I don’t know what to do with my hands as I stand at the door and wait to meet my idol: writer, legend, Phillip Herns. I switch between holding them in front of me and placing them in my pockets. I’ve never noticed my hands this much before, they’ve never seemed this cumbersome.
Phillip Herns, now in his 70s has agreed to meet me at his home, of all places. I’ve travelled 300 kilometers to be here and would have travelled 300 more. He’s by no means an old man and still has his wits about him. He still appears on TV from time to time, or at a book launch for another of his brilliant page-turners. Oh God, I hope I don’t sweat. Why did I wear this jacket? I can’t take it off, this shirt is two sizes too small since I put on a few kilos over Christmas. I’m meeting Phillip Herns. Why the fuck didn’t I buy a new shirt?
Finally, he opens the door and shakes my hand.
“Oh hello. My name is Tony. I’m the one who rang about the interview?” I say, with an inflection at the end that makes the sentence sound like a question, rather than a statement. Am I asking him a question? Am I unsure who I am? Bloody hell. I wanted to appear confident.
“Hmm,” Mr Herns replies with a tight lipped grin. My stomach drops a little, I’ve really fucked this up.
He turns and stretches his arm out towards a place for me to sit, over by what appears to be his writing desk. There are two chairs, once which matches the timber desk and a black high-back chair which appears to have come from elsewhere in the house, perhaps brought over especially for my visit. Or maybe it’s always there.
He still hasn’t bothered to speak a word to me. I can hardly breathe now. I need to take off this jacket. This isn’t going to be good. Surely he could have muttered at least the word ‘hello’, especially considering how far I’ve come.
I walk over to his desk, sit down and assess my surroundings. The desk is simple and has just one drawer, it’s similar to the one my son uses for his school work. I’d imagined something grander – mahogany perhaps. On its right sits a black and white picture of a middle-aged woman, I assume that’s his mother. On the wall behind the desk is a small picture which appears to be cut out from a magazine, and it looks to be – yes, it is. It’s Donald-Fucking-Trump, stuck to the wall with sticky tape.
Suddenly, his unfriendly manner makes sense – he’s just a cockbag. In love with Trump and too good to open his mouth to greet a journo who’s come 300 kilometers to speak to him.
You know what they say: never meet your idol.
The young man appears nervous. I always dislike it when people are nervous to meet me, I’m bound to be such a disappointment for them. I don’t like to disappoint young people – I’d much rather they know me from afar and keep their illusions. I am just an ordinary man. A good writer, perhaps, but ordinary nonetheless.
This boy’s a good writer too. I’ve checked out his work. But when he shakes my hand and appears so nervous, wearing a jacket in this heat, his hair neatly combed with sweat beads on his forehead, I lose my train of thought and can only think of what a disappointment I’m about to be.
Oh well. Not much I can do about it.
I guess the young bloke will still get a story out of me, at the very least, and I’m sure he has the talent to make it work. I wish he didn’t travel so far. It’s one thing to write interesting books, it’s another thing to be interesting in person. When I write, the characters introduce themselves to me and the story often writes itself. In real-life, I’m left remarkably alone and it’s always a struggle for the words to come.
It’s funny, at 73 years old that it’s still a struggle. I’ve cut back the TV appearances now, they have always been a hassle and there are much prettier faces out there to do these things. Besides, I’m far more interested in writing. The book launches I still do, because my publisher requires me to. I do enjoy them once I’m there, but I really need to prepare myself for all the people and the questions.
I lead young Tony to the spot where we’ll be sitting today, over at my work desk.
He sits and looks around. Somehow, in between the front door and the desk his nerves have been replaced by agitation. At least, that’s how it seems. He’s tapping his right foot while he sits, as though he’d like nothing more than to race off home to his family already. Poor bloke. I’d be agitated too if I came all this way to see an ordinary fellow like me.
As I sit, I look over to the picture of my mother, she passed away 20 years ago now. She always said “it’s easy to love kind people. It’s not so easy to love the nasty ones – but they’re the ones who need it the most.”
I’ve never quite been the man she’d like me to be, I don’t think. The sort of man who could love absolutely anyone. I still try though. I keep a little picture of the most horrible person I know stuck on the wall next to her, so that I can keep trying, every day.
Well, here we go. I’m going to bore the hell out of this boy, I’m sure of it.
You know what they say: never meet your idol.