A man and woman run into each other decades after their college years in Chicago, when they were briefly a couple. With this story, I wanted to explore, within the context of race and gender dynamics, how disappointment is a layered, complex emotion and how, often and without sufficient awareness, we tend to disappoint ourselves a whole lot more than anyone else possibly can. Of course, some of us are also often skilled in externalizing/projecting such disappointment onto others around us, especially our loved ones.
I began writing this one last year as a response to a first line writing prompt contest on a popular writing website. I cannot usually do writing contests — paid or otherwise — because, generally, my motivation to write something has to come from within for me to sustain my interest and energy in it. That said, I also wanted to try responding to an external prompt to see whether, at some point in the writing process, I would be able to internalize the impetus appropriately enough to finish strong. The original story I completed was entirely different from this one — the only thing they share are the closely-similar first couple of lines. I may yet return to that other version in some other form, who knows?
Anyway, I am thrilled that it has found such a lovely home. And this issue is stunning with some terrific contributions, so do make the time to read them all.
I am going to disappoint you. You probably know it when you spot me in the check-in line. Some part of you knew it even when we first met.
My memory of that meeting, fifteen years ago, stabs sharp as ever. Icy Chicago winds blew you and your friends into the cramped Hyde Park bar where I worked evenings. You pressed in closer over the counter and the wet leather smell of your jacket reminded me of my landlady’s butterscotch lab. Your face, under that snow-wet ginger hair, flushed bright pink as you tried to catch my attention.