“Aren’t you ever nervous to perform?” she asked in a tone of genuine concern.
“No, not really, but that is, of course, an anomalous phenomenon. Nervousness is an integral part of performance art. At one time or another, one is bound to experience it, unless of course you are blessed with another of those integral parts.”
“And what part would that be?”
“Delusions of grandeur,” he answered matter-of-factly.
“In my own estimation,” he continued, “I’m perhaps the most significant poet of my generation. A person with a sense of self-worth as inflated as mine requires either a mentor or a critic, possibly some combination of the two to really reach that necessary state of actualization. In the case of the mentor, I need someone to corroborate my sentiments, to cut the cables so to speak, the anchors holding me fixed to the ground, to give me that extra boost so I can drift away from the terrestrial and onwards to the heights of true genius. Of course criticism is an absolute necessity in itself, though it plays a decidedly different role in the process, for in the event that I’m not as good as I think, someone needs to throw the dart, to shoot the arrow that punctures my balloon. And as it all begins to deflate around me, as the helium escapes and hisses in my ear to drown out the voices singing praises in my head, I will be allowed to ever-so softly descend to ground-level, hopefully without any incidence of serious injury. But the latter,” he added, as a vaguely mischievous grin began to spread from the typically immobile corners of his mouth, “that contingency is only applicable in the event that my presumptions are incorrect, and, especially in matters of concern to my self, I am hardly ever mistaken.”
After hearing this spiel of self-aggrandizement, the only thing she could do was smile at the seriousness and sincerity with which it was conveyed.
“I sure hope you’re right, Dmitrii,” she added with a good-natured laugh.
And, in truth, despite the differences that had arisen between them, she did wish the best for the young man, wholeheartedly and altruistically, though her thoughts were admittedly glazed with just a modicum of self-interest. She lived in hope that one day, if Dmitrii could achieve the recognition he desired, and in so doing accomplish the goals he had set for himself, that perhaps a sense of fulfillment, or at least of contentment, would replace the myriad feelings of negativity that she, as one of his only close friends, knew he carried with him like a burdensome badge upon his sleeve, one that did not signify any specific achievement, but represented instead the long list of things he had yet to do, a list that never seemed to grow any shorter despite the days and months that passed. Yes, she hoped that one day he would be able to exhibit the reciprocity she so desired, that which would enable them to share the love that for now only she harbored within her heart, that love which she cast like a tow-line into the abysmal darkness he inhabited, hoping somehow he would find it despite the absence of loving light. But until the day she could feel the tug at the other end, the only one by its very nature capable of letting her know that it was Dmitrii and no one else, tow-line in hand, waiting somewhere out in the great expanse of his desolation to be reeled in like the catch of a lifetime, she would patiently wait with the warm-hearted and hopeful determination of the fisherman’s wife who, despite the most portentous ill-omens, bides her time in silence even after the date of his expected return is long past, letting the tide kiss her feet as she walks the beach, her gaze always and forever directed toward the horizon.