The best thing about fiction is that it ends. Eventually. You write a story and at some point you think “that’s a good ending to my narrative” and that’s it. Time stops. The end. Full stop.
Reality, on the other hand, is endless. I’m not saying that I think I’m going to live forever. I know there is a point where I will die and my story will therefore end. But until I meet my demise, I’m bound by time. Unless I decide to kill myself – which is unlikely – there is no neat ending to my life’s narratives. After I’ve had an epiphany or there is a resolution to a conflict, I don’t seize to exist. No full stop.
What that means is that, in reality, we’re constantly jumping the shark, constantly overstaying our welcomes. Life is like a TV series which should have ended five seasons ago, but keeps getting renewed.
Thirteen years ago, I wrote a story. It was a work of fiction. I made it up in my head and it took shape as I began to write it down. It hadn’t existed before I came up with it, before images started to flood my mind, dialogues began to whisper in my ears.
It was the story of a recovering alcoholic teacher who kisses her sixteen-year-old student. She’s freaking out about turning 30 and there comes this radiant boy who has a crush on her. And she’s tired. Tired of being sober. Tired of denying herself these brief moments of happiness. So she kisses him and they start making out. And it’s magical. Until he says something to remind her of how unequal their relationship is, of how much of an advantage she has over him, being his teacher and older. She stops, breaks his heart. And after that, she tosses 5 years of sobriety and goes back to drinking.
The end. There is no day after. There is no running into him at school. There is no worrying about being fired. My characters simply vanish. The story simply stops.
About five months ago, that story – which had been an exercise in imagination – came to pass. Not exactly, of course (for one, I’m not an alcoholic), but the feelings that I made up for that story crossed over from the realm of fiction to the realm of reality. There was this underaged student. We had a moment. I didn’t kiss him, but it was definitely a moment. I understood my character in a way I could never have anticipated. I was ready to let go of some of my core beliefs for this kid, who loves me in his own way. Nothing happened. I bought him dinner at Macdonald’s, took him home. We hugged. And then we hugged again. And again. We didn’t want to let each other go. I didn’t want to let him go, but of course I did. As I was driving home, I was hit with the cold realization of just how lonely I was. I cried. The end.
Except my life isn’t fiction. It was not the end. The next day I was still his teacher. The next week, I was still his teacher. And worst of all, it’s the next semester and I’m still his teacher. So I still have to see him every Monday and Wednesday and I am ashamed to say I often spend the rest of the week looking forward to it.
But reality is not fiction and time does weird things to feelings. He doesn’t love me the way he did five months ago. And the more time goes by, the more our relationship changes into something else, something tinged with a sandy aftertaste, something oh so far from fiction.
Anyway, dear readers, I need to get some sleep because tomorrow is Saturday and I have to teach for eight hours.
More to come.