The original story behind how Whitmore and Jessica met, posted April 14, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge. Their background has changed significantly since then (see here).
As you know, I’m trying to make Whitmore less of a creeper—he was “likable” at one point. Ultimately I want the reader not to like Whitmore, not to hate him either, but just to feel sorry for him. He just flew too close to the sun…
Whitmore was never a confident man. He attended poetry readings and stalked women from the corners of darkened auditoriums, hazy hookah bars, and damp cafeteria halls, praying that one of them would notice his stance against the wall—left hand under right armpit, right hand scratching goatee, left leg crossed over right leg, ankles touching—the soft-spoken, introverted gentleman no woman could resist ignoring. He stared intensely as women chanted, “What happened to me was not my fault!”
“Excuse me. Is anyone sitting here?” he would ask softly to the women chanting the loudest, and they would shake their heads, invite him to join their tables, remark on how well dressed he was in his dark, gray vest, and burgundy shirt with cuff-links, the collar spritzed with a cinnamon scented cologne. He would show off that crooked grin, one eyebrow raised higher than the other, one eye squinting while the other wide open, and the women would laugh at his sense of humor, deceived by a mask that hid a broken man inside who was hurting because of a woman, and who wished to fool other women into assuming those wounds under the illusion of love, respect, and loyalty.
If only Jessica had told him the seat next to her was taken. If only she had told him that her best friend had gone to the ladies’ room and would be right back, or that she was expecting her boyfriend to arrive very soon. But she didn’t. She saw him hovering over her and she smiled, invited him to sit down.
“I love Staceyann Chin,” she whispered to him while the poet performed. “She is so inspiring! So liberating! She motivates me to be angry. To confront all the bullshit in this world. The bullshit done to women!”
“Do you come to her readings a lot?” Whitmore asked.
“Oh, yes. And before you ask, no, I am not a lesbian.”
“Why would I ask that?”
“I’ve been to at least five of her readings, and there’s always one guy surfing through the audience using that tired-ass pick-up line, because apparently, all feminists are men-hating lesbians. Please tell me you’re not that guy tonight.”
“Nope, just a fellow lover of poetry.”
“It’s like therapy, isn’t it? Do you write?”
“I’m not as dynamic as she is,” he said over the roaring crowd as Staceyann Chin finished her final poem and held her arms out to the side to bow in front of her applauding fans.
Jessica stood to her feet, clapping and screaming over everyone else. She turned to Whitmore. “Write me something,” she said, pinching his upper arm, “and I’ll be the judge of that.”
Whitmore nodded. “Can I call you sometime?”
“Sure.” She recited her number as he keyed it into his phone. She was gone before he could ask for her name, pushing her way into the line for autographs and pictures. He thought to follow her, but decided against it. He watched as Jessica’s face lit up when her favorite poet wrapped her arms around her and posed for a picture. Staring into her bright eyes and glowing smile, Whitmore forged lines of poetry in his mind.
… I lay dead this morning…
… then an angel descended from heaven…
… clothed in silk …
… breathed divine oxygen into my lungs…
… her smile …
“I have to see that smile again,” Whitmore said to himself. “It is my therapy.”