Shilpa Iyyer

The Story That Ended Perfectly


If I told a story about myself, it would look like nine birthmarks on one face, careless and scattered. A nocturnal beginning would step toward ambience in the middle and end. Optimism would drown slowly. The parts would hum like three birds on different trees. I would use words like “blithe” and “baby," likely make one or two sweeping pronouncements on what love is (devastating aerial warfare, like the Luftwaffe, but invisible), and then obliquely accuse you of fucking all of my shit up by earnestly apologizing for fucking all of your shit up. The story would be a pointed discussion of Bayesian probability, and how new evidence can renegotiate old beliefs. The motivating question would be: how can we create more plausible hypotheses about why we feel the things we feel? Every third sentence would follow the formula of “Then I drank a(n) [non- alcoholic beverage] and stared at a(n) [unremarkable object] and wondered about how [complex and depressive thought A] may induce [complex and depressive thought B] and whether or not you wonder about this sometimes, too.” There would be many highly graphic sex scenes. Professors would argue the whole story was triumphant smut. The nerves, they would tauten. The mouths, they would drop. Pupils would dilate and explode onto floors, skittering like bugs or change or complex and depressive thoughts. I’d grow fat and lame to write the sex scenes. I’d wear a floor-length gown to write the scene where a young boy vomits into a pillowcase and flings it at his neighbor. High registers would gargle with low registers. The moral of the story would be: do not punish honesty. The secret moral of the story would be: do not punish my honesty.                               

The story would have both fans and critics. It would dominate news cycles for months after its publication. The power of hype would flood my wallet. Invariably, the story would be optioned for a three-part film franchise. This process would keep me awake for nights on end, fearing a studio’s terse and cold never mind. In a tumultuous fever dream, the ghost of Marlon Brando would visit to inform me that I am overly naïve and sensitive, and though I have thus far been able to disguise my unabating narcissism as careful and focused compassion, he is onto me, and I will soon be exposed for the fraud he believes I am. Enraged, I would recount the dream to my supportive loved ones. I’d fuck up his name on accident and call him Brandon Marlowe. Somehow, I would not be able to let myself live this part down. The dream and its retelling would always dismay me slightly. All other aspects of my future would be ideal, fond, and feel soft upon recollection.


                                         Jylian Gustlin

                                        Jylian Gustlin

Shilpa Iyyer is a graduate student in Boston, where she lives and writes. She received her bachelor's degree in literature and cognitive science from Washington University. Her work has appeared in PANK and Spires.