“I’m sorry but you must be mistaking me for someone else,” she answered in Standard after a startled moment. “I’m sure I would have remembered if I had met you before.”
“But … I’ve always …” he stuttered. “I’ve always …”
“What have you always …?” she asked, reaching for the recorder in her bag.
“I don’t know …” he said. “I don’t think I can say it … I can’t even think it.”
“Look,” she cast about, looking for a way to launch into the reason she had come all this way, “I’ve come all the way from … well, it doesn’t matter where I came from … you’ve probably never heard of it … I’ve come all this way just to interview you …”
“Why would you want to do that?” he asked.
“Because I’m a journalist,” she shot back, “and a damned good one at that!”
“No,” he said, “I meant why would you want to interview me?”
“I want to understand how and why you write what you write,” she attempted to justify her existence to him, like she remembered having done on her first day in the introductory journalism class when she had to stand up before the professor in the packed lecture hall and explain why she wanted to take that pretentious bastard’s course. “Your books,” she stammered, “I’ve read every one of them …”
“What are you talking about?” he asked incredulously. “I haven’t written any books.”
“But aren’t you … ?” she asked, reaching for the photocopy of the news clipping pressed between the pages of her notepad. Ellen looked at his picture in the clipping and back at the face of the man standing in front of her, and back at the clipping. She said his name. Of course it was him. What kind of game was he playing with her?
“I … I don’t know who I am,” he said. “I’ve never had a name … never had a need for one.”
“Everyone has a name,” she said hesitantly. “Everyone needs a name … How would they … ?”
“I only give names to the characters in my head,” he said after some thought. “I make up stories, but … I’ve … never … written any books. Who would read them?”
“Are you … ?” it was impossible for her to continue her sentence.
“Here,” he continued, “let me tell you the story I was thinking about just before you arrived … please, sit down in that chair … I’ll sit over here … Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you and I’m not crazy … at least I don’t think I am.”
Ellen sat down slowly in what she believed to be a chair.