I arrived early. I have always arrived early, at all places and times, it is a point of pride with me learned from my mother, and truth be told I shall probably arrive early to my very grave. But on the morning of which I write here, I arrived at the Federal Department of Licensing even further ahead of time than was normal for an arrival, for me.
It was an important day.
The building itself – the Federal Department of Licensing, I mean – was so entirely nondescript that I can think of nothing to say of it here despite considerable efforts. It was not even bland, for had it been, then I would have something to remark upon, wouldn’t I?
In a waiting room, eventually, a hood was placed over my enormous head and I was marched seventy-three steps to another room, where sounds echoed more. I took seventy-three steps to get there but ninety-seven steps, later on, upon my return to the waiting room. I cannot account for this difference. Whether I took smaller steps or the hall had grown longer somehow, I cannot say.
In the room of echoes, it smelled of stale instant coffee. I know that scent and very well, you see, so I am sure of it, always, immediately upon smelling it. My keepers shoved me down. I believed they were throwing me down and so I struggled against them but they kept right on shoving. They were only sitting me into a chair.
They must have removed my hood. My keepers and the chair and I were all in a room somewhat like a school gymnasium. Something like that. There was even a little stage at one end, and black curtains, too.
Of more interest to me was the table. One table with three people behind it. I think they were people. Their faces were blurry, blinking in and out like objects seen at the far edge of my vision or else like something stuck within my blind spot. In point of fact, for a moment believed they’d drugged me, but no, their hands I could see just fine. The table, fine. It was only their faces.
The one on the left might have been a woman. The one in the middle, a man, and bald, why not? The figure on the right wore a wedding band.
“Applicant 20285082126E, Ham-id,” said the figure on the right. When he said this, he pronounced it as in the pig flesh and the Freudian drive. I considered correcting him but thought better of it, sensing HAM-id might serve me better in my current circumstances than hahm-EED.
“Mister Hamid, do you consider yourself a writer?” said the one in the middle of it all, finally.
It took a little while before the words swished around within my enormous head and I realized I’d been spoken to. This happens, sometimes, with me. “Well, you see, I write a blog,” I said. “And also shopping lists. The odd email. And grant proposals for work, as well. I enjoy it very much.”
“Have you been published? Won any awards?” said the one who might have been a woman.
“I wrote for my school newspapers,” I said. “There was also a section in a reference book about Native Americans once. I won a Versatile Blogger award online, and some writing awards for historical papers back in college.”
At this, there came a great shuffling of many papers as though something I’d said had set off alarm bells. In my head, I retraced my remarks for the offending component.
“What was this historical paper regarding?” one of them said.
“I- I don’t remember,” I lied.
“It was about Eugene Debs, wasn’t it?” my questioner said.
The three of them came together then into something of a huddle, whispering like my mother and father once did, long ago, back when I was a child still too young to hear about the adult world and its assorted troubles. During this huddling of my inquisitors, I began to think about songs I liked and I even hummed a few bars of “Willow Farm” before reconsideration forced my stop.
“Mister Hamid,” the probably bald man said, “Executive Directive 114122124164 now prohibits unlicensed writing of any sort within this nation.” I knew of this, of course. Why else would I be sitting before the licensing board except if I was aware of the directive and trying to get licensed?
“I just wish to write in my blog,” I said, almost pleading now, and in the midst of my pleading, I went on. I must have seemed pitiful. “I don’t write anything political or religious these days, really. Like this one time, I wrote about a door key breaking inside of a lock, and another time, I wrote about walking around a revolving door…”
“Mister Hamid, this committee does not reach any judgment as to the content of your writing today because you do not even pass the first prong of the federally-mandated test for consideration of a writing license,” said the probably bald man.
“We don’t find you to be a real writer,” said the probably female figure.
“You can apply again next year,” said the probably married man.
They said some other things, too, after that, I believe, but I cannot attest as to what it might have consisted of because I was already lost inside of my own head, making plans.
And if someday, I don’t know how, you stumble upon this illegal story of mine, and if you somehow know how to read the words, then just know that many stories in the old days were far better than this one of mine. The best stories even had heroes who would overcome great adversities or discover new worlds or fall in love. That sort of thing. Really.
This story might not be a good story but this is what you have to try and understand: The thing is, I am not a real writer.