Not a Pipe
Shauna McKenna

I started to write a realistic story. I created a character named Emily, met by the reader at her apartment while her roommate’s boyfriend is off getting beer. Emily is bored and entitled. She wants beer right away. She can’t think of how else to entertain herself. At the beginning of the story I make it clear that the beer that Emily is waiting for is not just for her and her roommate (Celia) and Celia’s boyfriend (Arvid) but that they’re going to be hosting a party.

I wanted to make the story seem like it was going to be a love story, but I didn’t want it to be a love story. I was irritated that stories with single woman protagonists seem mostly to be either a love story or a treatise on whether or not they should be finding love. After the beer is brought to bored Emily, I put her into a conversation alone with a friend of the roommate’s boyfriend (Mack) but I didn’t do a good job at contriving a reason for their isolation. (Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to stay with the people they know in common?)

They have a tedious conversation and Mack makes the puckish move of neutralizing any questions about sexual attraction by telling Emily the lie that he’s gay. That gay/not-gay thing goes on for several scenes, not with any high drama, just with Emily feeling kind of dicked around with but then feeling silly that it was a thing at all.

The things I put in this realistic story are very ordinary things, very forgettable things. They could have happened to me in that exact way, though they didn’t. In the story, Emily and Mack became roommates. I did have one male roommate who had a profound influence on me, but I met him in different ways than Emily met Mack. I was infatuated with him. Emily did not become infatuated with Mack.

Mack starts a romantic relationship and Emily is jealous, but jealous in the same way she’s jealous of her friend Celia’s relationship with her boyfriend, jealous that there is no longer space for the asexual intimacy that she wants most. There’s a moment where her therapist says something insightful about the utility of loneliness. Emily dumps her therapist after that.

Anyway, that’s where I’m leaving that story. I think it took the whole story for me to get to that moment with the therapist, which is probably more cathartic for me than therapy itself and definitely less hassle. I wanted to spare you all the meandering but I still think there are important things to realize. Loneliness can be useful. People refuse to listen. They come together, they move on: our impotence leaves us gasping.

Shauna McKenna’s work has appeared in Hobart, Monkeybicycle, Eyeshot, and Pindeldyboz, among other fine publications. She lives with her most excellent teenage daughter in San Diego.