Interviewed by John Haggerty
Read Laura Moretz’s fiction piece, Take Your Eye
John: The narrator observes that displaying vulnerability makes men want to have sex with her. Do you think this is cultural conditioning, an offshoot of the Knight in Shining Armor trope, or does it go deeper than that? And is there anything that can be done about it?
Laura: I got caught on the word “displaying” in your question, which suggests that she’s trying to appear a certain way, and this is not how I saw Krystal as a character. Maybe you don’t mean that she’s trying to appear vulnerable. In any case, she is vulnerable and has learned from experience that some men take advantage of that as an opportunity. She enjoys companionship with Keith, someone who she believes “is safe,” just as he trusts her with his weakness of depression in the context of recovery from alcoholism. She assumes that he will be a safe ally to drive back and forth to group therapy. Then she finds out he has another agenda and feels betrayed by that.
I wonder, does Keith see himself as a knight in shining armor? I don’t think that’s the case, either. He wants a sexual encounter that she doesn’t want. In a broader context, you ask, what can be done about the cultural condition of men hitting on vulnerable women? Education about consent is helpful all around, but fiction can only illustrate, not prescribe. This is a story of a friendship that ends when one person violates the boundary.
You ask if there is anything that can be done about men taking advantage of women who are vulnerable. I think we are at a time when many people are trying to increase awareness of some, not all, men’s tendencies to do just that. I wrote this story after the #metoo movement began, as an example of a woman who wants and thinks she has a friendship without worry about sexual pressure. I’ll add that women can also take advantage of men, depending on the situation, but that’s a different story.
In spite of everything, I found Keith to be a sympathetic character. He is suffering, and suffering makes people act badly. Are there actual villains in the world, or can we attribute all bad behavior to confused and deluded attempts to relieve our own pain?
I’m glad that you find Keith sympathetic. Their friendship is based on having suffering in common and perhaps from his point of view, a sexual encounter would enhance that friendship. I think “deluded attempt to relieve his own pain” is a good way to describe Keith’s motive. But Keith misses the fact that Krystal isn’t interested in him in that way. The story doesn’t explore whether there are actual villains in the world, but I would say yes, there are villains. As far as Keith, he may lack insight, but he’s not a villain in my mind.
Keith’s glass eye is a device that works really well—symbolizing his own ability to see Krystal clearly without being heavy-handed. Did you start with this intention, or did it just happen?
I started by writing the first sentence, seemingly out of nowhere. I didn’t have any intention as to what the glass eye might mean. But I don’t think that the glass eye is a device that means that Keith sees Krystal clearly. Perhaps the opposite.
Have you ever seen a glass eye? When and how?
I’ve noticed a few glass eyes. Where and when escapes me!
Thanks for the questions and for The Forge Literary Magazine!