Shaun Levin

Expectation and a Sharp Turn

In Writing on September 10, 2020 at 7:03 pm

The story is in the expectation. The drama is in the expectation, the anticipation. Let’s say you’ve been for a run and it’s been a good run, not the best but definitely better than you expected and you’re feeling good and the music in your headphones is good and you’re thinking of a cold Coke (Diet) and how much you love this city and you’re making your way from the park along the river towards your house, crossing onto the path that runs parallel to the basketball courts and this delivery guy on his bike is cycling slowly towards you and makes eye contact, he from behind his mask and you from behind yours and you like how the mask hides and reveals a face. All one needs are eyes and a bit of skin. You turn after a few metres and he’s turning his head, too, cycling and turning his head and you both keep doing that, and there is expectation. Yours: that he’ll turn and cycle back in your direction, but he doesn’t, although he does keep looking even when there’s 100 metres between you (he’s almost at the bridge), so you walk towards him. You love this city even more now, the heat, the openness, the feeling that yes, you can meet guys on the street and maybe he has food to deliver and you don’t want him to be late. You could jog towards him but you don’t want to seem too eager. Let’s say this all happened. That you walked towards him and saw him without his mask as he looked at his phone and lifted his head and he wasn’t unhandsome and he was tall and lean, lean-ish, and he had good skin, nice and brown and smooth, and lifted his mask back over his mouth and nose, and when you were at his bike you smiled and he smiled, let’s say his name was Antonio Manuel. The expectation was still there, the possible scenario, like that time you met the Brazilian guy in the pool at a hotel in Frankfurt and he came to your room. The expectation was a repeat of something along those lines. Let’s say you spoke about food and deliveries and he asked you what you were doing right now and you said nothing and that you lived across the road and he said something else about food and you said what type of food? All this time you’re smiling and touching him gently, because the expectation and the drama were all there and you kind of knew where this was going, and even though he wasn’t the handsomest or the most appealing, you were liking the drama of the experience, the story of it, until you told him what you wanted and he’s like you’ll have to pay for that, and you say, with money or some other way, and although he didn’t respond to that, or maybe he did, it was clear that it was money he was after if what you were after was him. So although you declined his offer, another time, you said, and you kind of regret declining, because there would have been another kind of story to tell, but the story you have to tell now is good, or at least the insight it gave you into how the drama is often in the anticipation, a story is the recounting of an expectation, and also: the consequences of a sharp turn, the unexpected. The consequences now being: a meditation on the pandemic and its impact on people’s lives and survival, also on: being older and in the eyes of some people being the type who would pay to be with someone, I mean: you, you who had just been running so well and looking good in your new Asics running shorts, yes, you. Also: how none of this would have happened if you’d stayed at home and done your regular YouTube workouts.

I’m not sure this is true of all stories, but I think stories are the recounting of a character’s grapplings with the consequences of an action, whether their own or someone else’s. Ask yourself when writing a story is: in what way does this story grapple with the consequences of something that has happened? What is the relationship between the elements of the story and the thing that has happened, how do they sit in relationship to each other?

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