I sat there in my train seat with the book open on my lap hoping he wouldn’t look over and see what I was reading. That was years ago.
Once, in the office, I overheard a phone conversation he was having with some unknown new hire. “As long as he’s over 18, right, that’s all that matters, ha ha ha. Oh, you’re too much,” he said. “We have too much fun when we talk, right? Great. Excellent.”
He was the young resourcer of humans, as they put it in my country. Well, as I put it, about my country, while I’m in it. Not sure about yours, because I’m here and you’re there and we may never meet. May we never meet? No, that’s too much.
He handled the coordination of interviews and HR paperwork and shit like that, was the kindly host-chaperone when “candidates,” as they’re called, came to the office, the go-between, the generalist, the rep.
Narrow-shouldered, slender, tallish of stature and largeish of head with a round sort of face, I looked him up online on an online-lookup whim because my curiosity could finally take no more of his professional banter and singing of bad 80s pop songs and writing of their lyrics on various whiteboards around the office and because I (rightly) assumed I’d find ammunition for my mild distaste, and his professional networking page read like a dating profile, outlining his taste in beach walks and “fine literary fiction,” or maybe I made that up.
“I noticed you writing on the train the other day,” he said a few days after the open-book-on-lap sighting.
“Yeah, I scribble.”
“What kinds of things do you write, fiction?”
“Short stories and essays, mostly,” I ventured, which was mostly true at the time.
Elongated “ooohhh,” and a slow nod of head, forward first, then back. “Yeah,” he said unprovoked and after a pause, with dabs of smug around the edges, “I used to write on the train, mostly creative nonfiction. And literary fiction too, sometimes.”
“Isn’t that redundant?”
“Literary fiction, or is ‘literary’ meant to signify ‘good.’ Why not just call it fiction,” thinking like an asshole that there’s literature and then there’s fiction and if this dude writes anything it’s fiction, not literature and who’s the odious one now?
“It doesn’t sound as literary then,” he said, a little sarcastic but mostly just genuine and that was disarming so I said the only thing I could and that was “fair enough,” because it was. And I liked him a little more and myself a little less, evening us out and that’s why I remember. But I still don’t want to read a word of it, not a word. Not unless he’s gone and written the same story about me.