It started, as so many odd and wonderful things do, with a chat in a pub. I had met a writer- a real one, someone who had devoted himself to this craft as a way of life, not just something to piddle with occasionally on the internet. After several pints, I had lost sufficient inhibition to mention that I had a hobby of writing short stories. He was interested, and asked me to send him something that I had written.
For a moment, I panicked. We were just crossing the line from acquaintance to friends, and hardly close enough for me to consider sharing any of my usual fare. Still, feedback is feedback, and while it’s been a long time since I’ve written a vanilla story there was a time when that was all I would consider writing.
And so I wrote one- or a part of one- as bland and plain and asexual as I could possibly make it.
And he saw right through it.
He started by saying it was descriptive. I glowed with the praise, having come to deeply respect his opinion. He then said there was a wonderful sexual tension about the piece and my heart stopped. I held my breath, trying not to react and praying that he would change the subject.
As he continued on this line of thought, my terror manifested itself in a fit of uncontrollable giggling. I probably looked insane, though thankfully the others around at this late hour were regulars well used to the occasional oddity from the resident foreigner.
I don’t recall exactly what he said, though the word “deflower” came up a few times, as well as scenarios far darker by my scale than anything I had ever thought of writing. After a few days, many hours of chat, and many many pints, I eventually acquiesced to his request to share my “real” stories.
It was a risk. The town is small. I didn’t know him that well. And I really really like that particular pub.
But he reacted well. We are still friends, something I discovered to my great relief the next time I ran into him (several anxiety-ridden days later). What’s more, he’s still interested in critiquing my work, even though it is not his genre or his lifestyle.
It worked out as well as it possibly could, but even still, the admission was not without it’s price.
It’s a subtle thing, not something anyone else would notice. It usually happens when he gives me a look after I make an offhand comment. A sort of knowing half-smile that makes me immediately try to rethink whatever I said to prompt this little interlude. For example, once when discussing the repurposing of old farming equipment into sculpture, I suggested that any products of such could easily be terrifying, there being a fine line between old farm equipment and medieval torture devices.
That earned me the look, and a “there you go again,” to boot.
“There you go again with what?” I challenged. After all, it was merely an innocent comment about medieval torture devices.
“That’s your problem,” I was told. “There is no such thing as an innocent comment about medieval torture devices.”
Except that it really was an innocent comment about medieval torture devices.
Which may be a sign of an entirely different problem.