Once I met a guy at a bar and wrote him a story on the back of a coaster. The guy was sad and drinking alone. The story was about a girl who meets a guy at a bar and the two of them go to the beach, jump in the ocean, sink to the bottom, and live there forever along with the fish that glow in the dark. The guy didn’t ask me for my number, he was pretty drunk and had a hard time explaining himself, but he said my story was good. At the end of the night he left my coaster on the bar with his tip and I never saw him again. This made me feel pretty bad until the next time I went to the bar and my coaster story was hanging on the wall next to the cash register.
When I was in college, I worked at a park for a summer and one afternoon I found a story on a picnic table. The table was painted dark brown and the story was written with a black magic-marker. The story was about a boy who never had a family and how he fell in love with a little girl who gave him a penny. It was my job to wash the story off the table, but I couldn’t get it off with soap and water. I also tried the chemical solution we sometimes used to remove hard stains, called Graffiti X, but that didn’t work either. In the end, I couldn’t get the story off so I had to paint over it with the same color of dark brown that the table was. Sometimes I wonder if I was the only person to read that story, which makes me think the story is mine. Other times, I think that because I made the story unreadable that it will never belong to anyone. When I go back to the park I look at all the tables (there are six), the bathroom stalls, and the signposts. They are all the same dark brown. They make me wonder how many stories in the world are hidden under oil-based paint.
Another time, we were bored in the car and a friend of mine wrote a story on my arm while I drove. He used a black pen and he held my arm close to his body the whole time he was writing. The story was about a girl made of sunshine who starts every day by climbing the tallest tree she can find and making a secret wish. In the story people loved this girl the way they loved naps, good ideas, and grilled cheese sandwiches. And despite all this the girl cried every day. My friend said she cried because she loved the world so much, but I wondered if it was also because nobody wants to be loved like a grilled cheese sandwich.
A few months ago, I wrote a story and posted it on my blog. I included links to it on twitter, facebook, myspace, and in the footer of all the emails I sent out that day. The story was about a woman in a basement writing a story about a boy. The woman had two kids and a grandfather, and the boy had a friend who liked leaves and a love-interest who liked adventures. In the story the boy ends up going on an adventure with his love-interest and the woman writing about him stays in her basement alone. The blog let me track how many views the story got, which was zero. I could also see how many comments were made on the story, which was also zero. The last thing I could track was how many spam messages were posted on my story, and the story had three of those. The first message was from a robot selling Viagra, the next message was from a robot that wanted me to go to a website and fall in love with someone, and the last message was from a robot who had its email account hacked. None of my friends, family, or followers read my story, but three separate robots did and they all commented on it.