Short Story Month, Day 10: Lynn Coady
I have maybe a week's worth of short story picks written or mostly written currently, but I want to skip those for a moment and post one from an author I'd never heard of until yesterday. "Someone Is Recording" was suggested to me by my friend Jenny Hayes, who thought that a #metoo comedy would be a timely addition to my month of short stories. I feel a little odd writing about a story that already comes with an introduction by another writer, but as Halimah Marcus notes the details of what Gary did to Erica scarce, so it's up to the reader to make assumptions and interpretations. With that in mind, I've decided to share not an introduction but an interpretation, which means you'll have to read the story first to understand what I'm saying. Go ahead. I'll wait.
Okay. So let's treat this as though it were a real letter. In such a case, Gary's refusal to discuss what happened in Ottawa and insistence on sounding pleasant would sound pretty ridiculous. That he seems to think that Erica's essay was a way of reaching out to him and to rekindle some sort of friendship is illogical. Delusional. Completely tone deaf. But in his mind, trying to play nice and talk to her in what sounds like a friendly, encouraging tone is the right thing to do. And he does sound rational at times, right? But that's what makes him sound so frickin' creepy.
Readers, Gary is a narcissist. These coaxing tones are part of a narcissist's ploy to get you to trust him again and then tear you apart (we can even see little negging comments in this that show he's not interested in real amends). That he can no longer control Erica bugs the crap out of him, which makes him try harder to manipulate her because he cannot see that he's unable to control this. He can't see that he's not in the right, that he's done anything of real consequence wrong, that contacting her is harassment, or that he's actually making things worse. This is all sounds like textbook narcissism, and I don't know any ladies who aren't familiar with men like this.
Erica's approach does come off a bit negative through Gary's eyes, and since it's all we have it's easy to rationalize that she's also going too far. I mean, she sure sounds like a instigator, right? Why make his correspondence public? Why keep talking about it? Doesn't it sound like she's just looking for attention? Shouldn't she just suffer in silence like she has been for the last fifteen years, unable to confront the damage that he has done? Why make the man who has made her suffer confront what he's done and admit that he'd done was even remotely bad? What's wrong with swallowing her pride and confronting the perpetrator of her abuse? It's not like he's harassing her now, right? Right?
Anyway. Many thanks to Jenny for sharing this story because, I mean, we could all use the comedy. If we couldn't laugh at people like Gary and all their ridiculousness, I don't know how we'd survive having to endure them. Be safe out there, friends. Don't let the bastards grind you down.
Oh, and P.S. If you also want to suggest a short story for me to feature, please let me know. It needs to be available online and not written by someone already featured. Stories by emerging writers, POC, and LGBTQ+ enthusiastically encouraged. Thanks! xoxo