By Saanya Ali
The Writer has the distinct ability of making the lives of those unfortunate enough to love her a living hell.
The Writer never falls for the person who loves her. No, that’s too easy.
She stops answering calls from the boy who would catch Mars and make a pendant of it if she asked him to, and instead, falls for the idea of the impersonal pronoun she locked eyes with on the train that morning.
You may hesitate for a moment and think, “But that’s romantic. Love at first sight, and all that.” But, it’s not.
The Writer doesn’t fall into lust or like the way another person might. No. When someone catches their eye, their vise is iron…
Until they see the boy on the stairs, or the one with the coffee. The one with the retriever in the park, or the one with the arms. Because The Writer falls in love at second and third sights too.
She bores easily. Entertained by little other than what she can dress in black pen and capital letters. The chase looks good dressed in her black pen. Long and leggy, it hugs her curves. But the game quickly turns into a run on sentence. One of those Joycean sort of messes that probably should have stopped before it even started.
She’ll start to say things like, “You had me at ‘Hell no’” or “He may have been a red flag but, baby, I was a bull.” And you’ll get confused, because you didn’t say ‘No,’ and your Comp Sci degree doesn’t look much like a red flag from its frame above your parents’ mantle, so you’ll question her.
But you should know better by now.
The Writer isn’t talking about you. She’s talking about the ‘you’ that she made you into at 4am between cold sheets snacking on What If’s while you slept soundly. She’ll keep making you a character until you forget what the world looks like from down below the pedestal she put you on.
You won’t be real anymore. You’ll be immortal. You’ll never die, but you’ll never really live outside Times New Roman’s 12pts either.
She’ll touch you, fingers stained with unique pains in each print, and you’ll soak it up like osmosis because you love her.
You’ll learn to hurt the way she does. You’ll learn to stiffen when she takes her hurt out on you just to test if you’ll leave her the way the other characters did. Her gregarious punches don’t heal the way most bruises do. They stick around. Reminders of your inadequate efforts to manage her manic.
You’ll try to make it better. You’ll buy the books and bake the cookies, but the books don’t have a cheat sheet for your kind of Writer, and the cookies burn.
You’ll try to be better the next time, but you never really figure it out.
No, when you date The Writer, you get in trouble if the mistakes that you make aren’t the ones that she picked out for you and left on the foot of the bed the night before.
You’ll fight, but you’ll never win. You can’t. She accessorizes with extraneous punctuation and uses dialects you don’t know. The Writer knows how to use her words as weapons better than you do. She’ll get mad at the monosyllabic, barely better than a grunt, tired terms you use when you’re angry, livid, upset, furious, indignant, because there are so many better, more expressive options to choose from, and you’re not doing your fight its “Literary justice.”
Yes. She’ll say things like Literary Justice and completely ignore the fact that it sounds like a league of unsuccessful nerd superheroes.
She’ll glare at you, dripping poison from her tongue.
“Why are you invalidating, discrediting, rendering our contestation, quarrel, argument, spat, irrelevant?!”
She keeps these punchlines wrapped around her pinky toe and stores frozen teases beneath her tongue for rainy days. They’re the weapons she practices spinning between her fingers like throwing knives while she sleeps. Sharpening and storing between crooked teeth to manipulate you with when your defenses are low, so you learn your lesson, and fight again.
But this time with bigger words.
However, like other aspects of your manhood, it’s not the length, but what you do with it that matters, and with formulaic precision, she’ll speak her words in such a combination that your response will never surprise her. She planned it all that way, the Grammar Jedi that she is.
She’ll do that until you relinquish all control. Because when you’re in a relationship with The Writer, you’ll never have any to begin with. Even when you feel like you might. You don’t.
Take my word for it. I am one of them.
We’ve already plotted every milestone our couplehood will ever reach, saved that document, and tucked it away for safekeeping.
But it’s ok, you’ve already fallen for the character that we’ve made just for you. The one we researched and happened to like spaghetti on Sundays and 70s Rock & Roll just like you do.
You don’t think we’ll ever break up. You expect that document to end with a horse and a sunset and a happily ever after with breakfast in bed. You’ll never believe that, in the end, it’ll be you to break up with The Writer.
She’ll expect it of course, because she picked the words you’d say and slipped them into your drink that night, curating her own calamity so she’d have the perfect response sharpened and at the ready for when you’d say that all of her kisses and declarations felt contrived because you’d heard them too many times through the lips of a character whose name rhymed with yours and has the same moon shaped mole on the palm of his left foot. You’d tell her that somewhere along the line, her genuine got caught between Oxford commas.
And you’ll kiss her on the forehead before you leave. A parting gift for her to marinate in Moleskine and have for dinner.
What hurts the most is that she really did love you, and you really did love her, and you’ll miss the way she’d kiss you in similes, leaving hickies of dried ink across your chest in the morning, and she’ll miss being loved the way the books said she’d be, “bewitched body and soul” like Jane promised.
Her hurt will look different from yours though. You’ll quietly cocoon in bed with a few beers or go out with the guys and get the number of a girl that’s not her, feel guilty for it, punish yourself by going home alone, and convince yourself that it was never love with The Writer, it was just a phase. Static electricity. Annoying and inevitable. And even you’ll know that you’re lying as you say it.
But with The Writer, there’s nothing quiet about her distress. Like an animal in heat, she’ll moan your lies and lines and lows and highs through microphones. You’ll find yourself on dedication pages and on covers of books. You’ll recognize characters that share your affinity for ketchup on your pasta and say that weird thing that you do in bed.
No. She won’t medicate her pain with ice cream or douse it with shitty pink wine. She’ll shout it from mountaintops. The world will know how she cries as she bleeds you out, leather-bound. History will never forget.
You’ll come to expect this sort of emotional whirlwind from your next love but she’ll be a dentist, and you’ll go to bed at 9:30 after a missionary fight, pot roast, and precisely six minute sex.
No one will ever be enough after The Writer. No one will ever drive you that crazy. No one will ever make you that mad. You’ll compare everybody you see to her. You’ll start to hear the world through her ears. You’ll laugh when you remember the tricks she taught you. You’ll catch yourself bathing in adjectives the way she used to, just to feel close to her again, because, if you fall in love with The Writer, you never really fall out of it unless you become one too.
You’ll never really pass the bitch of a kidney stone that she was, unless you become one of those unlovable pen creatures yourself. That’s the only cure to snap out of her delusions and learn to live in your own.
You’ll forget that a home exists outside of her words. You’ll forget that real life doesn’t look like the movies. You’ll catch yourself saying sappy shit like “She’s like a virus, l just had to let her run her course.” or “I don’t want your abbreviations. I want run on sentences with you,” and hate yourself for it when you complete the transition with a pair of non prescription lenses to wear when you drink craft beers in Bushwick with other sad, dramatic, unlovable writers with too many feelings.
So please, don’t fall for The Writer, but what’s worse,
Don’t let The Writer fall for you.
Saanya Ali is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker. Born in Switzerland, to South Asian parents, growing up in the United States, and traveling to over 50 countries in her first 22 years, she grew up watching the world through airplane windows. Years later, living in New York, she continues to watch the world, now through a different lens. Her cross-cultural background and unbridled curiosity, as well as her fascination with people, places, and travel continues to inform all that she does and creates. As a recent graduate from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study where she concentrated on Mixed Media Storytelling, she now continues to write and work as a photographer and filmmaker.