Shakespeare in the Dark
Nick Bakshi
"Willy, you're not doing shit with your life," his mother called from the kitchen. "I didn't spend all that damn money on all those damn books for you to not do shit with your life."
He didn't respond.
"You hear me Willy? Do ya?"
He was sitting in the adjacent room, reading.
"Yes mom," he said, losing his place.
Willy's mother, a struggling alcoholic, was all but illiterate herself. She had named him William Blake after a joke she'd heard in a bar one night involving a horse, an angel, and the Pope.
"What happened to all those great things you were supposed to do Willy? Huh?"
No response.
When Willy was five-years-old, he had recited Shakespeare's sonnet 137, from memory, to his kindergarten class. He'd actually memorized the entirety of Shakespeare's works, he'd explained to them, but had picked that particular piece for recitation because it was short and to the point. The teacher had called the principle, shaking her head.
"I'm gonna start taking those damn storybooks away," his mother continued.
Willy shut the book and ran his fingers over the cover, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. He set it down and walked over to his desk.
"Why don't you just fucking write something already!?" she screamed.
He sat down and felt around for a pad of paper.
The psychologists had told her he was a genius. That he'd change literature. That he'd be the next Poe, Faulkner, or Frost— they'd then had to explain who these people were.
"Scared cause you can't see? Little chicken shit," she taunted.
After three years of ceaseless lamplight reading, Willy's eyesight had started to deteriorate. Not heeding doctors' warnings, he'd continued undaunted and, at the age of nine, lost it all together. He'd learned to read Braille quickly, and continued his literary conquest in the dark.
"I know that's it," his mother was feeling garrulous tonight. "Finkelstein told me— all that internal-external bullshit. You know what I think? I think you're chicken shit, just like your father. One little problem and all of a sudden you're good for nothing."
It was true, what she'd said, and Willy felt an overwhelming disappointment with Dr. Finkelstein for his breach in confidentiality. He'd explained to the corpulent man, at their last meeting, that he'd become so accustomed to the darkness in his four years without sight, so ensconced in his world of books, that he'd forgotten what the real world looked, smelled, and tasted like. Without this corporeal connection, he feared, his writing would be rendered unbelievable, unimpressive, and disappointing.
He wondered now, as he searched for a pen, if Finkelstein had told his mother the entirety of it— that it wasn't letting down the critics, scholars, or psychologists that he was afraid of, it was letting down her. He guessed he had. His fingers found an old, chewed over Bic.
He put it to the paper and wrote his first word.
Nick recently finished his sophomore year at Brown University where he was awarded the Lisa Beth Feldman Award for Literary Arts. He is currently taking a semester off from his studies to live and write in Paris. His works have appeared in Johnny America, Pocket Change, and StaticMovement.