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published: 2010-06-18

A friend flew in from the Caribbean. It was a sad trip for her, she came to see her best-friend who has a fatal brain tumor. She stayed in a hotel close to my home and so I got to see her often. It had been years since we managed to connect the way we did.
At the end of her stay, she gave me a Buddha. The Buddha had one handpalm raised, facing me.

“It means reassurance,” she said, weighing her words. “I was immediately drawn to this one for you. Only later did I find out what it means.”
I could have cried, for more reasons than one. I gave her this reason:

I recently walked past my publisher’s office and suddenly felt sullen. Not lonely but alone. Then a chill ran down my spine and spread to the rest of my body. I knew it was him, the man I had based my novel on and who recently passed away. He said, “yup, you are in this alone.” It was strangely reassuring.
The other reason for my tears was this:
Three years ago my first novel came out. My friend sent me an e-mail about it. It came delayed, she must have found it difficult to send. She told me how the novel had disappointed her. It wasn’t what she’d hoped. Her e-mail went on to argue her opinion, it was an indepth point by point analysis. I immediately called her in a state of emotional frenzy. It ruined our friendship.
But not forever. Years pass and understanding increases. She is a judge. I now realize it goes against her nature to voice an opinion without arguing it. And there’s more. My first novel insulted her island; the island where I was born and which I left, the island where she was born and where she stayed. It therefore insulted her.
As a writer, it is your job to write your truth. Not the truth, your truth. Sometimes, this entails hurting the people closest to you. Usually, it’s not even a conscious act. Is it worth it? I don’t know. What I do know is that those are the very people who huddle by the radio and tune-in to an interview with you. They send you text-messages saying you did great, when you know you didn’t. They enter every bookstore they pass and ask for your new novel.

My friend was here for a sad reason. But she gave methe Buddha of reassurance. She has returned to the island that connects us as much as it divides us, with three copies of my new novel in her bag.

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