It was the fall of l985 and word was already out that Ivan couldn't get it up anymore.
Nothing in print for a year, often showing up late for his classes, creating quite a buzz among the students.
"I wonder what happened to him this time."
Last time, he stumbled upon a houseful of pimps and came back with a black eye and two lovely ladies who looked for all the world like movie stars. Brought them over to the faculty do, the dean kept coming around, and one of the "ladies", talking to somebody, said, 'F*ck- off garbage-mouth, can't you see I'm busy?'
"I'm sure they're looking at his lifestyle."
"He is definitely late," said the beautiful teacher in the paisely dress, who had enrolled in hopes of learning something about writing.
"He has lost his clout," said a former politician who had hoped to submit a book of memoirs.
But the teacher had finally stumbled in, munching on a huge Italian sandwich.
A whisper from the third row: "Boy, that must give him quite a rush. Looks like he hasn't eaten for three days."
"Look at the comment he left on my last piece," said smart Rehvka Alewitz. He commented, ''What can I say?'. I expected a little more."
Husband Phil, along to monitor the class, a hipster, said, "I don't think he's from L.A."
The teacher, suffering from a year of really bad luck, had started a publishing company, published some students, but the success was too unexpected and too resounding.. Fiddlehead poetry magazine had said, "It is obvious that you don't publish to make money, but the quality is high. We would like to hear more from student A, B, and C."
But he had lost the letter, had lost a couple of manuscripts--an almost unforgivable offence--and now he had to write to the poetry publishers to resend the letters.
Fact is, the teacher was seriously blocked.
A marital separation had forced him to operate on one cylinder out of four, sort af a two-stroke motorbike engine in the old Buick of his life; publishing deadlines were coming up and he may as well have been sniffing buttercups and daisies. "We'll print anything you produce," said the publishers, impressed by previous work.
So he sent them something:
"I wake up in the morning undecided between shaving and cutting my...."
"Things I don't want to hear, said the publisher, himself separated.
Ah, what to do when you're the Elephant Man out of the movie, a portion of your brain seeming to stick out and you're trying all the while to act normal and be accepted by people.
There was the writing trick in the attic, cranking oneself up on eight coffees, hoping that big fit will come, when one will become a firehouse of words, when LSD lightning seems to flash about.
Blank paper syndrome.
Now it is time to pay for everything. All those bright boy quips, the aphorisms from the Surangama Sutra.You begin:
"Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party."
Huh. Nothing else is coming.
Your name, top right.
Well, it's start.
"The cultural-philosophical attitude knowns a nihilism vanished at about the time of the Russian Revolution.
Where did the nihilsm go? Was it guilty? Was it evil?"
Nah, used that in your thesis already.
"You don't get things," says the estranged wife. You can't seem to think on your feet. You didn't get too far at the Star because you weren't smart enough."
You bump into a student at the stairs, a smart little Newfoundlander with a good job. "You don't know who you are, do you? I have seven brothers and sisters and I sure as hell know who I am."
"People talkin' at me
I can't hear a word they're saying."
One is in a deep well.
The shock of the separation seems to have people talking to you as if through a tube. Only scant months ago, you had been in the world, and how you were in the world, the writing, the teaching the dancing at night.
And now you can't surface. The psychology prof in your class says, "Why don't you stop being neurotic, see an analyst, put up periscope and maybe see the world for the first time.
"But maybe this is the way you have to be.
"You got me writing again. You've got the magic. Use it! Focus your genius!"
The instructor finally reads something from Borges to the class.
"I drove forty miles to hear someone read Borges to me," said the engineer."But..I enjoyed it anyway."
The students' eyes are starting to glaze.
Shortly after finishing reading the Aleph out loud, I said to the class, "I don't know what's happened to me.
"Maybe the instructor needs to get laid."
Three hands go up.
We had quite the class party in the pub.
Felt much like Odysseus, almost home.
Tended by gentle nymphs.
Is that all there was to it?
Woke up the following morning and finished all three stories. Found the missing manuscripts.
Picked up my Fender and cracked my spine doing a Michael Jackson calisthenic in the dark.