Like most aspiring writers, I used to have an imaginary interviewer on whom I'd practice my responses to the questions real interviewers would ask me someday after I became famous. Questions like "How did you get so brilliant?", "What is the true meaning of love?" and "Is there anyone who wronged you during your childhood whom you'd like to publicly shame in this interview?"
My imaginary interviewer's name was Royce. He wrote for The New Yorker and had hazel eyes, sandy hair and a cleft chin. At first I had trouble conjuring these physical details about him, since like all writers I'm nearly incapable of focusing on anyone or anything besides myself. Fortunately, I discovered that the key to focusing on things besides myself is to imagine an interviewer from The New Yorker asking my opinion on them. So I imagined Royce interviewing me on what my ideal interviewer would look like. As I answered his questions, he slowly took form, growing bones, organs, musculature, and pink, translucent skin. No clothes, though. When I asked why he was naked, he said this was just his chrysalis stage. Then his skin began to crack and peel until he sloughed it off completely and emerged fully clothed in patent leather shoes and a navy-blue Brioni suit.
I knew that spending hours a day conducting imaginary interviews with Royce was somewhat vain, not unlike the hundreds of personalized romance novels I'd purchased with both characters named after me, but it seemed harmless. Until one day.
I was sitting in my apartment, trying to decide whether to quote Shakespeare or myself in the epigraph of my first novel, when there was a knock at my door. I opened it to find Royce standing in the hall. He looked exactly like I'd pictured him and said he was here to interview me for The New Yorker. I slammed the door, thinking I had lost my mind. It seemed impossible that one, Royce had become real and two, The New Yorker actually wanted to interview me, as they had been less than receptive to my work in the past. The first story I submitted they mailed back torn in half. The second they mailed back partially burned. The third they dipped in liquid nitrogen, so that when I touched it, it shattered into tiny crystalline shards.
Royce was persistent, though. He stayed outside my door for hours. Finally, I said I'd let him in if he let me throw some paperclips at him to prove that he was real. He agreed, so I threw the clips. They all bounced off him, except for one that seemed to get sucked into his body. When I asked him where it went, he bent down and pretended to find it on the floor, though he clearly took a new paperclip from his pocket. The paperclip was oddly shaped and coated with a strange, mucilaginous substance, but I took it anyway out of politeness.
Eventually, Royce convinced me that he really was a New Yorker interviewer. That still didn't explain why I'd spent years fantasizing about someone who looked exactly like him, but I told myself that this was either a coincidence or a confabulation triggered by a subconscious fear of my newfound fame.
We went to a trendy gluten-free cafe called the Celiac Safe Space for the interview. As we sat down, I noticed that Royce didn't have a notebook or tape recorder. When I mentioned this, he reached inside a giant stoma on his chest, which somehow transformed his hand into a fleshy tape recorder. This should have been my first warning.
For the first hour, Royce asked all the questions I expected him to ask, such as:
Q: Who are your main artistic influences?
A: As a solipsist, mostly myself.
Q: What are you most and least proud of?
A: I'm least proud of the time I borrowed my uncle's papers that said he had a month to live and claimed they were mine in an attempt to guilt a Wendy's cashier into giving me a free milkshake. I'm most proud of my ability to forget about the things I should be even less proud of.
Q: Who would play you in a movie based on your life?
A: A protean amalgam of the handsomest people who ever lived, sort of like the scramble suit in A Scanner Darkly if it only showed supermodels.
After that, though, his questions grew strangely intimate. He didn't ask about my past traumas or sexual proclivities, which I would have been happy to describe at length, but weird stuff like the number of skin cells in my body, or how many times in my life I'd said the word "radish." The questions started to creep me out, so I told him I had to leave.
When I returned to my apartment building, Royce was standing in the hallway.
"I'm afraid the interview must continue," he said. He then grew several tentacle-like appendages, each one holding a notebook, pencil or microphone. I screamed as he approached me.
"Calm down," he said. "Now's not the time for fear. That comes later, when you hear how you sound on tape."
Now, a million years later, I've been interviewed to death. Royce has extracted every single datum about me and spread it throughout the entire universe, turning the cosmos into one vast consciousness that knows every facet of my being. In this epistemological entropy, I am everywhere and therefore nowhere, since the self needs an Other in order to exist. It's kind of like that scene in Being John Malkovich where John Malkovich goes inside his own head. That said, I still don't regret creating Royce and destroying the universe in the process. That and all my other mistakes have made me a wiser person.
Okay, I don't actually think that, but it seems like a good pull quote, so I'm saying it anyway.
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