He doesn't read this anymore. He hasn't read it since we fought over a post that I thought was a joke, and he thought was worthy of a fight. Among other reasons. So he just doesn't read it anymore. I noticed it immediately, because I obsessively check my sitemeter. And I had his visits narrowed down to Google search keywords and the location. When I noticed that I wasn't being discovered using his words from the town he's working in, I thought maybe he was just busy at work and didn't have time to read. But even when he admitted work was slow, I noticed that he still wasn't checking. But I didn't bring it up. Whether or not he checks in is his business.
Then, over dinner last week, I mentioned the problems I'd been having publishing the blog. I went on and on, talking about how frustrating it was that some posts would show up twice, while some wouldn't show at all...And then I said "I just don't know, anyway. I might not even keep it up."
With no particular amount of surprise or concern, he asked me why.
"So many people I know read it. I'm afraid to write anymore. I'm worried I'm going to offend someone, or that someone's going to take something wrong - again - or that I'm going to get slammed by some anonymous commenter for being honest. It's just exhausting. And it's not liberating anymore. If anything, I feel like I'm being suffocated." He didn't offer anything. So I continued. "I have, like, fifty drafts saved that I'd never post. Because after I wrote them, I'd reread them and try to think 'How would I take this if I weren't the one writing it?' And, invariably, I'd opt to leave it as a draft and write something not even half as good just so that something was posted. And that's not why I started it."
He arranged the silverware on the table, and casually said "Yeah, I don't read it anymore."
Quietly, I admitted I'd noticed. "But why?"
"Well, it was a problem. And I don't know if reading it is such a good idea, so I'm just not going to be part of it anymore."
And it burned me, from the inside out.
He wasn't mean about it, or even coldly matter-of-fact. It was just a casual statement. But I couldn't help but feel like I'd just been kicked in the stomach. He watched the tears man their stations in my eyes, and his face softened. "Does that upset you?"
Does it upset me? I couldn't even answer him for fear that the tears would fall over my meal. I just shook my head and lied. "No."
But it does. Beyond what I can even express. Because it felt like he was saying it's no good. Because it felt like I was being punished. Because...
Because it's the one thing I do completely for myself. It's the one thing I have that I'm proud of. It's the one thing that I feel good at. It's an indulgence. And I like to share it. But him telling me that he didn't "want to be part of it" made me feel like a failure. Like it wasn't worth reading to begin with. Like this is some toxin that he doesn't want to go near for fear of ingestion.
I understood when he didn't want to read the posts about my exes, the same way I don't want to stare at the painting he's done of his ex, the one I happen to know. But I don't shut out his entire body of work for one painting that stings a little. I still stare at the naked woman in the kitchen, picking out new colors, new themes, new details that I've never seen before, every time I look at it. So it hurt me that he no longer has interest in something I love.
Of course, he'd never let me get away with my obviously false answer of no. So he pressed. Why does it upset me? When I still refused to answer, citing the tears in my eyes and asking to change the subject, he said "Why do you write it so that so many people can read it? Why not just write in a journal? What's the difference?"
This, coming from a man with paintings hanging in a restaurant in New York, with a website devoted to them. My mind churned, but my voice wouldn't budge. Why don't you paint for yourself? Why do you have the hefty prices under each painting on your website? What's the difference between hanging them in some popular restaurant and keeping them in a sketchbook under some old clothes in your extra bedroom/art studio? Huh? Where's the difference there? But I couldn't say any of it. Because I didn't want to fight, and I didn't want to cry.
But no one makes painters apologize for their craft. The interpretation aspect of art is understood. One person sees sadness in a painting, one person sees the raw beauty, one person sees affection. Sex, love, madness, fear. All in the same painting. It's up to the viewer. Artists get critiqued, sure. But it's more of a person's preference for style. But, generally, no one says they're offended by what a paintbrush did to a canvas. And if they don't like it, they move on. But with writing, you don't get that same liberty. Is it more personal? Is it because talent is more easily defined in art, where you either can or cannot make out what's on the canvas? Where in writing, it's murky and personal. I love Vincent van Gogh. I could stare at his paintings for hours. I have no use for Picasso, but he doesn't offend me. And I wouldn't refuse to view his work if given the opportunity.
And I love Billy's art. I'm in awe of his talent. And, most of all, I give him credit for having the balls and confidence to put it out there, inviting failure and rejection. I admire that. And, because of that, I thought he'd understand where I'm coming from. I mean, I may not be as accomplished, or - shit - even as talented as he is, but I thought he'd at least give me credit for doing something. For attempting to hone a craft I happen to enjoy. For having a passion.
Instead, what I told him is that I like the feedback, that it doesn't feel as cathartic if I write and tuck it away under my pillow. I may not be the greatest writer, but at least I feel that, once I hit "publish," it's out there and I'm not just squandering whatever talent I may posses on my eyes alone.
But it just hurt me. It hurt through dinner and right on through until today. And even now, writing this, I'm worried. Is this enough to get me in trouble? Would he take offense?
"What if I do a new one? Anonymously?" I said, sort of half-joking.
He shook his head gravely. "No. Someone would still find it."
As though that would be a bad thing.