I first met Jonah about two weeks ago. They say this sort of thing happens when you’re not expecting it, when you’re no longer looking, and that seems to have been the case. I’d popped into the library after work to pick up one of those broadly written inspirational books for the professional work environment. I never get past the first chapter of any of them—somehow in striving to reach the masses these authors fail to convey even an ounce of relatability. But there it was, on the shelf just as my online search had said it would be. And as I rushed to head to the checkout—I looked pretty silly in my shorts in mid-December as the next stop was the gym—I bumped into Jonah. Only at that time we did not introduce ourselves. Still, I felt a clear pang of interest though I could not get a clear read of him in that fleeting moment.
I stumbled into Jonah the following night, this time as he played a guitar and sang—An artist!—to a small audience that included a core group of friends that would welcome me: Jules, Ash, Ethan, Cathy and Goodman. In the days that followed, Cathy and Goodman would make their exits as happens during the holidays while Dennis and Robert would enter the fold. They clicked in an odd way, just as I’d imagine the characters of “The Breakfast Club” or “St. Elmo’s Fire” would continue to connect because of, or in spite of, their surface differences. As much as I enjoyed their company, my eye was always drawn to Jonah. Alas, as is so brutally common in life, Jonah’s eye was clearly on Robert.
There you go, I told myself. Not meant to be. They seem happy, a poster gay couple even. Let it go. It was never ever meant to be.
But each time I got together with this group, I seemed consumed in wanting to know more about Jonah, the quiet one. Sometimes he’d be a no-show and that only magnified the mystery and the allure. We want what we can’t have. It’s safer that way, I suppose. Nothing grounded in reality. No real risk.
Right before Christmas, Robert dumped Jonah. Right before Christmas! The cad! (Hooray!) That’s not a whiff of gingerbread, that’s the smell of opportunity. Still, Jonah didn’t seem to notice me. He just broke up. Give him time, you putz.
I’d planned to spend Christmas Day alone. To cope, I’d decided to head to Whistler for the day, a chance to test my ski legs after a decade away. At the last minute—really, 3:30 Christmas morning—I decided to forego the mountains and spend the day with Jonah. Well, Jonah and Jules and Dennis and Ash and Ethan. I knew that Jules and Ethan would dominate, but I’d take whatever glimpses of Jonah I could get.
From my longing observations and from the snippets I got from the others, it was clear to me that Jonah was my kind of guy. Handsome—the kind of man for whom “beautiful” is a better descriptor. Soft spoken. Vulnerable. He was raised to be sensitive and apparently never rebelled against it. His mother had made a career out of being a well-regarded folksinger. There was something about Jonah getting caught up in a cult for a brief period in his twenties, but that was long ago and, really, it only underscored his vulnerability. Wounded yet healed. In my quirky mind, that made this musical engineer—An engineer!--even sexier.
The day turned out to be a pleasure. I felt fully accepted and entertained amongst this company. It was the perfect way to spend a day I’d been dreading. Sadly, it all ended at 7:30 Christmas evening with me being no closer to the sweet Jonah Bay.
It’s not the kind of book that lends itself to a sequel.
Yes, that’s what it’s come to. I am now apparently lusting after fictional characters, this Jonah dude the most promising man I’ve come across in months. Thanks a lot, Meg Wolitzer. You and your hefty tome, The Interestings, proved to be, well, too interesting.
Ah, but these things happen. We lonely readers may indeed be the most vulnerable. Think of all the women who have fallen for Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy. And then there’s that more recent kinky wooer, Christian Grey. Thankfully, my next read is Nora Ephron’s screenplay for “When Harry Met Sally”. No doubt, I will become great friends with these beloved characters, but I can say with complete certainty that Sally Albright and I—and Harry Burns and I—will never become anything more than friends. Yes, Nora, that’s entirely possible. That comes as a great relief as I still need time to get over my feelings for Jonah.