Just Pray

by marinashifrin

He stuck his fist out in front of him and looked at me with a comical sense of seriousness, “Are you with me?” I’d never been in a bar fight before. The situation sounded anecdotally appetizing, but I’d never fully developed into the bottle-breaking, bar-fighting, bad-ass I needed to be for this situation. I clenched my fist even tighter around the little slip of paper as I shoved it into my pocket.

To those kind souls who have kept up with this blog: I haven’t disappeared from lack of writing, or lack of trying to write. In fact, I even blew $325 on a writing class at the “leading creative writing school in NYC and the United States.” ‘Blew’ being the operative term in the past sentence.

Quiet possibly the worst part of this horrendous class, were the weekly homework assignments. Week #3 asked me to “Write A Story”. Seriously? That’s the prompt?

3 days before the story was due, I sat down to write. Then decided to seek inspiration from the book I was reading by J.A.

2 days before the story was due, I sat down to write. Then happened to reunite with a friend who was soon moving to Queens — the land where social lives go to die.

1 day before the story was due, I woke up early to write. Then decided it’d be better if I went for a run to get my creative juices flowing. I’d write after work.

1 AM of the day the story was due, I’d finished a late night at work. Sitting in gym shoes, staring at my computer and cradling a newly finished book I thought: What would J.A. do?

I’ll tell you what J.A. would fucking do! He’d go out to a bar, get wasted and write about it. So I did. And saw the worst thing a young, borderline alcoholic, writer could see: upside down chairs.

The problem with Brooklyn; when one bar closes another one opens. Not really, but you catch my drift. I could see the inviting lights of Mission Delores just up ahead. What would J.A. do? I decided to follow my liver, which told me a drink would help the process.

SIDE NOTE: The proceeding part of the story can be verified by three people. All three people do not know each other; one was smashed, one wasn’t there and the other will not be amused I am writing about this. But this did happen.

1:20 AM As I walked down fourth avenue, cabs honked at me; trying to save me from my future mistakes. But like a good troubled-writer I’d ignored them.

1:25 AM I walked in and there he was. Sitting next to a young girl – about my age – with his back hunched and in a 1950s style cap covering his eyes: J.A. He was beautiful, just like he described himself in his book. Crooked nose, balding head, sad eyes. They were all there! He was even wearing the smoking jacket that made him feel like a real writer. Yes, it was a different jacket, and he was a real writer there, but everything was still there. I absolutely couldn’t (and cannot, even as I write this) believe what was happening. I clutched my computer to my chest.

“Um, Hi. J.A.? Hi, sorry to bother you. Sorry to bother all of you,” I grandly gestured to all the young Brooklynites, also trying to win over their love and trust. “But, I just can’t believe this. I JUST finished your book yesterday.”

J.A. looked up and smiled. His eyelids had a dreamy aspect about them, he was looking at me but not focusing on me. “Which book is that?” He said with a strange accent.

When I told him, he showed a pleasant surprise, “That’s an old book. I wrote it decades ago.”

I’d heard interviews with him before, and for some reason he sounded different. Then it hit me. That wasn’t an accent, he was drunk.

“Yeah, ’95. I see you lost your struggle with drinking? You were doing so well in Paris, until the wine-soaked fruit—,” STUPID MARINA. Are you serious? “I mean, God. I am so sorry.”

J.A. laughed and his head bobbed down a little, “Let me buy you drink. Let me buy everyone a drink!” The people in the courtyard cheered and we made out way inside. He instinctively stumbled over to the bar where two drinks and a man were all ready sitting. My heart fluttered.

“Oh, here is my other drink. I forgot about it!” His words laced together. My heart sank. In chapter five, he talks about his tendency to black out quite quickly. I had to act fast. This is what I lived for, this was my chance. A real writer, a successful writer, a weird writer was buying me a drink.

“J.A.? How’d you do it? Make a career out of writing? I just want to be respected and recognized. I have to write a story for this writing class and I have no inspiration. I love writing, but I hate it. You know? Where do you get the motivation to write?”

He bowed his head again, and for a moment I thought he’d fallen asleep. “Prayer helps me,” he croaked.

2 AM the bartender brought out our drinks, and I decided not to follow J.A. back into the courtyard. I watched as he reunited with the young girl, she lightly touched his arm as she cocked her head back and laughed.

I opened my computer and shut it again. I wanted more, this couldn’t be it. I needed to know if I had a future, if anyone had a future. If there was a purpose. I ripped out a piece op paper and wrapped it around my business card. On the paper I’d written, “J.A., nice meeting you. I’ll see you this weekend for that cup of coffee you promised.”

I capped my pen and got ready to slip the note into his pocket when a large guy sat down next to me. “Are you going to let him do that Michael?” He said to the man who’d been sitting there.

Michael shrugged. “I can’t believe this is happening. She literally told me she’d be leaving with him.”

“I fucking haven’t been this ready to fight someone in a long time. I am so juiced up. Let’s go. He’s old I’ll fucking take him.”

Before I could stop myself I was already talking, “I’m sorry to be nosy. But, are you talking about J.A.?”

He nodded towards his friend. “Yeah, Michael here is dating that girl. And she is going to fuck J.A., just because he’s fucking famous.”

In my best impression of a sitcom Dad I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Ugh, women.”

“Well, I think he needs to be taught you can’t do that.” He stuck his fist out in front of him and looked at me with a comical sense of seriousness, “Are you with me?”

3:15 AM I’d never been in a bar fight before. The situation sounded anecdotally appetizing, but I’d never fully developed into the bottle-breaking, bar-fighting, bad-ass I needed to be for this situation. I clenched my fist even tighter around the little slip of paper as I shoved it into my pocket. I ordered a round of shots to diffuse the situation  — a trick my mother had taught me.

Sensing I didn’t have much time, I walked up to J.A. and slipped my note in his pocket. “Hey J.A., I think the bar is closing. Do you want me to call you a cab?” I tried to keep my voice level.

His eyes turned up towards me. I knew he understood what was going on. “You’re so sweet.” He slowly got up and made his way to the door. He stopped, turned around and grabbed my hand, “Please don’t use my name.”

5 AM I quietly opened my squeaky front door, walked into my room and opened my computer.

Lesson #24: When stuck ask, “What would Marina do?”

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