The man walks at a slight tilt from an old ski injury, a gait that makes me think of a platypus. Even though I've no clear vision of what a platypus looks like. Or even if it's an extinct species. He'd know. And about the blue footed boobies in the Galapagos Islands where he traveled by boat and took slides of the birds and animals. Iguanas. Seals. Birds and wild flowers of vivid, exotic colours. There are also slides of markets in small towns and cities in Ecuador and some of a train that took him high into the mountains of Peru.
He also knows how to eat skilfully with chopsticks, something he learned from his Chinese wife from whom he is now separated.
Were I to write a story, I'd show him sitting at his teak desk, fingering through papers with hands covered with blotches of brown and knuckles with arthritic bumps. I'd dress him in the yellow sweater the Chinese wife knit that he wore sometimes when he felt lonely. I'd describe him as a wealthy businessman who loves to travel and has explored the depths of oceans and has swum with sharks. Trekked through the Himalayas to sleep in tents under the stars. Seen Thailand's treasures.
And also a man who doesn't know he still loves the woman who appeared in the court room on the day before his birthday and wrote NO on the list he'd made beside the items she didn't want to return to him. The writer would be included as a very minor character who perhaps added some intrigue and excitement to his life for a while.
The nuances skilfully captured in weaving the tale would convey the pain he felt. Although otherwise he would have a life quite unrelated any longer to this man's. He might have another wife. Perhaps a Japanese one. Or a Portuguese one from Brazil. Maybe he would come from Quebec instead of some European country. With a French name now badly mispronounced. Many things could be different. There is nonetheless a major question the man asked that will never be answered.
"I wouldn't know how to write a novel," he said, walking at a slight tilt. "How do you write a novel?"
The writer in the story thinks, ah well, some learn about spread sheets and blue footed boobies and how to eat with chopsticks. And others notice knuckles with bumps and when yellow sweaters are worn.
“Ah,” she says. “Just like a business is built. By trial and error.”
"But where do you start?"
"Where do you?"
He nods. Perhaps even understands.
p.s. It's not like making cookies! There is no recipe.