Character Driven

Chris sat on the edge of his apartment building’s roof. Tenants weren’t allowed on the roof, but Chris knew that the landlord didn’t care. Plus, the sunrise looked magnificent from up here. However magnificent it was, the sunrise was what was currently catching his attention. It was the dating app on his phone that he was looking at. 

There was a week of conversation on his phone between himself and an interesting lady that lived about ten miles south of him. There seemed to be a mutual interest between them. The last message was a day ago from her asking if he’d be interested in meeting in real life. 

“You know, eventually you’ll have to move on,” a voice said from behind him. 

Chris jumped a little and almost dropped his phone off the rooftop. As he turned, he preparing an explanation to his landlord as to why he was on the roof. It wasn’t his landlord, but a middle aged bald guy with glasses.  

“What?” It wasn’t really an answer to the guy’s earlier statement so much as a question as to why the guy was directly behind him. However, the guy continued with his original thought, pointing to the phone.  

“I said, you’re going to have to move on,” he said. “She looks like a nice lady. Maybe you should agree to meet.” 

Embarrassment, that was the feeling spreading throughout Chris. He closed the app, stood, and tucked the phone into his pocket. He was about to leave when the rooftop door shut.  

“Please, stay awhile.”  

Chris looked at the door, confused. He hadn’t felt any wind just then and, even if he had, he was pretty sure he had propped the door open with a doorstop.  “Looking for this?” 

He turned to find the bald guy sitting where Chris was sitting with the doorstop in his hand. The guy patted the spot next to him. “C’mon Christopher, we need to talk. It’s not like you’re going anywhere anytime soon.” 

It was true. The door to the stairs locked from the inside and the only one that had the key was the landlord. Chris didn’t particularly want to call the insidious man, but it looked like he might have to. 

“Listen, you sit here and talk with me a bit, and I’ll give you the key to the roof.” 

“You don’t have the key to the —”  

The guy’s hand flickered in the air and the doorstop magically turned into a key. The guy tucked the key into his polo shirts breast pocket and patted the spot next to him. 

Reluctantly, Chris took a seat next to him. “What do you want?” 

The guy smiled. “Like I’ve been trying to say. You need to move on with your life. Go get a drink with that nice looking lady ten miles south.” 

Alarm bells sounded in Chris’s head. “How do you know about her?” 

“Honestly? I know this will sound weird, but I created her.” 

Realization came to Chris. “Are you catfishing me?” 

The guy laughed for a bit. Sighing, “oh, Chris. That’s a good one. No, no, no, I am not catfishing you. I literally created her just like I’ve created you.” 

Chris pulled out his phone at that point. “I’m calling the landlord. I’ve had enough crazy for the day.”  

But when he went to find the landlord’s contact, he discovered all the contacts were gone. He tried to remember the number from memory, but found that he couldn’t remember it. Panicked, Chris tried to dial 9-1-1, but he couldn’t remember what the 9 looked like.  

“Chris, put your phone away,” the man said. “I’m not letting anyone or anything interfere with our little heart to heart.” 

Instead of listening to him, Chris pulled up Facebook Messenger with the intent of seeking help from his best friend. A message popped up that read, Put your phone away before I have to take it from you. 

Chris stared at the message for a minute trying to not let his fear consume him. Finally, he looked at the man sitting next to him. “Are you doing this?” 

The man smiled, and waved. “Guilty,” he said. 

“You said you created me. What are you?” 

“I’m just an author. You’re author, to be specific.” 

“Are you God?” 

“No,” the man chuckled. “Little ‘a’, not big ‘A’.” 

Confused, Chris asked him what the difference was. “Well,” the man began. “Think about computer language. Let’s say God’s world is the entire program. The world I created, your world, is inside a sub-program that functions whenever it’s called to. Now, I suppose that God can intervene in this little chat if He so chooses to,” 

The man sat there for a moment waiting to see if anything happened. “I guess He doesn’t want to so we’ll continue. For all intents and purposes, I am the ruler of this sub-program until it’s done operating. Which is the reason why I’m here.” 

Chris shook his head. “I don’t believe you.” 

The guy sighed as if disappointed with a child. “You require a display? Fine.” 

And right before his eyes, the author jumped off the roof. Chris yelled out and leaned over the edge. He thought he’d find a red smear on the sidewalk, but instead he didn’t see anything. No body, no smear, no mess.  

“See? Told you,” said the author from behind Chris.  

Jumping again, Chris looked to his right to find the author sitting exactly where he had been. “I can also make you jump off if I wanted to. I wouldn’t though, but if you still doubt my powers then…” 

“No thank you. That’s fine. Just tell me what you want from me.” 

The author smiled. “Like I said before. I want you to move on with your life and tell that girl that you’ll go on a date with her.” 

“Why?” 

“Because your storyline is growing stagnant.” 

“What do you mean, stagnant?” 

The author waved his hand and they were instantly transported to a few weeks ago. Chris knew the place as soon as he smelled the fresh coffee grounds. He groaned, but not because he craved a cup of coffee. He saw himself sitting across the table from his best friend, Sharon.  

“Sorry to get all Charles Dickens on you, but I thought I’d just show you what I meant,” the author said. With another wave of his hand, the scene played out exactly how it had a couple weeks ago. 

“I’m sorry, Chris, but I just don’t share the same feelings for you,” Sharon said. Here came the worst part. It was the sentence that Chris would relisten to in his memory every day for the next two weeks. “You’re like my little brother.” 

“Ouch,” the author said. “I mean, I’m cruel and all but that’s harsh.” 

“Change it,” Chris said, his voice was barely a whisper.  

“What?” The author asked. By the time Chris had turned his head to look at the author, they were back on the rooftop.  

“I said change it. Change it so that Sharon loves me,” Chris said.  

The author shook his head. “I can’t do that.” 

“You can’t or you won’t?” 

“Okay, let me rephrase that. I could, but I won’t. Too much editing. Plus, that wouldn’t work for Sharon’s character. It’d be a major rewrite and it wouldn’t make for good storytelling. Best that you just move on with your life.” 

“I can’t move on.” 

“Sure you can,” the author said. He opened his palm and Chris’s phone lay on it with the dating app opened. The lady on the screen was the one Chris had been talking to. “She’s a lovely lady, just right for you. I made sure of it this time.” 

“But I don’t want her.” 

“But you can’t have Sharon.” 

“Why not?” 

The author’s brow creased and he frowned. “Because, sometimes, people don’t get what they want.” 

“But I’m just a character in your story, right? So, change the story.” 

“Look Chris,” the author said. “When I write a story, I don’t plot things out. I start off a story and allow the characters to make their own decisions. That way, things are more organic and the story doesn’t come across forced. If I made Sharon love you, then the story wouldn’t be organic anymore. Nobody would read it.” 

Chris laughed. “Then why are you even here?” 

“Normally, I don’t put myself into the story. However, your story isn’t going anywhere. After Sharon friendzoned you, it’s been dull. I’m talking Bella waiting for Edward for months type of dull. Even when I created the perfect love interest for you on that app, you’re still thinking about Sharon. So here I am. Think of this as an intervention.” 

It was true. Whenever Chris would look at a profile, all he could think about was how much that person wasn’t like Sharon. He compared every lady to Sharon. Ultimately, none of them stacked up to her. So, he eventually began just swiping right on every profile. Even now, the person that the author created couldn’t compare with Sharon.  

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Chris began. “I don’t want anyone other than Sharon. You can create a million other ladies, but they won’t be her. They won’t have the same smile or the wicked intellect. They won’t look at me with the same arched eyebrow when I tell a bad joke. They won’t scold me the same way Sharon does. So, unless you plan to do that major rewrite, then I guess you’ll just have to go write something else. I won’t change unless you force me to…and I don’t think you will or else you’d have already done it.” 

The author looked down to the street below and sighed, defeated. “I thought you would say something like that. I modeled you after myself.” 

“Why would you do that?”  

“Because I thought that if the created could move on with his life, then so could the creator.” 

It dawned on Chris that the author liked someone that he couldn’t have in his own life. He felt sorry for the guy because he knew exactly how it felt. He reached out and put an arm around the author’s shoulders. They sat there for a few minutes. The created comforting the creator.  

“So, what are you going to do with me?” 

The author smiled thinly and looked at Chris. “Well, since I am the one that put you in this situation, literally, I’ll seek your guidance. Would you rather go on pining for Sharon even though you know she’ll only see you as a friend? Or would you rather I scrap the story and you cease to be?” 

Chris sat there shocked. He didn’t know what to say. He looked into the author’s eyes to see if any humor lied behind the offer. There was not. If he had the author scrap the story, he would cease to be. He would no longer feel the ache of longing whenever he talked with Sharon. He wouldn’t have to see Sharon dating someone. He wouldn’t have to hide his pain when she would hug or kiss someone else. He wouldn’t have to sit through a wedding ceremony.  

Of course, if he had the story scrapped, he would be taking away all those options for Sharon.  

“I’d rather watch Sharon be happy from a distance,” Chris said. 

The author nodded. Chris knew that the author would have made the same decision. “So be it.” 

Chris watched the author stand and snap his fingers. The rooftop door opened. “If you ever change your mind, that lady on the app will always be waiting.” 

The author walked toward the door, but Chris called out to him. The author turned and raised his eyebrows in waiting. 

“The Sharon in your story,” Chris asked. “What’s her name?” 

The author chuckled. “Oh, I’m not going to say. She might be reading this.” He stared into the computer screen, searching. Then he looked back to Chris. “Take care, Chris.” 

With a little salute, the author vanished. Chris knew he hadn’t gone far. 

Looking back down to the app, Chris looked at the profile of the lady that the author had created. She was perfect, but she was no Sharon.  

Deleting the app, Chris stuffed the phone into his pocket and watched the sunrise. He wished Sharon was with him to watch it. 



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