I have never read Andre Dubus III, but I did once sit next to him on a bench on Remsen Street in Brooklyn. Understand that I have nothing against Andre Dubus III, nor am I uninterested in Andre Dubus III’s books. I am even relatively sure that, were I to read a book by Andre Dubus III, I would enjoy it. I bet there’s good stuff in there. But there is a lot to read that isn’t Andre Dubus III; I am sure even Andre Dubus III would understand that and, by the way, I did not know the man I was sitting next to was Andre Dubus III at the time. I did know he was someone. Some people—people, for instance, like Andre Dubus III—have this kind of distinguished look. I was on that bench waiting for my partner to bring me a cup of coffee that neither of us would have had to pay for, which was in a room that I did not have access to but that my partner did, because she was important and I was not. The man sitting next to me, who again I did not know was Andre Dubus III, was drinking this very coffee, but I didn’t know that either. When my partner arrived with the coffee, however, I saw it was the same brown and white paper cup that held Andre Dubus III’s coffee, and I also noticed that my partner smiled professionally at Andre Dubus III and that Andre Dubus III smiled professionally back in recognition, and so I realized definitively, though not exactly, that the man seated next to me on this bench was important, and that we were drinking the same important coffee. Andre Dubus III made room for my partner on the bench, but she did have to get back to the important room to do important things with important people: important people who had, like Andre Dubus III, received or been nominated for major literary accolades, held prominent staff positions at important writing programs, and even had their work adapted for the big screen, as with Andre Dubus III’s 1999 novel House of Sand and Fog, which was adapted into a film of the same name in 2003. My partner and I talked somewhat blandly about how our days were going, and I sipped my coffee in a way I hoped sounded appreciative of her time—though the coffee was actually too hot, and, actually, it burned my tongue—while at the same time, now that I was sitting closer to him, I was trying to see what Andre Dubus III was reading, which I remember as being one of his own books, perhaps even 1999’s House of Sand and Fog, which is his second novel, but I think that this is just my memory, because I want to remember that this man was Andre Dubus III through the entire scene of this memory despite this actually being an imposition on the memory because at the time, in the present tense of this memory, I did not know that this man was Andre Dubus III, and it is not as though there was something particularly Andre Dubus III about him in an adjectival sense, though of course he looks like the photo on his books, and I suppose it is possible that the distinctive quality I previously attributed to him was a partial recognition of this fact that I had surely seen Andre Dubus III’s books before in bookstores around Brooklyn, which is where we were. I was so intently focused on staring at the running head of the book that he was reading that I did not realize Andre Dubus III was staring back at me, and then I did not realize he was not staring at me but at my coffee, which was also his coffee, and then, but actually, staring at a bee just then hovering over my coffee, a bee which I did not realize was there until I tried raising my coffee to my lips, which I did mostly for the movement, for something to do with my radically misplaced body, and not because I wanted to burn my tongue again, and anyway I did not complete the movement because of the bee, who had captured Andre Dubus III’s attention. The bee hovered only another moment over the surface of the coffee then dove into it directly and drowned. All three of us—Andre Dubus III, my partner, and I—stared, surprised, at its body floating in my coffee. Andre Dubus III spoke first. He said, “That was weird.” My partner and I agreed, and Andre Dubus III continued: “Absolutely no instinct for self-preservation. I think he wanted to go.” My partner apologized then, because she had to return to the room for important people where someone important needed her, and apologized again because she could not get me another cup of coffee. She left me with Andre Dubus III, whom she waved goodbye to slightly, but who did not look up, busy as he was staring at the bee, in my coffee. “Incredible,” he said. “Absolutely Incredible.” I think part of the reason this event was so incredible to Andre Dubus III was because he was surely someone concerned about the bees, who were at the time dying en masse to the great anxiety of many scientists and bee-lovers. We were all concerned about the bees, and we—Andre Dubus III and I—were concerned together, but I had no more reason to sit on that bench on Remsen Street in Brooklyn, so I got up. I still held the coffee, and Andre Dubus III still stared at it, and I felt like I had to say something so I said instead that I hoped no bees would fly into his own coffee, that no more bees would die so uselessly when we really did need to save the bees. It was only when I checked my phone, blocks away but for some reason still carrying this coffee—still very much concerned about the bee floating dead inside that coffee—did I see that my partner had asked me if I knew who that had been on that bench. That is when I learned what you have known all this time—when, in effect, I catch up to you: holding the coffee with the dead bee in one hand, my phone in the other, reading a text message, actually holding this coffee and this text message out to you.
Andre Dubus III, II
Between the last page and this one I have read all of the works of Andre Dubus III. It has taken weeks, during which I did little else but read Andre Dubus III. It was not unpleasant, but there were often other things I wanted to be doing, and other things I wanted to write between that last page and this one, but I had become attached to the construction of the first line of this page—the “between the last page and this one”—which I had written right after finishing the previous page, even though it was not, at that point, true, but then I wanted it very badly to be true, so I did not write any more. Instead, I read Andre Dubus III. I went in chronological order, starting with his 1989 short story collection The Cage Keeper and Other Stories. I even read his 2011 memoir, Townie: A Memoir, which is his fifth book, even though I have very little interest generally in memoirs or in any writing that self-purports as factual—and yet despite that exact predilection, I did not want to lie to you. So I read them. I read them all. I only realize now, or just realized around the time I was ensuring the dates of publication were accurate for The Cage Keeper and Other Stories and Townie: A Memoir, that I could have skipped ahead a few pages, kept writing whatever else I wanted in the interim, then turned back to this page to write about my completion of all the works of Andre Dubus III. Pages are in no way a measure of time, or do not have to be, not linearly anyway—but I didn’t do that, I did not skip ahead in my pages, and though I skipped nothing, you skipped quite a lot. Entire weeks! Seven books! It passed by you in a moment, in however long it takes you to turn a page, leaving me stuck somewhere in the binding looking upward from a kind of pocket dimension, from whence the sky was clouded with booklice, gnashing at the spinal glue. Unless you waited weeks to move from the previous page to this one, which is possible, and I would understand that. “Andre Dubus III,” the piece with that title which I wrote, and not the man Andre Dubus III—though I suppose the man too, as has been my experience—could be quite an exhausting read. But it is not necessarily what I would have done, and I think in truth it would be difficult for me to come off of reading a piece titled “Andre Dubus III” and then to stop before reading the next piece titled “Andre Dubus III, II,” though I suppose my reading habits, as is evidenced here, should not be trusted. If you did wait, I feel now that it is like we have met up again after time away. Like we have met back on a bench on Remsen Street in Brooklyn and said, “Remember when Andre Dubus III was here?” And I do, I do remember when Andre Dubus III was here, and I remember the bee committing suicide in my coffee, and how I carried that coffee for many blocks, maybe carry it still, and I am so happy to see you again, to be sitting here, with you, on this bench on Remsen Street in Brooklyn, remembering our times together. I am so happy to be here with you. How have you been? And how are you now?