I was staring for what seemed like hours at the cursor blinking on my blank document page when my girlfriend burst into my study in a teary, hysteric rage. That startled me.
“What’s going on?” I said. “Did somebody die?”
“No, nobody died. I’ve just been calling your name for the last fifteen minutes.”
“Yes, really. And I’m tired of this. I don’t know if this is going to work because, I mean, you don’t talk to me, you never just talk to me or let me in or ask me how I’m doing or even acknowledge my existence, and I’ve talked with my mother about this and actually your mother, too, and she thinks, they both think—”
“Okay,” I said, cutting her off. “Let’s talk.”
“What?” She didn’t expect that. “Really?”
“Okay,” she said and smiled, sat down in a chair on the other side of my desk, crossed and uncrossed her legs and brushed back her bangs. “What do you want to talk about?”
I dug into my desk drawer, took out a yellow pad and clicked my pen into position. “If you could be any character, who would it be?”
“Like any character, real or imagined? Like a cartoon queen or something?”
“Sure, anybody at all.”
“Like could I even be a bad character, like a villain or a literary tragedy, like Catherine Earnshaw.”
“Sure, whoever she is.”
“Don’t get dirty.”
She thought about it for a moment and said, “I would be Joan of Arc for about thirty-five seconds and Juliet for about twelve years.” She paused and pointed at my pad. “That’s Juliet as in the Shakespearean play.” She wanted to make sure I was getting this down.
“That’s what I thought you meant,” I said.
“After Juliet, I would be a combination of Sappho, Catherine the Great and Isis. Make sure to get that. Make me Isis.”
“Okay,” I said.
I made her a troll.
“And what’s your setting?”
“Setting?” she said.
“Like where is your story going to happen?”
“In an Egyptian temple, to be sure. That would fit with the whole Isis thing.”
“Great,” I said. I put her beneath a bridge in rural Michigan.
“And what do you want to happen?”
“Can I save the world? Or is that too much of a cliché?”
“That could work. Like save the world from a quickly-approaching meteorite?”
“No, that’s way too superhero. I was thinking more like save the world in a goddess sort of way.”
“I think I got it,” I said. “It’s December 21, 2012 and—”
“Oh, you just gave me chills. That’s all you had to say. The Mayan calendar. It’s too perfect.”
“And timely,” I said.
“Yes, very timely.”
I had the troll, on that night, holding up a bodega in Detroit while strung out on methamphetamines. I set the pen beside the pad afterwards and looked up at her smiling.
“See?” she said. “Was that so hard?”
“Not at all,” I said. “That was really pleasurable.”