*Anthony Cerrato is a general member of SCA, and is the head coordinator for The Ghost Writer Confessions, a spoken word poetry event based off of UCLA student secrets on January 28th, 2015. All people in this article are real, but their identities will not be revealed for theirs and the writers protection*
We had a few rules. I wasn’t allowed to see her, I got paid in cash, and we always met in a public place. These rules defined our friendship, but in the end became unnatural formalities.
Since he was not only my benefactor but my friend, I will keep his, and his wife’s identity a secret, but I will refer to him as Menelaus and her as Helen. Its a fitting description of two hearts in a brief lived tragedy.
Menelaus, was a quiet man. He had wealth but didn’t flaunt it, except for the new pair of Sperrys I would see him wearing every time we met. He talked with precision, and had a tone of respect that only comes from being successful in the business world; but when he mentioned Helen he went from a wolf to a sheep. At the time when I first met Menelaus, I was writing poems on the streets of Pasadena for donations, with my old friend Josh’s typewriter. I remember he came up to me, handed me a sheet of paper with his phone number on it, and told me to call him if I ever wanted steady work as a writer. He didn’t say anything else. I called him a couple days later, and we decided to meet at a Coffee Bean in Westwood, I don’t drink coffee, but it was public enough to soothe both our fears. At first when he started talking, he treated me like I was at an interview, and that he needed help with something but wouldn’t reveal what. We talked for a while about my qualifications, I brought some poems for him to read, and we discussed payment methods. He danced around what he really wanted me to do, for about 10 minutes until I realized what he was getting at and so I asked him “ Do you want me to ghost write for you?” They sounded like dirty words and I watched as he went from wolf to sheep.
He started talking about his wife and how they were going through a separation, and the man who was once this eccentric businessman was now a wounded soul. He was gifted by god with strength in the board room, but cursed with a cold hand that could only produce stiff words. I didn’t know it then, but after accepting to write as him, for him, I was changing my life in a way I couldn’t even imagine.
I agreed to his offer, and at first I was only writing poems, but as a few weeks passed, I started writing letters, then confessions, and once even a song. Money was never an issue, he always paid me very generously, more than I could imagine, and in the end it almost felt wrong to take money from a friend. At first I told myself that he needed me more than I needed him, but every week even if I were busy I would wonder how could I make Helen fall in love with Menelaus again. I tried desperately for a year, using every literary trick in the book. I even started studying different writing styles, and researching things women want to hear. I found myself skipping homework assignments, class, or work to write letters, or to think of new poem ideas. At the end, I realized that I needed him more than he needed me.
Helen had become my vice,the first woman I said “I love you” too, and meant it. Now, I never saw her face and I wasn’t in love with her physically, but when I wrote to her I had created a personification of my pseudo lover. I don’t know why I never wanted to see a picture of her, and I think it was for many reasons, but I guess I never wanted to destroy the fantasy. What if she wasn’t what I had expected? How could I write a love letter to a woman I didn’t love. So, I fell in love with the notion of her. I fell in love with the emotions I felt, I fell in love with the images of what I imagined her to be, I fell in love with the dream. I still imagine what she looks like sometimes and I still feel something more than any relationship I have ever had. Helen is a ghost of my emotions towards women, and her indirect contribution to my life will affect how I find and define love forever.
Menelaus loved Helen, I was in love with the idea of her, but Menelaus loved, her. I had never been a witness to true heartbreak, only an observer of failed relationships. I watched my friend wither away slowly as it went from a separation, to divorce papers, then to lawyers. I guess the reason why I left Menelaus after a year was because I couldn’t handle his emotions and mine. We had become each others psychiatrists, discussing life, love, and our fears. He probably knows more about me than my own family. I couldn’t watch a friend die while I am the one who is supposed to be helping him. I was supposed to be his savior, but I failed, and the sad thing is, even at the end Menelaus had hope, that maybe one more letter would change things. He trusted me to help him, and I couldn’t. I did everything I could with my writing, and to this day I still cry sometimes thinking I could have done more, that I needed to do more. That feeling of obligation, and responsibility to watch as he sunk was scary. So I left. I lie to myself and say it was school, work, and my short lived love life that was keeping me away from helping him, but really I was just scared. I was scared that I wasn’t good enough. I was paid well, given gifts, and told my words were beautiful, but I never got her to fall in love with him. Menelaus never came to me and said “she said I love you”. I realized that I had built up this lie in my head, that my words were good because I got paid for them, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get her to fall in love with him. I can write the rest of my life, get published, make millions and gather the admiration of the world, but all I want is for Helen to love Menelaus again. I want to see my friend be happy, to have his world restored, and for me to feel complete.
If I could meet him for the first time again at that Coffee Bean and watch my friend turn from wolf to sheep one more time. I would have told him no. I would say no to save us both from the heartache. I was his false hope and him and his wife were my muse, the siren song luring me into tragedy.
I confess that I miss Menelaus and dream of Helen. I miss my conversations with Menelaus about what it means to fall in love, and lose it. Every time I see a beautiful woman walk by I imagine she is Helen, and we just don’t recognize each other. I miss going to the same coffee shop every week, and refusing the coffee Menelaus so persistently tried to get me every time. I confess that I miss my friend. I confess that I miss my inspiration.
The Ghost Writer Confessions, is a spoken word event on January 28th, that is centered around bringing UCLA students closer by revealing the underlying secrets of anonymous students. Poets are preparing poems that are based off of secrets that inspired them, and performing them at the terrace series event. The inspiration for this event is loosely based off of experiences, but deeply rooted in the furthering of mental health awareness on campus.