This story is part of my long-languishing semi-fictionalized memoir of the “year of singleness” after my (now ex-) wife and I separated, and before I met Amy. I first wrote this bit up in response to a question someone asked about “people who look like they’d be amazing, but are actually terrible in the sack.”
It’s the genesis of a chapter in a book I’ve been working on since November of 2012. It’s not edited for tone or fit, but this is largely the story I’ll tell though I’ll tell it from a less blatantly direct perspective eventually.
Back in the dark ages of online dating, when flip phones and blue Nokia bricks were the smartest phones we had, I watched my marriage of eleven years flush itself down a swirling toilet of apathy, emotional betrayal, suppressed disappointments, and irrational acts of senseless interpersonal destruction.
My soon-to-be-ex-wife lived in the apartment exactly one flight of stairs down the sidewalk from mine. I had to walk past her window every time I went to or from my car. I was heavily invested in my delusion that she would suddenly “wake up” and run back into my arms and into my life. I did tremendously doormat-ish things, like cook her breakfast, pay her horse boarding bill, and clean the stall of an animal that pretty much personified the nature of our relationship: mean, angry, unpredictable, expensive, and generally ignored ninety percent of the time. All of which meant that I was obviously ripe for that bastion of emotional health and relationship nirvana: eHarmony. Continue reading
When I was a child, I was often called “a serious boy” by those who sat on taller seats and more important chairs, with the air of authority puffing them up and giving them the ability to pronounce a simple judgement about the complex workings of my dreams and desires. Yet words have power, and I began to be serious even when my dreams were filled with magic swords and mermaids and castles at the hearts of treacherous mazes. I read books about history and mythology and great literature to trick the big people with their serious expectations into believing that I was as serious as they thought I should be. In reality, I just loved the stories.
After coming home and leaving my serious books and my serious expectations on the dining-room table, I would gather up my true favorites, my secret loves, and hide beneath the bottom shelf in my walk-in closet. I would take with me the tales of Arthur and his knights, the different passages to Narnia, and most belovedly the wondrous tales of Oz. There are children who read because they have to, and ones who read because it’s expected of them, and a few – a very lucky few – who do not read at all but rather swim and dive and drown in reading. To become something and someone else for untold whiles in the thick weight and light breath of true wonder.
I have always tried to keep my secret-self; to remember the paths and byways of fairylands and fantastic places. As the years have grown up around me, I have traded old friends for new ones and discovered others that touch me as deeply as any I’d met before. I also hid my secret well, I have books and tomes and volume after volume about serious things on serious shelves that you would never suspect were filled with sideways paths and slanting doorways to the magic places where my true heart lives.
A review of the best stories I have ever read…
This morning at 2:36 am (which also counts as “last night” in my world) I read the last page of my first book of 2011 and closed the cover. I don’t think I’ve actively stopped thinking about Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo since then. What I’m about to say will come as no surprise to about 90% of the people who’ve read this book, and that number totals in the many millions: I deeply loved it, and I found it deeply challenging.
As I really can’t say anything that hundreds (if not tens of thousands) of reviewers haven’t already said, I’ll try to explain why I think I initially felt the way I did, and and ultimately how I continue to feel now. Stated simply, I think it’s highly unlikely, no matter how hard I try, that I will read a better book this year; which is an almost depressing thing to realize midway through January.
A spoiler-free review and literary comparisons…