canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

The Unjustified Confidence of the Justifiable Man 

by Sarah Reid

I think the worst part of my illness is its seductive nature; its all too likable premises. It’s like if I didn’t suffer from my destructive thinking, all unique and admirable qualities that I hold would cease to exist. Everything I like about myself is an automatic derivative of what I hate. Critical, good, judgmental, iffy, and well, as for their characteristic cousins, I’ll spare you the details. My ‘illness’, listen to me already, a drama king through and through, as if anxiety constitutes any real, authentic disease, anyway, my illness is no illness at all. The byproduct of an uneventful mind, a soul so full of ideas it manifests them where they don’t belong. A walking oxymoron really, I exude absolute self confidence as I walk a tight rope of impending doubt. Name, Hunter S., with a last name so unfortunate I choose not to mention it. Fine, you win, Bigelow, I’ve always been so good at holding out! It doesn’t have near the ring as Thompson now does it. Suppose my stories may never hold the precedent his did; my mom always said it’s all in the name! Speaking of my mother, she’s a real piece of work, denial of her age being her true forte. We’re more ‘friends’ then anything else, though I feel she chooses to block out the authentically depressive me. Most people in this world have a beautiful gift for constructing their own versions of their loved ones personalities; lucky for them I’m really good at playing the part! All and all, there is not a soul in this world who truly knows who I am. The day this all changed for me may lack any extraordinary event. Actually, to be perfectly honest, for most it went completely unseen; a regular day filled with regular business. For me though, oh for me, it was the realization of realizations, the moment to call all mind bets off.

After yet another painstaking day of gaffing on the movie set I know as the stepping stone to a hopeful directing career, I ventured off to my creative writing class. I had been doing this rather lame workshop thing for a couple years now. It gave me a place to incessantly talk of my writing, while others offered me feedback as to what I was doing wrong; a perfect outlet to charge my creative mind. Sheryl, the group’s instructor, had made us all pair up so we could work more intimately with one of our peers. She felt it the most effective way to unite fronts; writers meet audience, audience, writers! Everyone else thought this was a great idea; everyone else didn’t have John Watson as a partner. I know it’s my own insecurities that make me hate John. His typical answers, mixed with his uninspired ideas remind me of all I fear. Each time he opens his mouth I am certain that what is to come will be tragically simple, just like John, SIMPLE. Sorry, so typical of my writing, tangents on top of tangents, the critics will rave! Forgive me please; let’s get back on track, back to the day which was quickly given ‘the day’ title. By this very encounter my judgments of John were now a secret kept by more than just myself. As good an actor as I am, the talent of the nonverbal far exceeds my capabilities. John too, though also among silence, heard my every thought. Sitting down to go over our work for the week, John and I spoke only when we felt necessary. He gave me the usual empty acknowledgements of a job well done, while I insisted on his literary brilliance. Both our performances of the appropriate had weakened with our relationship, hanging our costumes to gather dust. We were much too sick of the production to be convincing, but still not quite ready to stop the show.

The real problem surrounding our everyday performances comes when the actors can no longer decipher the mind from the stage. If we could break this very relation that resides between the two, we could weaken their voices. Unfortunately for me, these voices are deafening. All that I act becomes all that I think, while all that I think turns into how I act. Seemingly small incidences to most, become catastrophic to me, as there is no way of detaching even the tinniest of variables. Why put so much emphasis on John’s every word, feedback or joke? Good question, good fucking question!


John, having clearly had enough of the ridiculous workers tension which now engulfed our time spent, made a very unexpected choice that day; John allotted me the liberty of the truth. After our usual awkward five minutes playing catch up, he asked me what I really felt about his work. With great conviction, he declared, “For God’s sakes Hunter, enough with this condescending withholding dance, what do you really think of my writing?”


Truth is associated with many admirable things; honor, respect, trust and love. It can make a character, strengthen a soul and free the damned. This being said, I feel it quite probable to say, that though ‘truth’ has this very impressive resume it is not going to be hired on by friendliness. Truth and friendliness simply do not get along.

Giving it a moment’s pause, as the question asked was of a loaded variety with many possible responses, I took a minute , and then chose from the buffet. “What do I think about your work?” Just simple repetition, clever Hunter, clever, an easy way to make seem you didn’t hear the question. “Oh cut the bullshit Hunter, (Huh!) I’m so sick of silently watching you and your ethnocentricities. You’re my ‘sharing’ buddy, so share, what do you really think?” “John, I’ve told you, what are you talking about, is something wrong?” “Oh yeah, there’s something wrong Hunter, there isn’t a corpse who couldn’t recognize just how wrong something is. Now quit the comfort zone and say it, what do you really think of my work, what do you think?” “What do I really think, what do I really think? I think your being an asshole. I think your writing is typical and uninspired. I think we are all dumber for having listened to your pitches. I really do think John that if you never wrote again no one would ever notice!”

As I saw the blank faces turn towards the noise, I knew what I had done. Given the chance to unveil I put down my mask and let brutal truth claim its reservation. I let the actor give in to its stage, leaving its corpse with no justification for its performance. I had unnecessarily hurt the untainted as a result of my own illness, my own judgments. So caught up by my moment of weakness, my illness of over thinking, I walked blindly through the lecture room and out into the hall. I walked blindly into my car and onto the streets. So blindly did I walk I left all of my work behind. I left my autobiography, my lyrics, my poetry, my life, all to sit so seductively in front of my new enemy. I left my yet copyrighted ‘masterpiece’ to be used and abused at Dear John’s leisure. Unwillingly left to write the epilogue for my behavior, John sat stilly. He had known how I had felt about his work; for that he had not required answers. What John sought instead was recognition of my weaknesses, my all too self pronounced elitism. Looking down to tastefully notice my work, then up to discount any witnesses, John picked up my book and followed my shadow into the street. He turned the corner, eventually turned the pages, and then understood just how sweet revenge can be. My once self fulfilling prophecy in the form of an autobiography is now John’s published critique of my character. I don’t know how much he’s changed it, I’m sure he’s tacked it up, but none the less, I hope you liked it.


Having just completed her Honours Communications degree at the University of Ottawa, Sarah has been doing freelance film work over the last year. She spent her final semester in Sydney Australia where she partook in poetry readings at the Brett Whitley Gallery. A veteran of the Ottawa Valley, Sarah has moved to Toronto to pursue a career in both her passions: film and writing.







TDR is produced in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

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ISSN 1494-6114. 


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