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Looking Back on the Art of Trysting

Trysts can be any relationship moment, from breakups to makeups, everything in between, and everything that happens before or after. They can be risque or perfectly chaste. It’s all about capturing the full spectrum of that thing we call love.

Blog Edit of Trysting Cover

Back in 2016 we published Trysting by Emmanuelle Pagano (tr. Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis) an amazing, fragmentary collection of nearly 300 vignettes from relationships of all types, reminiscent of Edouard Levé, Maggie Nelson, and Marguerite Duras.

We celebrated the release by asking a number of writers, booksellers, and other friend to share a tryst with us.

Trysts can be any relationship moment, from breakups to makeups, everything in between, and everything that happens before or after. They can involve almost any household item, a lot of things you can’t find in households, and kind of pairing (or more) imaginable, and they can be risque or perfectly chaste. It’s all about capturing the full spectrum of that thing we call love.

So here are our trysts after Trysting. And we’d love to see yours! Share them with us on Twitter at @TwoLinesPress with the hashtag #tweetyourtryst.

Here are our trysts:


Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse

That day when we were together from 10 in the morning to midnight, when you didn’t leave my side even once, when you sat in all the chairs that were beside me in every place we went, the day before the day before you left, I felt like I was carrying around an anvil with me. You asked me why I was quiet and I could only point, wordlessly, to the anvil.


Lauren Cerand

As I walked out of the restaurant, I asked the maître d’—handsome, younger, six and a half feet tall—to call me a car. Noting my accent, he asked, “How long will you be in town?” “Just ’til tomorrow.” “Oh, that’s too bad.” “Why, what do you want to show me?” “Meet me at Raoul’s in Jericho at midnight.” I certainly did.


Mark Haber, Brazos Bookstore

It was her laugh that ended it. Her laugh that made me call it quits. At dinner, over coffee, sitting adjacent or across from or ever too-close at the movies, it erupted from her mouth like a bird in distress. A cackle. A shriek. I tried to be patient. I told myself, a laugh isn’t everything. I considered her good qualities, of which there were infinite. I weighed them against her flaws of which there were . . . what? Did she even have flaws? Everyone adored her. She was as perfect as a single soul could be. She was thoughtful, kind, gave of herself through myriad acts tossed off in the easy glow of her good nature. She volunteered on weekends at the soup kitchen; readily bequeathed spare coins to the needy. And beautiful too; stunning to observe bending to collect her clothes or pouring steaming water for tea. Redheaded. Pale. A face whose perfect symmetry betrayed the cacophony that left her mouth and forced me, at what would be our final dinner, to end things. Anyone who says a laugh is something minor, some trifling iota of the human soul, knows very little about people. And thresholds.


Sarah Coolidge, Two Lines Press

When you’re driving all night along the dark freeway, there are only two kinds of music: that which will keep you awake and that which will not. We rotated through every CD and cassette tape in the car during those late night hours. Listening to everything from Dave van Ronk to Jay Z. We found that Blink 182 could keep you alert for 40 minutes before the power chords transported you to a sleep-like paralysis. Bob Dylan was only useful for the first 3 tracks, his harmonica jolting you from the lull of headlights bending around guard rails, until he too dissolved into the hum of the highway. Mix CDs were great, but you had to skip the slow songs, which made them good for only about seven songs

We had planned to stop in Detroit, but decided to push through and try to get to campus by morning, in order to see the sun rise over the Hudson River. We were practically the only car on the road. The semis hurdled past, going 80 in a 65, making up for the daylight hours in which they were forced to ride the brake, single file in the right lane. We tried to peer into the windows as they passed, but only ever caught a flash of a silhouette before the white cargo container took its place and whisked them off.

We pulled off the highway just as the sky was turning from black to dark blue. After twenty minutes on the winding country roads—left at the white barn, right at the fork, the familiar dips and curves—we reached the dirt parking lot of the library. The sun was just beginning to peak up over the trees, as we slid into the back of the car and tried to get comfortable on the seat. It was too early to call anyone for a place to crash. And we were too tired, anyways. So I curled my body around hers and we drifted off under the white lights of the parking lot.


Naja Marie Aidt, author of Baboon and Rock, Paper, Scissors

When we first met he sat down in a worn out office chair in the farthest end of the room. I didn’t want to get up from my desk. I worried that he wouldn’t adore my pants. I noticed that his nails were very long. I got the impression that he was a classical guitar player. He was not. Four months later he moved in with me and my three kids. I liked the way he slept. I would stay awake all night to watch over him. His dreams seemed so much more dramatic and interesting than mine. The way his hair got all sweaty aroused me.


Scott Esposito, Two Lines Press

A hot summer, we spent our days in a stuffy garret office typing letters. They were by a gray eminence who had waited over 100 years to have his private missives brought to light. He could wait a little longer. We slowed down our pace and talked. Jobs, the real world, whether or not our degrees would factor into any of that. She liked books a lot. I showed her how I brought my coffee every morning in a thermos with a little cup in the lid. She found it cute. Before long, from her bag she pulled a thermos full of coffee with a little cup in the lid. Morning after morning we drank our coffee together there and talked. Then one day she didn’t show up. I waited, waited; fifteen minutes; half an hour; an hour. Her seat was still just as empty. That whole office had never felt so empty. I asked around and someone told me she was going to be out for a week. As the days passed by I began to miss her. And so I knew, when she came back I should ask her to have a coffee after work.


Brad Johnson, Diesel, a Bookstore

The transition form 1999 to 2000 was supposed to change the world—machines were to grind to a halt, planes plummet from the sky. None of that panned out, but it was the setting for the beginning of my tryst. The plumes of weed smoke at the New Years Eve party had sent us both to the backyard of the house, whose residents we knew only through others—and we didn’t know one another, this Belgian (visiting but for a week) and I (visiting but for the night). We were mellow (see again, the plumes of smoke above), and chatty. I don’t remember the details much, other than the abiding fact that I preferred being out there in the cold with her.

Eventually, when the silences grew longer than the temperature would comfortably allow, we returned to our respective parties within the party. We didn’t speak again until we helped one another find our coats among those heaped on a bed. Zipping up, we agreed it was nice to have met. She politely suggested that should I ever be in Belgium I should look her up.

Four months later, I impolitely did just that.

Sixteen years later, we’ve never left a party without one another again.


Angela Woodward, from her novel End of the Fire Cult

“What if we got a dog?” I said. “We could walk her in the evenings, rambling around the neighborhood, looking in people’s windows when they haven’t drawn the curtains yet.”

I was unable to conceive because of some earlier complications, and we had stopped discussing that.

“Is that how you see us now,” he said, “out for an evening stroll with Sheppie?”

“Sheppie!” I said. “Or Biscuit.”

That’s all we needed to do, walk down the street, our gloved hands sometimes bumping. That would have been enough for me. When we first met, he’d told me a particularly vivid dream he’d had about me, that he had been standing in line at the grocery store and I was at the next station. I had come over to his line, to stand behind him, and neither of us had spoken. He was strongly affected by this dream, the simple offering of my company. He used to plead with me not to leave him. “Even if I ask you to go,” he said, “I need you to remember that you shouldn’t.” I had promised to stay with him no matter what, but privately I didn’t consider this kind of contract enforceable.


Emily Wolahan, Two Lines Press

A hot night in August. He doesn’t have air conditioning. He lives in a fifth-floor walk-up and sleeps in a room with a bed shoved into the closet so that when we lie down, we look at his clothes hanging above us. I focus on the cuffs of his three work shirts, which are white, but the edge of the cuff is gray. The bedroom window is a shaft-way window and pigeons are perched on the ledge of the one opposite, where a sticker has been placed in the middle of the pane. I have to look at it a long time before I realize it’s Hello Kitty’s face. He likes to refer to the roof as the sixth floor. Late, he calls me and says, Come over. I get there before midnight and he has moved his bed up the stairs to the sixth floor, exactly above where it usually sits in his room. Like it floated up, through the ceiling, without getting filthy. I don’t think it’s any cooler up here, but he says, I like the air, takes off his shoes and jeans and shirt. Lies on the bed looking up. I lie next to him, keep everything on, my bag still strapped across my body, and look up to the same spot.


Michael Seidlinger, author of The Strangest

Where there used to be a text message in anticipation, there is only now a conversation archived, a reminder of days so much simpler—where I hadn’t thought twice about what I said—so much simpler than now, where even the act of looking at myself in the mirror becomes a trigger, the result of which is the reopening of that archived conversation, rereading every single word, the last few lines being the ones that so effectively placed so much distance between us. I read and recite them by heart, as if by doing so the distance might somehow seem that much smaller.



Joanna Walsh, author of Hotel and Vertigo

I saw him today, where he lives in North London. We lay in bed all afternoon & he put on Ride, who I used to go see in Oxford in the ’90s, then he went to sleep, leaving the record on the turntable where it clicked & hissed its final cycle on repeat, and I wondered if it was rain.