MT: Oh! Thank you so much!
PB: It’s a pleasure. Don’t mention it. The slaughter of a daughter by a gun of the son.
MT: Hm. [Paws] You mean like… a “hired gun”?
PB: [Admiringly] Nothing gets past you. I’m impressed.
MT: Well, to tell the truth, I’d already figured it out. But I wanted you to confirm that I’d got it right. [Musingly] “The slaughter of a daughter by a gun of the son.”
PB: How did you figure it out?
MT: Well, I’m a writer. A short story of mine was published a few months ago in a major national monthly—it rhymes with Narper’s. The story was about a romantic vacation I took with my boyfriend a few years ago. We went to Japan together. I imagined, in the story, that an old acquaintance—someone I knew a long time ago, and hadn’t kept in touch with, a friend—was, several years later, retracing my trip with my boyfriend to Japan. By herself. In a weird sort of faux-homage to my “legendary” vacation with my now-ex-boyfriend. In the same way people take trips to recreate Hemingway’s travels in Cuba, for example, or Boswell and Johnson in the Hebrides. But my ex-boyfriend and I aren’t famous. And my old non-friend, she doesn’t really know us—so it’s a really creepy project. And the “nut” is that she’s documenting her trip extensively, on a blog, which the narrator—first person, me—begins to follow with increasing obsession and trepidation. The friend writes in a weird, wry, pseudoscholarly voice on the blog—the way a book about following in Boswell’s travelogue’s footsteps would be written. Geoff Dyer-y. (I make this pun in the story: the stalker calls the blog her “Geoff Diary” at one point—she meets a guy named Geoff in Japan, who becomes for her a sort of analogue for my ex-boyfriend.)
The blog has photos, too, which I included in the story. She writes stuff like “Here’s the place I think they must’ve kissed—I’m all but certain this is the bench MT describes as their first Japanese make-out session.”
PB: You use your real name in the story?
MT: Just my initials.
PB: Where does the non-friend-stalker-blogger get the details, all the things to search for—the bench, the make-out description, etc?
MT: Well, after my boyfriend and I broke up, I posted a bunch of obscure, occluded, “experimental” travelogue memories on my blog. She must have read them, figured out who I was dating at the time, lost her mind, and began pursuing this deranged project.
MT: Remember: everything beyond the actual trip to Japan (and the occluded, “experimental” blog entries) is fake—there is no creepy stalker friend who travels to Japan trying to follow in my footsteps.
PB: But you did base her character on a real non-friend of yours.
MT: Ha—ah, well, yes. Of course I did.
PB: Do I know her?
MT: Ha—ah, well yes—you do. But I’m not telling you who it is.
PB: If I read the story, I’m sure I’ll be able to figure it out. It was in Harper’s?
MT: Yeah. But don’t try. I don’t want to freak her out.