Published: The Symphony of a Future Memory (York Literary Review)

Published in ‘York Literary Review’.

When it is all over, her family will come over from India. Parents and two sisters. Fractal images of your lover, they will tell you she had been a troubled child; you are not to feel responsible for what happened. You will not feel sorry for them because you will be too busy feeling sorry for yourself.

Her father will assess you from that distant, universal refuge: a watchful silence. His compact and swarthy frame will be so unlike Kay’s. Only those large black eyes, soothing you like a poultice every time they will rest on your profile. Why not invite him to accompany you to your local afterwards? Do this discreetly, as you are not sure whether he will consider alcohol sacrilege or not. You know so little about him.

This one is about how we tell ourselves stories about our selves and our relationships. And, how much of living/loving is not about what happens in real-time, but about the stories we tell ourselves later.

In particular, I was exploring this question: how much of what we think of as “romantic love” is our own subjective, interior reality vs any kind of objective fact? Beyond that, I think it is best if I do not explain much more as I would prefer to allow readers to reach their own conclusions. I’d like to add: while this is a story exploring a question related to love, it is not a love story.

And, here’s an interesting exchange I had with one of my beta readers about the story:

So, love is a subjective, interior reality?

Ha. Yes, that is what I believe. What we feel for someone else has a lot more to do with our thoughts/ideas of ourselves and how we see them reflected back to us by the other person. Much less to do with the objective fact of that other person’s independent existence or behavior. [Not to say this is a bad way to love, or even that we are free to choose whom to love — but these are more involved conversations for another time.]

What made you want to write about this particularly?

This story began for me in 2000 (also why there’s no mention of mobile phones or social media). The core has remained the same but I’ve changed a few details around. Even back then, I was exploring this question while navigating my own relationships.

I will confess that this is one of my more self-indulgent stories because I also wanted to bring some of my favorite things together: Berlin, Virginia Woolf, books-to-movies, etc.

Why the second-person voice?

I wanted more distance than first-person while not being as distanced as third-person.

“Future memory”. Explain.

Oh, this was, again, a way of experimenting with how we see our lives across space and time.

Another story from a male POV?

Actually, I’ve written a number of stories from female POVs too. But, somehow, the male POV stories seem to find homes sooner. This says something about the publishing industry, possibly. But, it might also say something about my own writing — which I’m curious to understand better.

[UPDATE May 9, 2016: One thing I like about any piece of writing, mine or otherwise, is when it generates a range of different responses — because that tells me that the writer included enough “density” in the work to appeal to different tastes. So, I am grateful that, in some ways, that’s what happened with this story of mine.]

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