“That’s because we’re uncool. And while women will always be a problem for us, most of the great art in the world is about that very same problem. Good-looking people don’t have any spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls, but we’re smarter.”
– Lester Bangs (Almost Famous)
This was one of the first short stories I’d ever completed, and I wrote it at the precipice of a very dark point in my life. At the time I remember thinking about how easy it was for me to develop painfully profound feelings for painfully un-profound figures in my life, specifically any reasonably attractive girl who so much as happened to look my way.
It’s one thing to know that certain feelings have no merit, no reason, and an entirely different thing to discount and discredit those feelings. Sure, on some level I knew that I had no chance with the people I’d fall for, and more importantly that the feelings I was experiencing didn’t actually mean anything (case in point the fact that I felt them for practically everyone), but that didn’t seem to matter.
Of course the full effect of that revelation would come later, and at that point I was only concerned in the phenomenon, not its repercussions. So, I came up with the idea of… documenting, so to speak, these cases of people falling in love with people they would never be with.
A little bit depressing, maybe, but at the time I thought it was romantic. The idea was that at the end of it I would have a little anthology of flash fiction stories about love, and this was the first to come out of the project. Of course, we all know how great I am at following through with my many spontaneous and rather overambitious ideas, so naturally this would also be the only story to come out of the project.
Summary & Meaning:
In the story the protagonist meets this girl at a bus stop, and of course he falls in love. Over the next few paragraphs we’re taken through a summary of their ensuing conversation, as it’s being recalled (but not directly restated) in the mind of the protagonist. The idea here was to have it strictly from his point of view. It was, after all, a story about him falling in love with her, not the other way around, and certainly not mutually experienced.
As we go through their conversation we learn a lot about the girl, but not the guy. Part of this is to allow the reader to step into his shoes and see themselves in this blank slate, but I also purposely avoided stating too much because I wanted to convey this idea of falling in love making you forget who you are. When you fall for someone everything else just melts away in the background, and we tend to forget who we are, particularly who we are when not in relation to the person we’ve fallen for. Keep in mind at the time I was rather sore about my unlovable status, so if you can’t relate to this then lucky you (and also I hate you for everything you represent and for embodying a life I will never know).
What we do learn of the protagonist is often told in reaction to something the girl says, which again just goes to show that we begin to think of ourselves in terms of the other person, rather than as a whole. We conveniently forget all those parts of us that don’t fit together with the other person, and we convince ourselves of this notion that we’re meant to be together, when in actuality what we’re doing in putting blinders on to aspects of ourselves that would never mesh with theirs.
Then they get to talking about music, and what ends up happening is the guy gives his iPod to the girl so that she can get to know his favorites and hopefully see what a stellar sensitive and all-round awesome guy he is. Now, fun fact, this actually happened to me. I actually gave my iPod to this girl I’d quote unquote “fallen in love with” in university. Long time readers of this blog (HA!) might remember her as the girl I wrote about in Infection (I know, romantic, right? Just wait until my follow-up post, Scabies).
Anyways, I was feeling pretty meta when I was writing the story and decided to put it in there. Part of me also believed that she would miraculously find her way to the story (after it had been published in some famous magazine, of course) and recognize the reference, and realize how I’d felt about her, and we’d have this really romantic moment where we’d be on our way over to one another’s residences but then we’d run into each other outside in the rain, and we’d just stand there for a second staring at one another before totally making out, but of course that never happened :(
But back to the story. He gives her his iPod, but here’s the plot twist: it’s supposed to symbolize his heart. He gives her his heart. How great is that? So then she’s all like “oh, I can’t take this,” but then he’s all like “I want you to have it” and then she’s like “we’ll probably never see each other again” and then he’s like “please, it would be an honor to have you steal my iPod (heart)” and so then she takes it but then her bus pulls up and she leaves, but not before giving him a kiss.
What happens next is this little monologue that takes place in the present, and he reminisces on their encounter and imagines what she might be doing right now. He imagines her caring for his iPod (heart), nursing it back to life when it dies and toting it all around the country with her, keeping it safe and close. He mentions that sometimes when he’s having a bad day he wonders if she’s sold it in some pawn shop, but tells himself that if she ever did that he would understand.
In the second last sentence he mentions something, and it’s so small and seemingly insignificant that I wonder if anyone who’s read the story picked up on it (hell, I wonder if anyone’s read the story, full stop). He mentions orderlies. Like hospital orderlies. Maybe even like mental hospital orderlies. “Okay, TML, so why did you put that in there?” Well, I’ll tell you why.
I’m not really sure.
It could be that at the time I was feeling a little mental myself, and of course the protagonist was heavily based off of me, but I think it might also have to do with the fact that there’s a lot more to the story than we’ve been given. For example on two separate occasions he mentions the death of his father, but we never really get the full story, and we hear next to nothing else about his own life. In falling in love he’s forgotten himself, that much is obvious, but to what degree? And why is he so profoundly impacted by this seemingly insignificant encounter with a stranger?
Maybe I was feeling a little lost myself when I wrote this, and wanted to try and mirror those feelings in the reader. Or maybe I’m just full of shit and it meant nothing at all. Who knows? I sure as hell don’t.
Or do I…?
No, I’m kidding; I don’t. Alright, well it’s 4:55 in the morning and this post has descended into madness, so I’d say it’s a pretty good start for the new section.