All I knew for sure, at seventeen, was that I’d never fall in love with a boy in the state of Pennsylvania.
And maybe if I wrote a 50,000-word novel, arguably semi-autobiographical, and made the protagonist fall in love with a sweet Southern drawl and a boy whose name later turned out to be my freshman year roommate’s name (who was, for the record, a girl), I could fall in love too.
I thought love was a lot like stringing together proofs in Geometry, learning the language, the rules, the “if this, then that” statements that would lead me to happily ever after. It seemed good enough for me.
The problem, I think, was this doom clock sitting inside me, tick tocking into the night when insomnia reigned over me. My parents met, dated, and fell in love in high school. Here I was, a junior, almost senior in high school, and nobody asked me to the prom.
Nobody asked me to the prom?
I didn’t go to prom. Not as a junior at least. I didn’t need dresses or glittery clutch purses or a steak dinner sure to end up all over the floor if I tried to cut into the leather on the plate.
My best friend and I stayed home, watched romantic comedies and ate Doritos on my basement couch. Both of us pretending we didn’t want, didn’t need a boy to feel loved.
That’s why I wrote the novel. It only took me five years to uncover that mystery.
1) To say I loved eating Rita’s water ice, coming home and clacking away in a sugared up frenzy.
2) To say I loved running and wanted to move to South Carolina because it was warmer there and didn’t think they knew about the word ‘snow.’
3) To say I wanted to be a writer and if I could sit on my twin bed in the dorm and tell my roommate, my hall mates who didn’t know me, that I was editing my novel, God that would feel good.
4) To remember what creativity felt like when it escaped my fingertips.
5) To tell the world I’d written more than one novel, that this first one was in a drawer somewhere, meant only to stop doors and collect dusk.
6) And finally, because I wanted to execute the perfect story in which some boy took the extra five minutes to stop me in the grocery store while buying a gallon of milk and asked me to tell him about my troubled past.
Yes, that scene did make it into the final version. Yes, I did make them go on dates, waltzing along boardwalks with chocolate chip cookie dough milkshakes and having deep discussions about salmonella poisoning.
I can say that now. I can say that we do things, writing things and blog things and scary life things like going parasailing or jumping out of a moving airplane, because we want to feel something, we want to pretend that doing them will answer some other question for us.
And it may take five years to own up to the question. Five years to skip over the nice response and share the deep one. But it happens. Inevitably, it happens.
I wrote a book because I thought some boy would fall in love with me. It happened. I just didn’t realize he wouldn’t be the boy I wrote, the character on the page. I didn’t realize I couldn’t write his next line. That lesson, unfortunately, came much later.
By the way, every month I send out a short + sweet newsletter brimming with cool finds related to the monthly theme. It'd be stellar if you subscribed. If it's not worthy, it doesn't go in the newsletter. That. Simple.