What happens when the person you love treats you like a character in one of her stories?
She bought me T-shirts. They were similar to the shirts she wore, bright with colorful pop culture designs. The disembodied head of Indiana Jones floating among the clouds. A kazoo with a cursive disclaimer: Ceci n’est pas un kazoo.
It was August 2007, and we’d been dating for about two months. This was a long-distance relationship, Massachusetts to California; we wrote letters and emails, sent each other small gifts. With T-shirts she was making me over into someone else. Someone more fun and more casual, someone younger.
I was 30 years old. She was 37 and a successful writer, the author of novels, comics, and books for children. I’ll call her Cynthia.
Cynthia’s friends were writers and editors, musicians and show business people. When I visited LA, I went with her to parties, readings, conferences, dinners, shows. She seemed to know everyone.
I wanted to be a writer, too, and I was more than a little in awe of Cynthia, who wrote full time, who mixed and mingled at the intersections of Hollywood and the LA literati. I wore the T-shirts she gave me, even as I began to understand that she was grooming me for a particular role. Younger boyfriend. Hip nerd. Suitable match. I would become the right sort of character for this story, which was of course a love story, wild and daring.
We told it to one another in our letters. One of her first to me was written on the backs of sheet music pages. “I wonder if you are a dream,” she wrote. “Will you still want me in a month? Say yes. Say yes.”
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