I am in love with a fiction.
I am obsessed with a woman whom I have never properly met. The story where we met is a fiction by a little-known author, a long and serious drama, which began slowly, as is the usual manner of long and serious dramas. Even after five days of sporadic reading sessions, each consisting of a respectable number of pages, however, I was struck by its tediousness, and the dialogue felt forced to me, unrealistic. On top of the glacial pace, the setting was old — not old enough to be divorceable from what I know as reality into the fantastical — but old enough to be a distinct realm, away from my own, with its odd customs and manner of speech, as well as an inescapable sense that the characters knew nothing of the world as I did. I felt I held a dominating position over the fiction on all fronts, and though no reader can tolerate characters less intelligent than himself, I still read, for lack of interest in other fictions, and in the vain sensation that I was somehow humoring an under-whelming author. In truth, it was either a personal miracle or a crime done by fickle spirits that I continued.
So, it began as all love affairs do. As a drama, the novel employed the well-known method of oscillation. Its spotlight moved from the first storyline into a second, which included my woman, and then a third, forming a triumvirate of weaving hearts, each chapter a song, taking to its task in restraint, deliberately avoiding its brother and sister storylines. The passage in which this woman first appeared instilled in me such curiosity that I read it immediately again and found the fulcrum of the passage, the astral sticking point where the author had found his soul, and took the phrase down in memory. I have since forgotten it, and it would hurt to seek, but it occurs that it was the roaring match of curiosity in that first gift of a phrase that told me to go on.
All it takes is a blind moment for curiosity to blossom into interest, which, in some ways, is the brightest part of a new love. That first crescendo of heartfelt interest is what tired lovers look back on with the most fondness, the most regret. To find someone interesting is affection at its boldest: to say, “Something about you is valuable, and new, and makes me want to find out where you came from and why you make me feel this way,” is too great a thing to be touched by flowers, chocolates, or sex. To label someone interesting is to confess that you love what they are, as opposed to loving the “them” that you subjectively and selfishly own. In other words, to be interesting is to be found interesting. That is how my love came to exist: through burgeoning interest. I came to cherish the passages she was in, to read over again the thoughts and observations the author had ignorantly given her, to speak aloud the lines of each character who addressed her and then pause, and live in the silence as if her breath was on my neck.
I skipped forward to the chapters with her in them. The novel was long, and there was plenty of her to savor, but my interest had become rapacious enough that I began to replace my other leisure activities with the fiction, ripping off large chunks whenever possible. I nourished her in the middle zones of life — while eating, waiting for the cafe girl to bring my pastry, or waiting for the shower water to warm up. Within eight days I was a lost man staring at the back of a dust jacket. I retraced my steps and consumed the chapters I had skipped while she called from my dreams. There were traces of her, and the author’s style, a type of soft realism with which I was now well acquainted, reminded me of the nights and morning I had spent becoming her friend, but I could not possibly find that time again, that crescendo of interest that had transformed me into an insane man who could be in love with a fiction, and for whom the world of this peculiar author’s mind had contained greater passion than the one of my physical body. I read the book again, this time in five days, but the story was different — not because I knew it intimately and had memorized the various plots — but because my love, the princess I had made and crowned, was dead, and this second reading was her funeral. I attended in a state of solemn angst, placing the book in its proper place on my shelf with its spine facing in when I finished, where it remains to this day, bookended by a small wooden box of toy soldiers.
I learned in the following broken-heart days that the author had not completed the fiction because he had hung himself in the attic of a boarding house. He was more accomplished than I had first guessed, but had been active in a quiet era. The fiction had been his only attempt at long work; the rest was either poetry or essays. It had taken him two and a quarter years to reach the point he had, much of which was spent traveling. Alcoholism and drug addiction had driven arrows into him in the years before he took himself away, and he died gracelessly: drunk, high, broke, and alone. I wish he had finished the fiction; my most desperate wish, though, is to speak to him, and let him see my broken eyes, and have him know that we suffer from the same wretched condition.