maybe you’ll meet in your escape to the back of a dark bar, both seeking a moment of calm in a stifling and confined space. you’ll catch his gaze and he’ll slide into your booth. you’ll sit wordlessly, side by side, slouching low on the bench, breathing, your palms flattening the edges of your dress against the wood. his left pinkie will touch your right pinkie. because that’s how characters in a good story should meet.
or maybe you’ll run into each other in a coffee shop, recognize each other from a friend’s record release party. you’ll have just finished running, he’ll be buying a muffin and an iced coffee for the girl asleep in his bed. this is manhattan, after all: so big, but still you manage to cross paths with someone you hadn’t known before last night. that’s how characters in a good story should meet.
you’ll arrange to have dinner later that week. he’ll bring along a friend. he doesn’t need words to make poignant the fact that you’re just friends. you’ll find yourself bar-hopping on a tuesday night. writers never sleep.
you’ll weave your way back to his apartment along the waves of june heat radiating from the sidewalk. he’ll show you a piece he’s written, tell you about his characters. you’ll ask where they’re from, after whom they’re modeled.
when he asks about your stories, he’ll listen to your responses. quietly. every so often, he’ll pull out his spiral-bound notebook and write a few words, draw a line or an arrow, tear out a sheet and crumple it up. you’ll wonder what you said that he found fascinating enough to save for later.
you’ll have a conversation about how he doesn’t want to date you.
you’ll point out that you don’t want to date him either.
you would never want to date someone who doesn’t want to date you.
you’ll wake up with your dress on his floor and his arm across your waist.
he’ll invite you to his friend’s rooftop party. your mind will float on a cloud of soda and scotch as you move from apartment to bar to late-night restaurant. you’ll feel hip, surrounded by eccentrically dressed girls with red lips and darkened eyes. you’ll feel sophisticated, surrounded by boys in suspenders and hats and uniquely patterned shirts strategically unbuttoned one more than necessary. you’ll walk a few steps ahead, you’ll make small talk with his friends, you’ll nudge his leg under the table to let him know that you’ll be fine on your own if he wants to leave with the blonde clinging to his left elbow. you’ll mean it.
he’ll leave with you. because if this night was a story, that’s how it should end.
when you fall in love with a writer, he’ll be adept at eliminating extraneous words. you’ll know when he wants to stop at the grocery store by the way his eyes shift up and to the right as you near the subway stop. you’ll know when he’s working out a poem by the tap of his fingertips against his knee.
when he pulls you against his chest and tells you that you feel good in his arms, you’ll trust his words.
when you fall in love with a writer, he’ll lay the foundation for the perfect story. he’ll stand close to you. he’ll stand up for you. he’ll play his favorite records for you, tap out a few notes on the piano for you. he’ll have things like vintage posters, a pair of his grandfather’s shoes, a styptic pencil.
he’ll rest his knee against yours under the bar when you’re out with friends, keep you talking long after you’ve arrived at the point on your walk home where you divide, sigh deeply and sit silently when he knows you need time to contemplate. he’ll demand that you think as much of yourself as he does. it will make him angry when you don’t and he’ll use your full name to yell at you. you’ll smile and always enjoy that adding those additional syllables to the end of your name can so dramatically shift the mood of your narrative.
when you fall in love with a writer, you’ll expect your entire story to be as well-written as the most iconic of novels. you’ll look for hints of yourself in every new book whose pages you turn. you’ll expect to be always on fire. isn’t that how writers live?
you’ll yell at each other under a starless midnight sky. it will be raining and, when he turns away and leaves you standing on an empty sidewalk, you’ll linger, allowing the rain to mix with your tears. your walk home will be slow and deliberate, because you know it will make this chapter of his story so much better.
you’ll yell at each other in the middle of the street at nearly sunrise and he’ll tell you to go home. when you turn to walk away, he’ll grab your hand. he’ll say please. you’ll wake with his left arm pressed against your right arm and the sun draping along your toes at the end of his bed.
on a feverish night in august, you’ll stand in the dark of your silent apartment, strip off your sweat-soaked dress, and you’ll yell, alone, because you thought a writer would use words to explain himself. but you understand nothing.
when you fall in love with a writer, your story will be intertwined with the thousands of characters he imagined before he met you. he’ll move, elusive and quick, between the stories he’s envisioned and the one that exists. he’ll be honest at night and distant the next morning.
when you fall in love with a writer, you’ll find yourself, long after he’s gone, hiding under blankets, the same way you did as a child with a flashlight and a book after your bedtime, because it will be past the time that a respectable person should feel the things you’re still feeling. so you’ll hide, like a child.
you’ll scour his words for a woman whose height or hair color or nervous lip-biting parallels your own. you’ll search for pieces of your disposition in his main players: your love of the scariest movies, your sarcastic affect, your calm in a crisis — only the good parts, please. when you fall in love with a writer, you’ll hope to one day find that he’s written about a romance as fleeting and fiery and luminous as the story of yours.