Career Choices and Wine Bottles
by George Gad Economou


Annabelle is nothing like the women I’ve insofar known and been attracted to; she’s not a down on her luck prostitute living on welfare checks in a socialist country, selling her body, and drugs on the side, for the extra buck. She thrives in a ruined economy, manages to make it despite Greece‘s disastrous climate.

What she saw in me, I’ll never know; like always, I on occasion attract a normal woman who shouldn’t be near me for her own good, and yet she sees something in me that I cannot explain, nor comprehend.

One night, we sat in her small apartment, overhearing the riots down on the street, rich boys playing anarchists throwing Molotov cocktails to riot police squads getting paid less and less to protect the public peace and end up getting their frustrations out by beating pensioners and peaceful protestors - the only demonstrators they can afford to beat up since the revolutionaries destroying cars and shops are often the offspring of rich, influential people and thus, untouchable.

“You know, George,” she said, sipping on her coke through a purple straw, “I still can’t understand what you want to do with your life.”

“Nothing,” I told her calmly, then had a long snort of wine out of the bottle.

“Nothing?” She gasped.

“Yeah; I don’t see the point of living to work, to pay bills, to make money…where’s the interesting in all this?”

“Isn’t there meaning in…I don’t know,” she stumbled on her words, visibly taken aback, “being able to afford rent, bills, to live comfortably?”

“By waking up at 6am every morning, spent 8-10-12 hours in an office, daily, with supervisors that yell at you because they’re angry at their wives, children, girlfriends, and demand that you work overtime for the good of the company, while they reduce your wage because ‘we can’t afford it, we’re struggling’, even though they’re driving expensive new cars, live in three-story houses in the suburbs, and just came back from a two-week vacation in St. Trope?

“No,” I sighed, had another long sip, “that’s not how I define live comfortably.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever met someone like you,” she ran her fingers through her long hair. “I mean…”

“You just haven’t looked good enough,” I rebuked dryly. “You haven’t been to the right places; the shooting galleries, the gutters, the dark alleys. That’s all.”

“You write, right?” She asked, trying to evade the topic I’ve just opened, while nervously biting her purple straw.

“Yeah,” I nodded, sullenly. “Maybe, the one thing I’ve ever known, I’ve ever been decently good at.”

“What do you write, then?” She insisted, pushing me to stick to the topic, despite my obvious unwillingness—I drained the first bottle of cheap white wine, immediately unscrewed the second - it was warmer - and had a long snort.

“About my time as a junkie, a cook of rock, a lover of whores,” I lit a cigarette and in the plume of blue smoke that momentarily arose in front of my face, I saw a single pair of blue eyes staring back at me with disdain over who I’ve become.

“And they sell?”

“Of course not,” I chuckled, despite myself. “Sometimes, I think it’s because of the subject, you know? I have had editors reply to me with ‘oh, we love your style as a poet’, or, ‘we really enjoyed reading your work, especially whatever poem caught their fancy, but, in the end, they reject them.

“And I like to think it’s the subject, that they just don’t want to, or can’t, publish poems and stories implying the writer was - or still is - a drug-user and dealer, but…in the end, maybe I’m just shit.”

“Haven’t all the great writers of the past been often rejected at first? For being too far ahead of their time?” She tried to encourage me.

“Sure,” I nodded. “And all the hacks in the world keep saying that to themselves to feel better for the ever-growing pile of rejection slips coming their way. Everyone thinks they’re great; only true geniuses understand they’re shit and give up before they further pester the world with their false belief of greatness.

“I quit social media because every other person was a writer, a poet, an artist. Bullshit, of course; granted,” I hurriedly added because I saw the comment coming, “I also have that stupid facebook page; a huge mistake committed in my younger, more naïve days, convinced by a friend who’s a big believer of social media.

“I’ve often thought of deleting it and getting it over with, but…I guess, I don’t care that much to bother.”

“But, in this day and age, you need a social media platform; otherwise, how will people learn about you?”

“That’s the major problem. Long gone are the days of knocking on publishers’ doors; sending your work to the big literary journals hoping for the breakthrough. Now, there’re so many vanity publishers - vultures making money out of desperate, hopeful, talentless artists - that the big publishers and journals can sit idly and watch, waiting for the one in a million breakthrough writer that comes along, sells some numbers, and thus is a sure cash-cow for the big boys.

“In the meantime, anyone can publish through a vanity publisher; that creates a legion of artists thinking they’re worth something. When they don’t sell, it’s the readers’ problem. If they sell, they think they’re the next Hemingway.

“Of course, the readers are problematic, too… just look at what makes it to the top of all the bestselling lists; romance, crime… whaleshit. But, that’s how it always has been… the reason the greats of the past were initially rejected was simply because they didn’t write what the common people read, what they wanted.”

“So, nothing’s changed.”

“Of course not. The only thing that has changed is the number of platforms available to all the hopefuls. Nowadays, it’s much easier for anyone to view themselves as writers; you can take a laptop to a starbucks and churn out bad lines, awful prose, meaningless stories.

“Unfortunately, there’re no good stories that can be written in a starbucks; in a shooting gallery, definitely. However, try taking a laptop to a place like that. Or, better yet, try to take the man that will take a laptop to a starbucks to a shooting gallery.

“He’ll be mugged, raped, beaten, and murdered.”

Outside, the explosions were getting more intense; neither of us really bothered, though, used as we were to riots. Her windows were tightly locked, keeping the black smoke and the tear gas out, providing us with a serene environment despite the violent clashes ten feet below us.

“Why do you keep writing, then?” She asked.

“‘Cause I’ve got nothing else to do; nothing else I know how to do. Something compels me to the page, even though I know it’s a losing battle,” I shrugged my shoulders and twirled the almost empty bottle in my hand - drained it, then opened the third one.

“You drink too much.”

“Yeah,” I nodded. “It’s the one thing that keeps me sane.”

She brushed her long, brown hair back, revealing the beauty of her face to its full extent; for a moment, I remained silent, simply marveling her radiant beauty.

“Why don’t you try to write something more marketable? Something that could be at the bestselling lists?”

“For years, my answer to this would be ‘I don’t want to sell out, I don’t want to sell my soul’. I’ve even rejected a publishing deal when they asked me to change the ending of my first novel; they wanted a happy ending and I couldn’t provide it.

“Now, however, I’ve grown wiser; I’ve begun writing sex stories, publishing them under an alter-ego to a website dedicated to erotica.”


“Alter-ego,” I corrected her. “When I write these stories, I’m not myself. I’m someone else; someone that can write erotica stories without puking his intestines out in disgust.”

“Fair enough,” she sighed in resignation. “How does that go?”

“Well, good enough,” I frowned. “Everyone’s a critic, obviously; some try to act smart by pointing out mistakes, or things they think could be done better. Granted, sometimes I use words with very loose interpretation, which may not be obvious to many, but…

“Can’t say I really care; at any rate, a lot come back praising the stories, my talent, all that. So… I’m looking up publishers for the sex novel I’ve written, hoping it’ll at least help me make a decent living, give me something to live on, to pay for the bourbon bottles I so dearly miss.”

“Have you read other stories that are on this site? To see what other people write?”

“I’ve tried,” I gulped down the wine, a drowning sensation suddenly overwhelming me. “Whenever I do, especially the high-rated stories, I see nothing but dull writing; perfect little stories with no stakes, no heart, nothing but the dull writing of a creative writing course taught by some professor who thinks he knows literature.

“I’m not begrudging them, good for them for being able to write stories that appeal to most people, but… I just don’t think that what they’re doing is writing. They’re wordsmiths with a well-developed craft. That’s all.

“And, unfortunately, they’re the same people who’ll one day win Nobel prizes; the same prize once awarded to Hamsun and Hem will go to a wordsmith, who spent his years studying writing, instead of living it.

“It’s alright, though,” I shrugged, a shiver crossed my spine and I numbed the pain with more wine, “it’s how the world is. I’m not going to change it, you’re not going to change it, the rich bastards downstairs playing Che Guevara are not going to change it.”

“You have an utterly bleak view of the world.”

“I’m a realist,” I fired back, the third bottle already emptied. I opened the fourth, and last, and lit a cigarette.

“I don’t know, George,” she sighed deeply, staring straight into my eyes. “I think you’re a pessimist, and… normally, I don’t like people like you.”

“Normally?” I raised my eyebrow, my lips curling into a half-smile.

“Yeah,” she lowered her gaze, her cheeks turning scarlet. “I don’t know, I just,”

“It’s alright,” I slid closer to her, took her hand into mine.

“I’m not the first one to tell you this, huh?” She lifted her eyes and our gazes met.

“I would have told you that you were, once upon a time, just to… no,” I then said, with a broadened smile, “you’re not.”

“I’m not unique,” she said with a sad smile.

“No one is,” I said in a steadier voice, yet still leaning forth, brushing my lips against hers.

She kissed me; thrust her tongue in my mouth, bit my bottom lip gently. My hands went under her shirt, running my fingers along her back. Even then, during that fiery, first kiss, all I could think of was that she was another story, another tale meant to remain unpublished for eternity.

Three bottles of wine and I could still go; fuck the pussies on that erotica site believing that a man cannot think of sex after a long, hard-drinking session. They haven’t truly lived, they haven’t been in the same bars as I.

They think life is the dull little existence they’ve insofar led, falsely believing they’re experts. But, in the end, maybe they’re right; they need stories about themselves, to make them feel unique, special, one-of-a-kind. They’re not, but they’ll forever refuse to acknowledge it, adamantly rejecting the horrible notion they’re not the true representatives of humanity, of writing, of everything.

Annabelle’s hand unbuttoned my jeans and I helped her out of her shirt; her small, perky, perfect breasts were in my mouth, I swirled my tongue around those tiny, pink nipples - as perfect as any woman’s I’ve seen.

And all I could think of was the story I’d turn that night into, fucking while outside the Molotov cocktails burned stores and cars, the riot cops threw tear gas and flash grenades, people screaming, crying, seeing their cars and properties engulfed in homicidal, genocidal flames, and I didn’t care, nor did Annabelle.

We were fucking amidst the destruction. She had it all, I had nothing, and yet, for a moment, we were one, having everything and nothing at the same time; a fuck resembling a strong junk fix and for a short while, the world made sense and I’d forgotten about the website’s wannabe writers trying to impress with their “knowledge”, or the wordsmiths getting published in New Yorker and Poetry.

Sometimes, I write strong lines, powerful sentences; most of the time, I write shit. I fail to create memorable characters because I’ve yet to meet anyone worth the term memorable. Even the greatest writers were dull most of the time unless they gave up before they could grow to be dull.

Maybe Chatterton was right, after all.


a line


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