When Nicole reminded him of this, he knew the stupidity of his attraction. Turning this into a short story was, in effect, a kind of fetishizing, what he finally realized he could never have. The short story represented the shoe that would never fit even though he may have come upon it. The fact that he was in his room some unknown distance from her should have told him that the relationship wasn’t real. She was playing with him, even though she might have sensed he was a real person and although completely not her type, she sensed his humanity and didn’t want nor feel the need to hurt him. She was curious about what was happening. Frank hoped she had some daddy issue to work out, but then his intentions would still not be aligned with hers, since missing a father does not correlate to wanting to have sex with an older man. She might have wanted to feel protected, but not engaged in intercourse, unless she had been, and that was another thing entirely. Molested women had come to him in the past and sex was on the menu, but so was their desire to control the sex, whereas Frank was only interested in having it.
Frank picked up a clear glass mug of hot fresh vegetable soup that he had just made to clear his congestion. He raised it to his mouth just as the neighbor across the way was walking with a shopping bag across the second floor balcony. She was too far away for Frank to get a sense of her figure or what she looked like. Neighbors from that unit and the other one to the right of it came and went at least every three months. He had only seen her about three or four times over the course of a month or two. She came out again wearing a black coat that went to her waist and a magenta T-shirt with white letters underneath. She seemed tall, and large-boned. She wore black-rimmed glasses. She left her door open and went down the steps again. She was returning with things in her arms. Each time, it would appear that she knew he was looking at her, but he couldn’t tell she knew he was there simply because it was dark inside his apartment, the window was shut, and there might have been a reflection on the sliding glass door. He couldn’t see into her apartment. Her door behind the screen door was open, although the overhang didn’t cast a shadow over the door, where in his case his balcony was covered by the roof.
Frank finished the broth and looked at the vegetables that remained. Nearly the entire mug was full. He went to the kitchen, poured more broth and vegetables into the cup and grabbed a small plate and spoon. He returned to his desk and the neighbor’s door was still open. It was cold outside. What was she saying? Or was he imagining her invitation? He returned to the short story and Nicole.
“A short story would set up the scene,” he added, “It would describe Spark and go from there. It would describe the two people. You would have to do this on your end because I don’t know you. What is happening in your life? Who are you? What do you dream about becoming, etc.? People would want to know. They like to relate to others with common threads. Then there is me. What was going through my head? Didn’t I know it would be awkward? Wasn’t it awkward? Until you responded, I didn’t realize I had nothing to say, and then by intellectualizing the conversation, I was able to shift all of it into this story. Perhaps it is just about me.
“Last night I kept thinking I should just cut this off. It was risky. Still, as a writer and in an attempt to garner some semblance of virtue, I am interested in getting to the truth—is it a simple attraction to beauty and youth? I am interested in your feelings. I know they aren’t romantic. How could they be? I can’t sleep with someone I am not attracted to. How could you?”
“Anyway,” Frank said, “the short story might start as:
“‘Glenn saw Alexis’ picture. He pressed the green button because he wanted to. Alexis was someone he wanted and didn’t consider the other information that might have given him more to think about. It was a dare. What would she think about him? He didn’t know. He just pressed the icon and her picture went right. He wanted. Then, and he can’t remember this, she matched him. She said later that she only did it spontaneously. She said she wanted to make friends with other people. For Glenn it posed a problem. What would he say to her? He was attracted but reality showed its face as he imagined her doing this on a whim and then laughing at the audacity. She was already in love with David who would find this ridiculous too. Maybe it would also anger him knowing what Glenn was up to. She was going to tell Gretchen and Mimi, but she hadn’t seen them yet. Maybe she could write this as a story for class – what she thought of him. What was he doing at this moment? Where was he? He thought of her too. They were having a conversation that meant that they had to think about what was being said and about themselves and it was risky, at least for Glenn. He felt embarrassed but also drawn to it, as it was mentioned, everything is about sex. For Glenn, it was more interesting than the sunlight over the neighborhood outside that seemed never to move except as the trees blew faintly. Perhaps, they would meet for coffee in some urban coffee shop or in the suburbs since they didn’t know where the other one lived. She imagined the awkwardness of his attraction and the hopelessness of that having to translate his dreams into intellectualization. She just looked back at him almost as awkwardly as he felt. They talked about themselves and the story that was moving forward. It turned out that he was very attracted to her and she was just thinking about the story for class, about her life, and the risks she would take for something to tell her friends.
“It was awkward Mimi,” Alexis told her friend. “He was wearing a pair of seersucker shorts and a blue and white striped shirt. He was so informal. I could feel his nervousness. I guess he realized how old I was and it made him feel evil. I thought it would be fine, but I felt bad for him. I had no intention for any of this to happen, but there I was looking back at him. He was fidgeting with a Starbuck’s cup.”