Bystanders May Be Written Into My Stories

Let me tell you what happened to me not too long ago.

I was not officially dating this guy, but we’d met, flirted. We used to party at the same places and it was convenient. He wasn’t my “type” per se, but his demeanor matched a balance between protective and nonchalant the way I’d never seen anyone capture before. Often, I didn’t know if he was talking to me in this low reassuring tone because he was trying to sound sexy, or if he was just trying to sound sexy, good times.

What I found most intriguing about him were the moments when he’d asked me about things I was certain he didn’t give a hot good shit about. He’d ask me about school and I’d explain to him how it was a hybrid program and I could “do the lot of it online”—meeting up with mentors periodically—skype, email, it was all very web savvy. I’d gone into how often I’d meet with mentors and mentees sometimes via phone conversations or coffee shops or places like Writers at Work—but my residencies were twice a year. Then he’d ask a question like “So what time do you have to be at school on Monday?” And I would just shake my head. He was trying. I found myself in his company because he made wide enough attempts. He showed interest in me by being interested in my writing.

We did talk though. His mom was sick from something he hadn’t mentioned so he was looking after her, and he had some random family member staying at his apartment because he simply “had to help him out.” I thought I’d question why he had to, but a similar situation came up between a friend of mine and I before, and when I asked said friend, he’d told me that even if he were married with kids—if this person needed a place to stay, that a place with him (no matter the situation he was in) was what he’d get. I figured this was the case as well.

Once upon a time we went to a tavern that played nineties music and had an overhead projector that displayed a burning fire. Nice enough. After small talk I’d ordered a dietish vodka mix and he’d ordered a long island. I thought I’d ask more personal questions. There’s nothing like spending time with someone where I have to spruce up the level of conversation by asking things I normally wouldn’t ask, but I do so anyway because I’m bored as all good heavens. Like my old best friend and I used to say “If nothing else please just be, interesting.”

So I go, “You believe in abortion?”

He had one leg over the bench and he was slumped over facing me, full attention. We were sitting a few feet apart and his head flopped back and forth in a horizontal motion. He stirred in his seat, and I could see him squeeze his folded hands together. I knew his answer.

It was then time for him to ask me a question back or provide some commentary, this was how rapport building worked. Again, his lack of input eeked.

“What about gay marriage?” I offered. I wished I’d phrased it as same-sex marriage as soon as it came out.

He fiddled about and took his fist into his other hand socking it together and said “Nawww I ‘on’t think two men should be gettin’ married.”

His face had some sort of dejected upturn like he was an ogre and I’d ventured into his swamp. I finished my diet whatever wishing it had more Vodka, and leaned over to him in the closest and quickest whisper I’ve ever given a stranger and asked him,

“Will you leave me here?”

He looked at me blinking rapidly and said “You sure?”

I shook my head yes bigly, slowly, like a confession. That instant he dashed out of the door like I had just professed to him that he was not sexy, and that he should stop attempting to sound that way. I made friends with four guys and three girls in the corner of the lounge as I finished my drink, then I went home and wrote the premise of this story.

“If I lose the light of the sun, I will write by candlelight, moonlight, no light. If I lose paper and ink, I will write in blood on forgotten walls. I will write always. I will capture nights all over the world and bring them to you.” —Henry Rollins

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