to see someone, “long time, no see.”

“Absolutely,” he says, looking her up and down, and probably thinking that in this long time, she has grown a lot more matronly, “and during this time, your Amir has really become an important man, hey?”

Always with the rivalry, the two of them.

“I guess so,” she says, again trying, again, to move her mouth to imply happiness. “And you? What are you up to now?” He looks exactly the same of course, men never seem to change, no matter what happens.

“Ah, this and that. That and this, the same as usual, you know,” he says, as evasive as ever.

Ask me about me, she thinks, and maybe I will stay and talk to you.

She can see he wants to talk, and a part of her would like to do this too – would like to say, hey let’s get a coffee, and then they would sit and talk in Café Vero about the old days and when they were together and why they broke up and their current partners and lives and she won’t mind if he talks about his own success a lot – but this part of her is also feeling tired today.

She waits to see if he will ask – she leaves the space for him to do it, but he doesn’t and so she lets the other part of her (the part who really just wants to go home and knows Amir is waiting) win and she just says, ‘OKAY, well good to see you again, Ron,” and pats his arm, and walks on, to the newsagent, leaving him behind, again.

The funny thing is if you had known Gabi in the nineties you would know she was the kind of girl men were always stopping in the street. Sometimes they would pretend to know her just to talk to her and say things like, ‘hey, don’t I know you?’ and if she liked the look of them, she would pretend to play along and say, ‘maybe, I don’t know,’ and if she didn’t, she would just say, ‘no, I don’t think so,’ and walk on and on and on.

And she was the kind of girl who had ideas – really, a lot of them – and loved to read and to write and to talk and…

… and then she met Ron. And then she met Amir. And then, she doesn’t really know but now, here she is running to the store, full of anger and let’s face it, full of jealousy too.

She knows he will be in the newspaper.

He will be.

The man in the newsagent is a friendly sort. Gabi knows he has five children and nineteen grandchildren – each one has a laminated picture stuck onto the till and when it is quiet in the store, she sometimes stays to talk to him and hear stories about how the littlest one is unhappy in the school because the other children tease her for being small and the oldest is at university in a town far away and his mother can’t stop crying. All of this, and she doesn’t even know the man’s name. The time when she could have asked has long gone now.

“Hey Gabi, good morning,” he says, smiling as she comes in, “you’re early today. What happened? Did you run out of coffee?”

“Heaven forbid!” she says, picking up the paper and laughing, “without coffee, life would not be worth living.”

“Amen to that,” he says, taking her coins, “have one before you go?”

The shopkeeper always has a pot of coffee on the go all day long. It is good strong coffee.

“OKAY,” she nods, and he pulls out two stools from under the counter and they sit, their knees against the newspapers.

“So,” he says, pouring the coffee into a small glass cup, “what is new with you and Mr Bigshot Writer this week?”

Everyone in this neighbourhood knows Amir, he is like a shared son they are all proud of, rooting for.

“Oh, not much,” she says, “except maybe he will be in the paper today, that’s why I’ve come down to get it so early.” The coffee is too hot to drink still, so she just cups it in her hand and lets the steam rise up and envelope her face with its rich aroma.

“Today?” he asks, “how exciting, is it a new book or…”

She is just about to tell him about the article when someone else comes into the shop and starts asking for directions and then haggling over the price of some apples that are unappealingly rotting in the sunshine.

He shrugs his shoulders at her over the customer’s back as she downs the coffee, putting up with the heat so that she can enjoy its punch, before she picks up the newspaper and signals to him that she needs to hurry back, Amir is waiting.

Nothing else happens on the way back and soon she is back in the apartment where she hands the paper to Amir.

He takes it and stands by the window to read.

Reading is something they have in common. The night after the party where they met, he came over to her apartment uninvited having tracked her down. Her roommate Sylvie let him in without telling her and when he walked in there she was, sitting on the window ledge reading and she knows – she remembers knowing – that he fell in love with her really that very minute when he saw her sitting and reading like that.

And she loved him loving her.

For one semester after that, they took a writing class together called ‘Write Your Self into The Text,’ which was all about how to convey the meaning of your own life to others in a way that was engaging and also beautiful and pertinent.

And she only took the class because the writer who had just now died, and who at the time was a relatively young writer, was supposed to be coming as a guest lecturer and she wanted to see him again and be under his spell again like last time on the cushion in the hall. She felt that this time when he spoke of small sorrows and great loves she would be able to understand and that she would be able to hear the truth, and recognise it at last.

And she surprised herself that she loved the class so much. And she wrote a story about a young girl who was also a moth who wanted to fly in the daytime but couldn’t and she really did think it was a beautiful story.

But then, the writer who has now died, cancelled at the last minute because he said he was unwell. And then the teacher gave her a poor mark for her work, which he said was somehow too small with too small themes and when she tried to read it to Amir he said later…

And, of course, the teacher read out Amir’s work to the whole class and said, ‘look, this is how you write yourself into the text, like this!’

Not like a moth. Nothing like a moth at all.

‘Gabi! Come see this!’ Amir calls to her, looking distressed, interrupting her train of thought.

She reads the article that he hands to her and oh my goodness how she wants to laugh. She wants to make a sound that is very loud and sounds a bit like hey but she knows she must not make this sound.

“Well?” he asks and bangs his fist down on the table so that he nearly causes her favourite vase, which was left to her by her grandmother to fall onto the floor and smash.


What she wants to say is that what is written here is the truth – that if you had a cushion to sit on in a large room and on one side you had the writer who has just died and who always strove to tell the truth, no matter how hard and then on the other side of the room you had Amir you would say to yourself, I will sit at the feet of the one who knows he doesn’t fully speak the truth but strives every day to tell it, not at the feet of the one who thinks he already does, and who doesn’t recognise his own insufficiencies.

Instead, she says, and she surprises even herself here, that he should be glad he even got a mention because not one woman did.

And this makes him mad and he storms out and she shouts something very low that she is ashamed of as he leaves and – well, you know the rest.

After he goes, she sits down and reads the article again.

She notices that the journalist is Ron Muller of all people and this time she wants to make a different sort of sound altogether.

She goes into her bedroom and looks in the mirror to try and see what Ron will have seen when he saw her just now after eight years have passed.

She sees that the bra she is wearing is ill-fitting and allows her breasts to sag down much lower than they should for a woman her age. She sees that last night’s make-up has run under her left eye and gone entirely from her right eye. She sees that her trousers are too tight and her top is too loose. She sees nothing to write home about at all.

She sits down on the bed and faces herself.

What if you were to tell the truth to one person, she thinks?

And what if that one person was yourself?

She gets up and opens the wardrobe and selects her favourite dress, the one that she thinks makes her look powerful and whose strong blue seems to imbue her very soul with hope.

She had bought it once in a sale at a maternity shop she happened to pass, just in case. But then she realised she liked it anyway, it fitted.

She puts it on and on top of it, she ties a rope of yellow beads. She redoes her make-up.

She closes the door of the apartment and walks down to the café where she knows he will be, where he always is.

As she walks, she feels her mother and her grandmother come to her, they walk with her and in front of her and also behind. They hold the train of her dress and strew her path with rose petals.

And behind them walk her unborn children, perfect, and with baskets of petals, waiting to be thrown too.

They are all together, in one long line.

And when they get to the cafe she signals to all of them to wait, she will see them again later and she sees her mother hold the hand of her child and she feels good.

And she goes to him, like a bride to a bridegroom, like a moth to a flame and tries to tell him that it will be OKAY and that one day he will learn to speak the truth and then, at last, they will speak it together.

And she really wants him to ask her about her, and to listen when she speaks but instead, in his actions, and in his words, he says later…

And then he offers her what she thinks she wants, which is to be a mother to his children only it is then that she realises…

She wants, at last, to write herself into the text.

She wants her nation to have a Mother as well as a Father.

She wants to be a moth, trying to fly by day.

She wants to tell the truth, no matter how hard.

She wants, she wants, she wants.

She sees him waiting for her to answer and at last, she knows the right words to say, and so she says, “Later, later, later,”

And watches him smile.

Because meanwhile, something is happening

– oh yes, at last, just when she is needed most…

a Mother is being born.