When we put out the call for "best pick-up lines," a number featured compliments invoking "the kind of woman people write songs about." Clearly, "muse" is a common fantasy. And, for the subject of this "Modern Love," a reality:
It's a really good essay, by Lisa Ruth Brunner: if you haven't yet read it, I urge you to. And it's about her ongoing, semi-unrequited passion for the sort of woman who inspires these emotions - not to mention essays. They meet when the author is invited to a party at the dream woman's house involving "this Balkan band from Albuquerque and a Norwegian folk singer play, an Indonesian shadow puppet performance, and everyone has to bring a pie." Later, she feeds Lisa her first pomegranate.
She was a poet living in a castle-like apartment flooded with plants and books I'd never heard of. The details of her exotic childhood, I learned, included an organic farm in rural Texas and a private girls' school. She did origami and left it hidden for strangers to find, knew the secrets of library basements and overgrown alleyways, and wore vintage hats covered in rusty brooches. She was into queer theory. She got her clothes from the Goodwill Dumpster. She was everything I'd dreamed of but never knew existed.
Later, she spontaneously moves to Japan. When the author follows her, they meet in China and fly kites in Tienanmen Square. And then, she's gone. When she resurfaces, "we'd always go swimming in a fountain, or stencil poetry onto sidewalks, or cook pizza or kiss, only for a day or two, and then she'd be gone. I'd beg for her ever-changing address and she'd write, inconsistently, sending short stories and watercolors too good to be from someone I knew."
Today, when the author looks her up, she finds that "she is now an accomplished writer, the recipient of many fellowships and awards." Who is she?! is the first thought, but this was closely followed by: it doesn't matter. What is so effective about this essay is the evocation of youthful love, the kind of magic another person can only really hold when you are still finding yourself and meet someone who seems to have done exactly that. Often when I read about whimsical dream girls, I roll my eyes. But this time, it's easy to feel the pull, the magic, and fall under its spell - not just of the person herself, but of her imagine in the writer's eyes. What matters is not who this is "in real life," but who she was to the author - although, that said, I'm guessing this is not a tribute anyone would mind getting.
A Kite That Couldn't Be Tied Down [NY Times]