“He wants to meet you,” she says.
I look up from filing photographs. “What? Why?”
My co-worker points to the silly staff photo on the wall. “He saw that and was like, ‘hey, introduce me and is she single?'”
I walk around the counter and stare at the photo. “Are you sure he meant me?”
“Of course he did.”
I shake my head and walk back to the photo bins. “That’s not me.”
She looks at the photograph, looks at me, and looks back at the photograph. “What are you talking about?”
“Yeah, okay. It is me, but is isn’t me–I mean, I don’t look like that. That’s a joke.”
She tilts her head and frowns. “But he wants to meet you and he’s cute.”
“No way.” I feel queasy and ridiculous.
“When was the last time you had a date?”
“Two months ago.”
“And before that?”
It had been a year. “Look, I just don’t want to meet him. Okay?”
“He said you looked hot.”
“Yeah, and he’s going to come in here and find me!” I shook my head. “And I can’t, I mean, he’ll be…it’s a stupid picture. You can’t believe a picture. Tell him I’ve got a boyfriend.”
She looks at me, and I figure she’s now thinking I’m too nuts to introduce to her friends. “Suit yourself,” she says. “But I don’t see what’s so bad about just meeting him.”
I make her promise she won’t let him come into the store, and that if he does come in, she’ll tell me. If I know he’s in the store, I’ll hide in the breakroom, I say. At this point I assume she’ll warn him off–that girl’s a mess. Stay away.
As far as I know, she kept her promise. I kept wishing I had a date.
In fiction, characters often lack an understanding of how others see them. If they are told, they misunderstand or refuse to believe it. They may miss out on what they want because they are too afraid of looking foolish. Or unattractive. Or…(place your fear here).
Some stories make me feel like I’ve been gutted. These tend to be stories where the main character is his own worst enemy. My first thought is of The Glass Menagerie. Everyone in that play is so deluded, I can barely watch. Or stories where the man knows he’s got the Great Idea and it is going to Save him and his family, but of course he’s a fool and loses everything.
But hey, great literature is filled with such people. Who can you name? The terrified and the blind and the crazy–who always think they got a handle on things but the world knows they’re hurtling towards disaster. Often times their fellow characters push them to crash faster.
I can’t help it. I like my characters to figure things out. I do terrible things to them, but in the end they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and are not broken or depending on the kindness of strangers. They have lost bits of themselves, sure. They’ve understood something new, yes. They are probably sadder. They are definitely tired. But they are not lost.
This is not to say I wouldn’t a kill a character in the end. I would. All the same, they still wouldn’t be lost.
As for whether photographs tell the truth…that’s for another day.