True Story, Issue #35

"Not Your Ordinary Experience of Desire" by Susannah Borysthen-Tkacz and Justin Chen

True Story, Issue #35

In True Story #35, a poignant post-mortem of a four-year relationship, told in alternating voices, becomes a catalog of unmet needs and wants … and a path to a hopeful future.

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From "Not Your Ordinary Experience of Desire" by Susannah Borysthen-Tkacz and Justin Chen

The night before my first date with Justin, I had beers with a man who picked me up in a café after watching me finish a crossword puzzle. His avuncular wool cap, uninvited thigh rubs, and smarmy text messages made me want to stop dating altogether. But Justin’s nervous adolescent chattiness is refreshing. I am wearing a stiff army-green button-down over a T-shirt, more armor than date attire. Justin has on a T-shirt from a road race.

A few months later, holding his hand on one of those effortless early days of summer, I will tell him that one of the reasons I like him is that I can always rest assured he will dress more casually than me.

A few years later, I will ask him if my clothes make me look like a lesbian.

On our first date, Susannah and I meet for dinner at a sushi restaurant. She is a librarian and I am a biologist who wants to be a writer. We had been discussing novels via email and agreed to exchange books—her 1Q84 for my Never Let Me Go.

For our next dates we attend an indoor track meet at Boston University, watch an independent film, and whisper guesses back and forth at a trivia night. A diffident and suspicious dater, I usually befriend women, seeing them two or three times a week before they make the first move out of exasperation or resignation. It takes Susannah two months to get to that point.

After our relationship ends, I ask Susannah why she kissed me.

I’m not sure, she says. I guess I enjoyed being around you. And I didn’t want to lose you to someone else.

BONUS! Listen to Justin and Susannah's "Not Your Ordinary Experience of Desire" Spotify playlists while you read! Or, browse our other True Story playlists.