I Suggest

I suggest the image of a man and a woman.  The woman has just finished showing the man pictures of dogs, a boyfriend, an old house; and she has put the pictures away and leaned back on the bed to look at the ceiling.  The man is sitting on the bed, turned towards her, supporting himself with one arm, enjoying his angled perspective on her face.  It is midafternoon, overcast, quiet.  The uncertain light enters through a window above the bed.

I will leave to your imagination a great number of details – the physical appearance of the two people, the color of the bedspread, the precise view out the window, etc.  Take all of these things into account.  And if you are ambitious, you might even provide smells for the room (lingering incense, perhaps?), and some distant noises (cars? birds? But remember that it’s mostly “quiet”).  Perhaps for the woman you will use the face of someone you once knew.  I encourage you to do so, but make sure that she is attractive.  Yes, the woman must be good-looking, because that is what the man is thinking as he looks down on her, that she looks very pretty.

Then he thinks to himself, “I should kiss her right now.”  I will add at this point, in order to lend significance to this thought, that the man and woman have met in person for the first time that day after a year-long correspondence.  They have embraced as friends upon seeing each other.  The substance of their correspondence I will leave to you, except to offer the requirement that it had been warm but cautious, frequent but at times ambivalent.

The woman, for her part, is observing the peculiarly intent look on the man’s face hovering above her, and suddenly the thought occurs to her: “Oh my god, he is going to kiss me.”

The effect of this scene should be subtle, the thoughts of the characters having occurred calmly and even with detachment.  No need to overstate it.  We might, however, wish for some background on these characters.  Has she been kissed before suddenly like that?  Has he kissed under such circumstances?  Do either have a sense of deja vu, or of utter strangeness?  Think about your own life to answer these questions … Have you been in such a situation before?  Do you remember what it was like?  So subtle, so, as I said, detached, but so significant at the same time?  Does it ring a bell, these simultaneous thoughts which are more important than the actions which follow?

It is New Year’s Eve.  I have thus far left that fact out, but it informs the man’s thoughts at this point.  “Midnight,” he thinks.  “It is too soon.  Midnight.”  And thus he does not lean over and kiss her.  Instead, he suggests that they take a walk.

Are you disappointed by this outcome?  Good.  Yes.  Perhaps the man is also a little disappointed, regrets not seizing that little moment.  It is your prerogative to make him disappointed or contented with his decision.  That is, I bequeath it to you because I don’t have the energy to decide for myself.

They rise from the bed, leaving quickly fading ghosts of themselves in their previous positions.  As they take their walk, I suggest that you plot the events of the coming evening.  Perhaps storm clouds emerge to drench the streets, and perhaps they make the long drive to San Francisco with friends, get stuck in the rain.  Perhaps they walk the steep slick streets sharing an umbrella, their arms crooked together for mutual support.

But what happens at midnight.  Do they kiss?  Do they quarrel?  It isn’t in me to say, because I am coming to a premature end.  It’s all up to you now.  I depend completely on your judgment and await breathlessly the results of your imagination.

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