In Wish I Could Love You, Matthew H. Jones includes the short story An Honest Romance in the hopes of making you laugh. He wrote the story after listening to a one-act play written strictly in subtext. The one-act follows two people on a first date. Matthew remembers little of the original inspiration for An Honest Romance. However, he remembers the woman saying something along the lines of “lashes out due to unrelated parental trauma.”
The man counters, barking ‘retaliates due to immature masculine insecurity.” The woman – scared now – says “clumsy excuse to end contact.”
The man tries to recover the date. She insists she wants to leave. He gets angry that he can’t recover. She gets angry that he’s angry. And then, the play ends with only the subtext of the scene apparent. Matthew tries to recreate this subtext-only storytelling. And, he’s not sure if he succeeded.
So, without further preamble, please enjoy a brief excerpt from An Honest Romance.
“God, I wish you knew me when I was sixteen. Aging has ruined me. I’m sorry for being old,” Wanda says. She drinks a little too much because she wants him to stay hopeful. She’s disgusted by any man who’d sleep with a woman too drunk to consent, but acting drunk is still part of her clumsy seduction tactic.
“When women were girls, everything was a lot easier. I used to date eighteen-year-olds exclusively. They’re technically legal, but still stupid. It’s way easier to impress them than old ladies like you. The sex was good, but I started to feel like a pedophile. Whatever confidence boost they gave me was instantly negated by an increased self-loathing. Don’t get me wrong: I hate myself all the time.”
“Me too,” Wanda says.
“Exactly! Don’t interrupt me.”
“I hate myself all the time but the second I’m done with an eighteen-year-old, I wonder if I’m the monster that all men are. And, the fact that I have to think about anything I do scares the shit out of me. What’s good about older women is that they’re smart enough to distract me from my own self-hatred without needing to have constant sex.”
“Really? I assumed all men want sex all the time.”
“We probably do. The fact that I can be exhausted by sex might mean that I’m a homosexual – wanting to talk to a woman is pretty gay -, but we’re not going to talk about that. My possible homosexuality scares the shit out of me.”