Monday, September 14, 2015

William Sans-Amis Part II

University is a time to explore things, your mind, other students bodies, the limits of your ability to consume alcohol and still live, and numerous other things. You may, if you are so inclined, actually crack open a book, apply yourself to your chosen field, and come out of the experience with a fine education. That is if you apply yourself. William was the type to apply himself, and the benefits of his classical education, pursued with some vigor were soon to become apparent to a lot of people.  I suppose his lack of social graces brought on by the household in which he was raised, and the stutter combined to focus William on the important things about getting an education Or maybe, more likely, he just was a shade bit smarter than the rest of us, and while we were belting out the school's fight song, and stealing the rival university's mascot, he was reading and writing, writing and reading. Good on him.

He wasn't all a dull boy, and I did manage to get him out on the town a few times, when he could be torn away from his books and his pen. To both of our surprise, we found out that after a few pints his stutter got significantly better. It was still noticeable, but it became much less pronounced. At first we chalked it up to me being in my cups so badly that I wouldn't have noticed an elephant sitting on the bar stool next to me, much less his stutter, or lack thereof. However, a couple of more drinking sessions, in which we experimented with him talking to sober people, such as the barmaid, led us to determine that our first conclusion was true. Drunk William's stutter was much hardly to detect even if you were (sadly) sober. It was probably the most exciting, and tragic discovery William could have made. Beer helped him loosen the shackles of all the inhibitors, (like it does for all of us), in his life, and gave him the ability to express himself verbally for what was probably the first time, at least to other people. Granted beer has that affect upon a lot of us, but most of us weren't born with, or raised with the external inhibitors that William was, and beer became almost a curative for him.

To his credit, he was mostly moderate in his drinking, even after discovering that it helped his stammer. He told me once that even though it was liberating to be able to speak more clearly, the problem was "o-o-other ... p.p.people j.just aren't a l-lot of f-f-fun to t-talk to." I could have told him that and saved him several days of hangover, but on the whole I think finding out booze helped was a good thing for him. If I had possessed his brains and his way with words, and could talk to people as well as he could drunk, well I might have never sobered up, but William, drunk or sober, had a plan. Or at least, I found out later, after most of it was said and done that he had a plan. William was from the old school that believed telling someone your plan was a sure fire way to scupper it, therefore, he kept his plan to himself until it was about seventy five percent implemented.

The first part of William's plan was quite simply revenge. A childhood of being verbally abused by his class mates had given William reams of material, and an active imagination coupled with creative talent provided him an outlet to revenge himself upon those abusers.  William begin writing for the school paper, and a first it was your usual school paper fare, but his talent was obvious, and he eventually convinced the editor to begin to allow him to write short stories. It was in these short stories that William exacted his revenge. Characters, under different names, shared a more than passing resemblance  to school mates of his. These characters did not come off at all well in William's stories. He was a clever man, and clever enough to obfuscate the people he was skewering just enough to have plausible deniability.  I knew, most of the time, whom he was referring to, and a couple of times had to ask him if one of his less odious characters was a literary version of myself. He shook his head in denial, but the smirk on his face raised some doubts.

True be told, I probably deserved a skewering about as much as the rest of our mates, but that didn't mean I had to tell William that, though I suspect he knew. He was fond of saying that a good story, with a good character was one that could have each different reader pause and wonder if perhaps the story was about them. At least the readers that knew him. "I-If they-y can s-s-see them-m-mselves in my s-s-stories, then m-m-maybe they will w-w-want to r-r-read more of m-m-my s-s-stuff." he would say, and then refuse to identify anyone of his characters for certain. It was wildly frustrating at times, but overall it worked like a charm. A lot of people would read his stuff, and inquire as to whom he was referring to in the story. He would smile enigmatically, and say " I d-d-do have a-an imagination, y-y-y know." I did know he had an imagination, but I also knew that he was drawing on life experiences that he had lived through, and was sticking little needles into people who had treated him badly as a child.

Upon his graduation from university, William was, not surprisingly, offered immediate employment. His writing skills had not gone unnoticed and two provincial newspapers both wanted him to join their staff. At first, he was quite chuffed, the job market being what it was any employment offer was a good employment offer. To get two of them so suddenly was a clear indication of his talent. Though he, as humble as usual, just said "T-T_They m-m-must b-b-be desperate t-t-to f-f-fill blank pages."  Not being in the newspaper business, I didn't know if it was talent or desperation that got William his job offers, but I was eager to see which paper he would chose. His annual income that had been his parent's true legacy was nearly exhausted (university is not cheap), and William needed a job just like the rest of us.

The two papers (The Voice and The Eagle) weren't exactly The Times, but for a fellow starting out they offered a chance to express himself, and to keep the wolves from the door. The problem is that William had larger ambitions, and did not care for either offer. "T-T-There's n-n-nothing between t-t-them, they a-a-are too s-similar to r-r-really choose between, a-a-and t-t-they are i-in this b-b-backwater." Or at least that what he told me, as he was pondering which one, if either, paper to choose. The problem was,for William, quite simple he realized that everyone starts at the bottom, unless their uncle owns the place. And the bottom was not a place that William thought was for him.  Of course he was right, but that didn't mean that he was going to be the headline foreign correspondent for the leading paper of the capital on his first day. He wasn't exactly a step skipper, but William had a great deal of talent, and didn't mind showing it. He never really grasped the idea that talent is great, but you still have to "play the game." 

William was not adept at "playing the game" his isolated childhood had not prepared him for the office politics of a major (for the provinces) newspaper, and he didn't want any part of it. He was filled with horror of the idea of an office environment, seeing it as just a grown up version of grade school were people are just cruel to each other in more adult ways. He was not enthralled with the idea of writing about "ladies socials, and the local football club's poor form" for a few years, and moving up the editorial ladder in the conventional way. That's why he made the decision he made.

That decision was to say no to both of them, and cash in his annual earning to "see the world" and to attempt to live by his pen. It was a bold decision, and I must confess I was a be jealous that he had the ability and the balls to make it. That was around 4 years ago, and I haven't see William since. I have only recently heard that he may (or may not) be in a Turkish prison, and that we "may not be seeing him for a while, if ever again". That is why I felt compelled, and free to write the sad tale of Billy No-Mates. I hope for a good result for William, and as one of his few "mates" hope to someday hear that he is out of the Turkish prison (if that is, in fact, where he is), but for now not all stories have a happy ending, even Billy No-Mates would have told you that.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

is that the end? turkish prison