You clock out of work. The punch card weighs heavy in your hand. You go straight home. Your Story has been waiting up, pacing the apartment, peering through the blinds. There’s a pair of empty wine bottles in the sink. Incense sticks line the coffee table. They’ve been ashed all the way down. Candle wax has dripped across the varnish. Three empty sleeves of Girl scout cookies lay crinkled on the couch.
Your Story has so much she wants to tell you. She has your entire evening mapped out. She has a checklist. She says, “First we’re going to find a nice cozy setting. If the situation is cool, we’ll stick around. If we’re lucky we’ll meet a Protagonist with a strong compelling drive. We’ll do something fresh and break his routine. If you’re feeling up to it we should give him a goal that’s in stark contrast with his drive. You know, mix it up a little. Depending on where the night takes us, we could find ourselves with some juicy late night conflict to dig into.”
The itinerary is giving you tunnel vision. You can’t help but check your work schedule with your Story peering over you shoulder. You sigh.
She says, “Come on, we don’t have to stay out all night. We’ll just do like two thousand words. No biggie.”
You can’t help but imagine what your friends without Stories are doing with their evenings. Maybe they’re off exploring the old mill for signs of spirit activity. Maybe they’re coughing their way through Sweet Caroline at the karaoke bar. Maybe they’re building forts or gunning down zombies from the comfort of their laptops. You on the other hand have made a commitment.
So you try to spice things up. You take your Story to wild exotic places. The two of you stumble your ways through checkered ballrooms. You try on different genres together. Your Story flirts with throwing another plot device into the mix to, “you know, make things more interesting.” She asks how you feel about the protagonist learning he and the antagonist are one in the same. She’s come up with this junk science pop psychology take on dissociative disorder.
You grown, failing to see her smile flatline.
She asks how you feel about the protagonist realizing that he’s already dead.
If your eyes rolled any faster they’d fall out of their sockets.
She asks how you feel about one of the supporting cast members revealing themselves to be your hero’s father.
You say you think the two of you need to take a break. It just spills out. There’s no way to put it back in. Once the dam springs a leak it just keeps flowing. You say that no matter what you do with yourself, it doesn’t suit your Story. She’s changing and you’re staying the same. You’re on two different paths that go in opposite directions. She’s frozen, standing in the threshold. She honestly didn’t see this coming.
The first month is always the hardest. You fight the urge to respond to her text messages. You find yourself dialing all but the last digit of her number in the middle of the night. You’ve thought of something funny that only she would get. You’ve gone some where the two of you always meant to go. You wanted to ask her something that only she would know.
You flirt with different stories. They seem like good ideas from across the bar, but when you get close they’ve got nothing fresh to say and what they have to say they say with up speak. You’re not about to write about gaunt glistening vampire lads just yet, thank you very much.
You try for a short story, a speed date, a quicky, something to tide you over while you wait for real love to come around. None of them can scratch that itch. None of them hit that old familiar sweet spot.
Pretty soon, you’ll realize what you’ve given up. You’ve fought the urge long enough. It’s time to call up the Story and see what it’s up to.
You set up a date, a dinner reservation, someplace familiar, someplace safe. You find her facing the entryway, her eyes flickering from her cellphone to you. She stands up to give you a hug. She looks great, but something is off. Her smile doesn’t synchronize with her eyes. You try to read her but you can’t get a fix on what’s going on. When she speaks her syntax comes out garbled. Her grammar is a mess. She keeps repeating herself. She makes emotional appeals that just aren’t resonating with you.
She breaks down, says she’s subsisted on adverbs and buckets of chocolate volcano ice cream. Her plot is a scattered-brained mix of every idea that’s popped into her head. Her characters are card board cut outs with poor motivations. Her mood shifts at the drop of a hat. Your Story is a mess… But she’s your mess.
You love her extravagant metaphors and her unnecessarily evocative verbs. You love her overuse of simile. She’s like a kid in a candy store, scooping up the dated idioms. You love her for her dime store chapter titles and her pulp clichés. The phrase, “It was a dark and stormy night,” usually makes you wince, but she wears it so well.
You welcome each other back with open arms. The two of you have your work cut out for you; a lot of counseling, a lot of editing, but you give each other purpose. You need your Story even more than she needs you.
Keep writing kids. You’ll find that spark again.