I am sitting on a bench underneath the tree in the park, reading my book and minding my own business when a tall, dark woman approaches me. She pauses to mouth the title of the book I’m reading. ‘Is it any good?’ she asks me. ‘I’ve been meaning to read that book for ages. The reviews are amazing.’
‘It’s okay,’ I reply. ‘The characters are a little thin. And you don’t really have a sense of who anyone is. They often just walk into a scene and start talking. Sometimes they don’t even have names.’
She smiles and sits down next to me. ‘Perhaps the author should provide a backstory. Something to make the reader care about the characters.’
‘You’re probably right. At the moment, it’s just dialogue. And I reckon you can have too much dialogue.’
‘You certainly can,’ she says, over-laughing nervously and studying my face for a little longer than is comfortable, causing me to look away.
‘What about some sexual attraction between the characters?’ she asks.
‘Nope. There’s none of that. It’s not really that kind of book.’
She stares at me again. ‘Are you sure you’re not just missing it? Sometimes it’s hidden,’ she adds, running her tongue along her upper lip. ‘Sometimes it’s about what’s left unspoken.’
‘Look, no offense,’ I reply ‘but I’ve read a fair amount. I’m pretty sure I can spot sexual tension a mile off.’
She sighs. ‘Well how about some anger between the characters? That usually helps to drive the plot along. It’s like a dissonance in music; something that requires resolution and provides momentum. Given you’re such a great reader, I suppose you’d spot that sort of tension a mile off as well.’ There’s a sarcastic edge to her voice now that I don’t much care for.
‘What’s up with you? I was just sitting here reading,’ I explain. ‘I really wasn’t looking for this conversation.’
‘Well pardon me,’ she says. ‘I’m leaving. And here’s why, in case you were wondering. Ever since I’ve known you you’ve always had your head stuck in a book.’
‘Ever since you’ve known me! What? A whole twenty seconds.’
‘I had such a connection for you in the beginning, back at the start when we were that much younger.’
And off she marches, cursing under the breath leaving me to return to my rather boring book. To be honest, I felt full of yearning and regret. I kind of missed her straightaway and I can freely admit that I never really gave her the attention she deserves. Plus I don’t really understand the book I’m reading. I only chose it in the hope of impressing others. Characters keep coming and going but you don’t really care about any of them. It’s not that long but I’m still struggling to finish it. And I’m pretty sure it won’t have a proper conclusion. It’ll probably just come to a weird, unsettling and abrupt.