Commentary #23 (of 28): BOOKENDS

Commentary Pic #100Every so often (weekly at the moment), I’ll be writing a commentary about a story from EMPTY ROOMS LONELY COUNTRIES. I’ll tackle the stories in the order they appear in the book. Given the nature of this exercise, I cannot guarantee that I won’t spoil specific details from the story. So you may want to return to the commentaries here when you’ve finished reading the book. If I don’t address an aspect of the story you were interested in, by all means leave a question at the end of this post and I’ll do my best to answer it.


It’s pushing at two in the morning on a Monday night. My body tells me I should’ve been in bed hours ago but the beer special keeps telling me different. Not that I need an excuse. I’m purposely avoiding my bed tonight. It’s too empty and not the place it once was.

I’m happy I chose to put this story after “Paris”. Because the events of this story happen after the Paris parts of the story, but before the ending of the relationship, I think this paints a fairly accurate portrait of where I was mentally in-between. I remember those days pretty well in South Tampa, like being in limbo. My head was already thinking ahead to the possibility of moving to Europe and every day felt like torture with all the waiting. I felt like my life was in a holding pattern, circling the destination clearly in sight, but never getting any closer.

The non-flashback portions of “Bookends” took place in the Dubliner Irish Pub in South Tampa. I can remember this evening fairly well, sitting at the outside bar. The conversation between me and Robin is practically verbatim:

“What was that?” I asked. “The devil’s here?”

“Yeah,” said Robin. “She’s–”

“And she’s a she. Excellent.”

“You’re that writer guy. I’ve heard about you.”

“Heard about me? What have you heard?”


“Good or bad stuff?”

“Some good. Mostly bad.”

“Where is she?”

“The girl talking shit about you? She’s not here.”

“I meant the devil.”

“I’m not crazy, you know.” She smacked her forehead. “I know people crazier than me and I’m not crazy.”

“I didn’t say you were.”

“Just because the devil’s here don’t mean I’m crazy.”

It’s the kind of conversation that I immediately know is going to end up on paper later.

Thinking more and more, what a bizarre time this was for me. This story and “Paying the Tab” explain it pretty well. There are quite a few little events that happened that I never set down in writing and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. Maybe because I was too busy looking forward at that point, too busy waiting to take the jump.

“You’re going to write about this, aren’t you?”

“Probably,” I said. “Don’t worry, I won’t use your name or anything like that.”

“That’s fine – it’s okay. I must sound pretty fucked up.”

“I’ve heard worse.”

“That’s too bad.” She rubbed her eyes. “So, what’s your story?”

“I can’t even compete, really. The usual. My life’s not too exciting.”

I was listening to Simon and Garfunkel quite a bit in those days, so you’ll probably notice more than a few references to their music in the story, title included.

We are getting closer to the stories in Poland.

But first…

NEXT TIME: “Exodus”

Previous commentaries:Commentary Cover

#1 “Cowboys and Indians”
#2 “Little Conundrums”
#2.5 “Playing With the Dead”**
#3 “The Illusion of Swing”
#4 “Kicking Love’s Ass”
#5 “On Being Velma-less”
#6 “Muted Porn”
#7 “Defying Gravity”
#8 “The Fifth Ocean”
#9 “One Dead (Potted) Plant”
#10 “Remembering Drajra”
#10.5 “Masks”
#11 “Pancakes, Wishes and Other Tales”
#12 “Maintaining”
#13 “Before Waking”
#14 “Re:Flux”
#15 “This is Not for You”
#16 “The Mariachi”
#17 “$24.99”
#18 “Paying the Tab”
#19 “Father Groove”
#20 “Geneva Street”
#21 “A Lot Like the Ones Back in High School”
#22 “Paris”