True Story, Issue #20

"6'3" Man with Doritos" by Matthew Clark

True Story, Issue #20

True Story is a new home for longform nonfiction narratives. Published monthly by the editors of Creative Nonfiction, each pocket-size issue of True Story showcases one exceptional essay by one exceptional writer. From issue to issue, this new mini-magazine features the widest possible variety of voices and styles and subjects.

Offering vivid, immersive reports from real life, every issue of True Story is a small celebration of the larger-than-life stories and experiences that make us think differently about what it means to be human.


ABOUT ISSUE #20: Home alone for a month, a married man on the verge of midlife revisits old letters from his first love and wonders why it's so hard to apologize.

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From "6'3" Man with Doritos" by Matthew Clark

In the spring and summer after the party, he and Carey picked strawberries and walked her German shepherd, Digger, and played Ping-Pong and read books on secret private beaches and swam and caught fireflies and ate so much cookie dough there were hardly any cookies to bake. They lived on opposite sides of the river, so his parents would drive him halfway to her house, to the post office, where she would pick him up and drop him off. She drove a navy-blue Isuzu and sometimes she let him drive. The Isuzu was a standard, and he admired that. He also liked that she called him by his full given two-syllable name, unlike his friends, who shortened his name or called him by his last name or used a nickname. His friends did not particularly like Carey. They thought she was mousy, and she sort of was. She had severe allergies that sometimes prevented them from seeing each other, which sometimes made him angry because he basically thought allergies were made up. He did not understand menstruation or hormones. She had more dark hair on her arms than he did. Brown hair. Brown eyes. A big freckle on her forearm. She said how she was feeling and what she thought and she was smart and he listened to her. Together, they made fun of the cool kids, and then, as best he could, he hung out with them. He told her he had to. She said that he didn’t. Once, she said that she was worried about another girl liking him, and he dismissed it, though he knew it was true, and he also knew that all of his friends wanted him to get together with that girl, Maggie, who they said was very hot. But that was later. When Carey’s family went to the Bahamas, he made her a cassette tape to take and she said she’d find him a shell. She looked and looked and she could not find a single shell and so instead she brought him a spice jar filled with the fine beach sand. He remembered being unreasonably disappointed by the jar of sand even though she’d written him a letter about it and he could see the particular agony she felt at the beach’s shell-less-ness. He didn’t know what had happened to the Bahama sand. In his hands right now, he was holding a card with the word resplendent on it. She had drawn the word. The letters were green and swoopy, like grass, and on the back of the card, in black pen, she explained that she had chosen the word resplendent because she wanted to give him a word that described him and that maybe he didn’t know the meaning of. Was he shaking? Oh man, that felt wonderful when she gave it to him. But then there was also confusion because, while he did not know the meaning of resplendent, he wished that he did. And actually, truthfully, what he wished was that he knew the meaning of every word. In general, at that time, he believed there were perfect people in the world, who knew everything and were never wrong or confused or sad and never lied or burped or had zits. He secretly thought he was one of those perfect people and now, when he thought about it, he was still capable of believing he was one of the perfect people, which (as you can imagine) could also lead to some pretty serious internal recriminations whenever he caught himself deviating from perfection, which, it turned out, seemed to happen a lot. Anyway, if you’re worried about him or whatever, I can assure you he’s, quote, working on it, and, in addition, I can assure you that he’s, quote, making progress. As evidence, I give you this image of a six-foot, three-inch man in slippers, jeans, and a hooded sweatshirt, sitting on a small antique chair by a fire in a sparely furnished room beside an empty blue bag of chips, head literally tipped back laughing out loud at all that resplendent joy he had once felt at receiving a card from a girl and how it had all been kind of immediately overwhelmed by the impulse to show through some ornate contortions of language and sincerity that he both knew and did not know the meaning of the word resplendent.

Would a resplendent individual lick Dorito crumbs from his fingers?

He would.

Would a Resplendently Cool American enjoy a full belch in his own living room?

He would. He did. Thoroughly. Too thoroughly?


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