Books I’ve Failed to Write: Excerpt 1

This is the prologue of my jumbled first attempt at a novel, almost ten years old now (she says, distancing herself immediately). Apparently, prologues are unpopular among editors, but I think this one serves as a helpful red flag. Yes, I did write the book the prologue suggests is coming, and no, it didn’t make much sense.

 

He wakes, heart galloping, from a flash of some dark creature pinning him. Her hand has fallen across his chest. Already it is slipping away, the glint of teeth, the unfeeling animal stare, as he takes in the dim room and her sleeping form next to him and his heart slows, terror melting into relief and then forgetfulness. He rolls from struggle to embrace, away from his nightmare and into her arms, the morning. His mouth finds her ear. Her ear finds his mouth. The creature sits back on its haunches and waits.

 

 

             Later, when she realizes that he is gone, she will set about finding him immediately. She isn’t close to her family, doesn’t have many friends, and so there will be nobody to tell her that rescue is a myth, that she should just let him go. She doesn’t think of herself as the type who needs a guy, she doesn’t think she needs anybody, he is the one who needs her. She will be full of doubts, but she won’t doubt for a moment that she is the hero of this piece.

 

             He reaches to turn off the alarm before it rings and the day just slides in next to him, all innocence. Her voice is still raspy with sleep.

            Good morning.

            Mm.

            Hey, you didn’t get up last night.

            Good.

            Those pills must be working.

            Mm.

            Are you awake?

            Yes.

            Open your eyes.

            They are open. Aren’t they?

            No. God, Leo.

She props herself up on her elbows and looks carefully into his face. She wants him to wake up but there is always some regret in her too—he is never more hers than when he lingers between the distractions of his dreams and the distractions of the day. Tenderly, she pries his eyelids open with her fingers.

 

 In the mahjong parlors of Kabukichō and the plaza of Roppongi Hills, making her way across the neon-lit city squeezed between her father and Dr. Rose in the back of the cab, she will think of all the things she wants to say to him which she will never say. Like: you never even noticed when I did your laundry, folding your boxers into squares and putting them in your drawer afterwards, you never even said thank you. You left your little empty pill packets all over the goddamn place. You left my CDs out on the counter without their cases. You knew I hated it, but you did it anyway, just because you’re lazy. But that’s not really what bugs me. It’s that the way you love me is lazy too.

 

“Did you dream?” she asks, but he doesn’t answer. Wrapping his arms around her naked torso he remembers the animal that nearly crushed him. A horse? Fields spin out around him and then vanish. No, something fiercer, something dangerous.

“Are you really awake?” she asks again, and to prove it he pulls her closer and kisses her. She is always so much warmer than he is and he wonders why this is.

This is her favorite thing, love in the morning, when her mind is still pliant with sleep and there are no daytime thoughts or anxieties between her and total self-abandonment. She crawls on top of him, murmuring, “you’re not too tired.” She means it as a question but it comes out like a statement. She pulls his boxers down and he lifts his bum obligingly, like a toddler used to being changed.

 

Despite the litany of complaints, despite her anger, she will go looking for him. She will tell herself he is a weak person and not worthy of her. She will stand on the bridge hung with lanterns, familiar in the strange way that scenes from a dream are when they suddenly appear in reality, and she will think that she has to find him just so she can tell him this, that every day is a choice between joy and despair, and if you don’t choose, something will choose you. There will be a house at the end of the bridge. She will walk towards the house, but it will stay in the distance.

 

            They lie facing each other, heads together on the pillow, foreheads almost touching, their bodies curled away from each other and then almost touching again, but not quite, at the knees. Only their feet are in contact, clasped together at the bottom of the bed. He is beginning to twitch. She feels it and her eyes flick open.

            Do you want coffee?

            Mm.

            I’ll make some.

            OK.

            Don’t go back to sleep.

            Won’t.

            You fat idiot.

            She is giggling. He watches her through his eyelashes, padding naked out of the room. Then soundlessly his dreams sweep over him again.

 

            And when in the dark place she has searched for the unexpected, unimagined amber eyes meet hers, she will give him up at last. Her song will seem a poor gift then and she will almost believe, when she is told, that she didn’t come for him at all, that this is a place we come to only for ourselves, and only when invited. There is no song to get you in. There is no dance to get you out.

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