A Fine RomanceMature

Not really a romance at all, in the modern sense. Please do not read this if you're looking for a light, enjoyable story.

The day she found him dangling from a pipe in his basement, eyes bloodshot and corpulent, tongue lolled out D.F. Wallace-style, was the only day in her life she’d ever been pleased to be a shy, neurotic, semi-stalker.

            They’d been friends, more or less, for about a year.  They’d met just before the finalization of both her divorce, and his first publishing deal, in a surprisingly roomy book/coffee-shop that doubled as an aspiring poets’ open-mic platform, 6 nights out of 7.  She’d been drinking white wine and trying to scrape up the nerve to ask the previous poet where she’d come up with that amazing title (for the somewhat less amazing poem) when a tallish, smooth-featured mixed-race guy took to the stage (a.k.a. the raised area that housed the small, uniquely stocked children’s section of the store).  His voice made her smile, straightaway—he had that educated manner of speaking that lets you know when someone’s been to college, combined with a hint of that urban intonation that makes you aware that they likely grew up fairly near the inner area of a reasonably large city—and when he was done reading his poem, she realized she had tears in her eyes.  She also realized that if she’d been on her 4thglass of wine, as opposed to her 2nd, she’d have been sobbing.  Finally, she understood that it was the best poem she’d ever heard, in her life, by someone who was technically an amateur.

            She’d sort of forced herself on him, at that point.  Blinded to his palpable discomfort by her own mirror-eyed admiration, she demanded the answers to several clichéd, but nonetheless sincere questions, and was flattered and far more girlish and giggly than her age would have suggested possible, when he asked 1 or 2 of his own. Eventually emboldened by her 3rd glass of wine, she got his number, and actually sent him a text there and then, ‘to make sure I’ve typed it in right’ (tactless as she was, she’d seen his discomfort by that point, and wanted to make sure there was some way she could contact him in future).  When she sent the text off, and a few seconds later, the phone in his hand vibrated, she had to fight back fresh tears.

            She might have gone on her way and, once she’d sobered up, never sent him another text, if not for what happened at that moment.  A man with a decidedly ugly beret-style hat, who’d been waiting impatiently for easily 20 minutes, suddenly leaned over her shoulder and stage-whispered, “Actually, his poem was the most derivative piece of drivel I think I’ve ever heard at the Wednesday night poetry reading, and I’ve been coming here for 3 years.  I hope he fucks right off, and never returns.”

            It may be true, that she hadn’t understood every subtle nuance of the poem; it may be true, that the IQ of the gentleman who’d made that allegation, was significantly higher than her own; it may even be true that, if he’d been in a different sort of mood, her new favourite poet would have preferred to fight his own minor skirmish, there in the coffee-shop, and may, indeed, have gone on to become friendly, or at least civil, to his antagonist.  But as her luck would rather surprisingly have it, he’d actually had a really shitty day, and all he’d been looking for upon entering the coffee-shop had been a few words of welcome and some hint of understanding.  She expressed, albeit a bit crudely and emphatically, a lot of each of those, as she verbally berated the beret-sporting gentleman for the next 5 minutes… and at the end of her perhaps surprisingly insightful tirade, the poet felt the first spark of genuine warmth for her.  When she turned to go, uncomfortably aware that she may have overstepped her bounds and was probably not wanted by either the poet or his critic, the poet put his hand on her arm and said with not a little sincerity, “Give me a call Monday or Tuesday, yeah? I’m off work then.  I’m writing something, I wonder what you’d think of it.”

            And she did call, around midday on the Monday morning, as soon as her youngest child was adequately ensconced in his afternoon nursery session.  The ‘something’ the poet was writing turned out to be a soul-wrenchingly poignant novella that managed to make her cry a dozen times while never breaking it’s slightly dry, bleakly comic tone, and she turned out to be the poet’s free-of-charge, available-'round-the-clock editor.  2 weeks after their first meeting, he’d sent it off, 2 weeks later he’d actually heard back from a literary agent about it, and now, 10 months after that, it had actually been published to moderately optimistic reviews.  The general feeling in the literary world was that pretty good things were expected from him, before too much time passed.

            And yet somehow, he seemed to be hanging from some sort of water pipe, and she seemed to have snatched the spare key from its hiding place, let herself in, and was now balancing on a dining room chair, sawing at what appeared to be nylon cord with a steak knife from his kitchen drawer.  Her efforts were somewhat impeded by the fact that he wasn’t quite unconscious—it would be a long time before she learned whether he was fighting her, or trying to help—but, after perhaps 2 minutes, she succeeded in sawing through the cord; at which point she, the poet, and the dining room chair all toppled to the ground, in various states of brokenness.

The End

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