Interviewed by Rachel Wild
Read A Cerisse Cohen’s fiction piece, Glens
Rachel: This is an intriguing and funny story. What was the inspiration for it?
A Cerisse: I spent most of my twenties as a single woman living in Brooklyn. At a certain point, dating began to seem like an uncanny experience. New partners at first appeared different from old partners, but I began to hear similar lines and witness (and participate in) similar behaviour over, and over, and over again. Ghosts of old relationships always appear in new ones. I wanted to capture a particular mood—the surreality of living in a place with seemingly infinite possibility and finding yourself stuck in these bizarre loops or repetitions you can’t break out of… and may not want to, for whatever reason.
I like the idea that the Glens all have something in common with each other, even if it is relatively obscure. Was this something you plotted from the beginning?
I wrote this story after taking an online acting class, and I wanted it to feel like a kind of spontaneous, energetic monologue. I did not plot this story out beforehand, and I just let the character tell her story, following Lily’s voice wherever it wanted to go. It takes a while for her to realize that the Glens have something in common, and it took the story a while to realize it too, I guess. The story proceeds with as much insight as Lily has at any given moment.
I’m interested about the name Glen—here in the UK it’s not a very common name at all. Is it popular in the US?
I’ve known a Glen or two! I liked the idea that a “glen” was a natural landscape feature. A “glen” just is. It’s a valley, which one might tumble into. There’s also something funny to me about a “glen” being a concavity into which Lily hurls herself.
From my perspective, your story is a commentary on being open to difference—every time Lily wakes up with a new Glen, she is able to adapt, and even enjoy the time spent with this new stranger. Would you agree with this?
I like this reading! I think that’s a generous reading of Lily as well. She is certainly open to difference and she does seem adaptable, for better or for worse. She’s genuinely curious about and interested in each new Glen. I think those are great qualities, though better when paired with more adult discernment and maybe less impulsivity.
The ending, where Lily meets up with Glen 1 is great. And I liked that his experience with the Lilys was different. Spontaneous combustion is a great way to disappear. How did you decide on this ending?
Well, again, I was just kind of following what Lily’s voice had to tell me. And it felt right that this character who wants so badly to figure out what’s going on with herself, and with these Glens, would go back to the source, to the person with whom this whole thing started. As for spontaneous combustion… I think that people’s disappearances and disengagements in various relationships can feel random in the moment, if somewhat predictable in retrospect. I know a guy in his early 20s who has a postcard on his fridge from a friend who’s studying abroad in Germany. The friend wrote to him, “I hope the women in your life are as confusing as ever.” This perspective itself is somewhat mystifying to me, but it’s funny, too. No one ever thinks of themselves as being the wild card who makes others fear spontaneous combustion. But in an alternate universe, in someone else’s head, you might be.
Thanks so much Alina, and well done for being published by The Forge!