November 5, 2003
She watched Nadya, sitting there across the aisle of the airplane, this woman in a black silk Anne Taylor skirt and accompanying blue pinstriped blouse, her high-heeled Mary Janes peeking out from underneath her hem. She had rather the air of a college student or high-school teacher, and she observed the woman across the aisle with great attentiveness. But why uphold pretenses?
What am I to do with you? You are so much stronger than I planned you to be.
I drummed my fingers on my knee, trying to figure her out. Nadya was supposed to have fallen in love, like any young woman of her imagination and dignity, but, instead, she started working at a publishing house and living on her own in a bayside split-level studio. She is made of stronger mettle than I thought. She was supposed to fall for a charming Welshman with an aquiline nose and smirking mouth, but she had instead become his ‘minder’ and a sister figure. I watched her sit there, legs crossed, head back against the broken-in upholstery. A copy of Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman lay facedown in her lap, open to about chapter 13. I wonder if she knows how pertinent that novel—indeed, that chapter—really is at this moment? Of course she doesn’t; she’s asleep, as she always is on airplane rides. It is a beautiful hardbound copy, obviously from her publishing house. Leather cover, golden-edged pages, a taste of history amidst modernity.
But I digress.
I had planned everything out for Nadya. She and that Roman-nosed darling of a man would become enamored with their relationship mortared by complementing personalities and shared passions for literature, life, and each other amongst other things.
I do not know what to do with you. Apparently, you–and other characters of my imagination—do not like to be lorded over, made to go here or there. You are unpredictable, balking at perfectly chalked out plans.
Then I realized what Fowles himself said was true. One cannot tell characters where to go and what to do, they decide how it will be done, regardless of the author’s ends.