“I totally understand.” It sounds like I’m trying to console, neglecting the fact that Jamus already has a successful career. I sip tea. A young waiter, not appearing to have more than a whiff of Japanese blood in him, takes our order for sushi. Vegetarian Roll, Avocado roll, Kappa Maki. My vegetarianism is so impressive. Jamus orders something I can’t hope to pronounce. Cute waiter exits stage left.
“Tell me more about your writing Kate, what do you focus on? What sorts of characters do you involve yourself with? What do they do?” Jamus’s question seems not only silly, but also nosey, like this was some sort of interrogation. Though it has been a while since someone asked me something about myself so this could just be how people show interest in each other. It’s difficult to discern these sorts of things after only having conversations with people like Estelle and her entourage, who are as likely to ask you a personal question as they are to jump in front of a bus. I answer Jamus anyway, just to see what it’s like.
“I write about very fantastical characters usually: men who fight, women who love. People you watch rather than read I guess. Lately things have shifted a bit.”
“To?” Jamus stays fixed on me holding the Sake cup delicately between his thumb, index and middle fingers.
“Well, to myself. I figured that maybe I could write more convincingly if I based my characters off of me. That’s what they keep saying isn’t it: start with what you know? You can’t just…well, I can’t just plunge into things I don’t know anything about and try to pull it off as a decent story.”
“That’s a good jumping off point.” Jamus says and I can tell, he’s hesitating.
“I think that now, with everything that’s been published, there just isn’t much to write about anymore. It’s why films have six or seven sequels before the stories are considered exhausted. It’s kind of pathetic actually that in every creative field we’re just rehashing old material and reselling it. But people don’t really like surprises unless they’re really great shocking ones.” The beautiful hostess is arranging menus. She looks up at me and smiles. Back to menu arranging. A few more people shuffle in, they pull her from the easy task that she no doubt would rather do and she seats them and answers their stupid questions about what part of Japan she’s from and what the characters on the rice paper screens stand for.
“So you’re saying that I’m not interesting enough to base any characters off of myself?”
“As it stands now, yeah that’s what I’m saying: you aren’t—but then again I don’t really know you.” Oddly enough, I’m not at all offended by this. And stranger still, I am coming to believe Jamus doesn’t know how to not be honest. It’s like, his job. I rummage around in my head for an example of a perfectly ordinary protagonist. Nothing presents itself. Sushi arrives, cute waiter looks tired. Mental note on impeccable timing of the sushi. The seaweed is bound so tightly around the rice that it glistens in the waning afternoon sunlight.