Heather O'Neill has chosen our second Stranger Than Fiction challenge winner (theme: bad behaviour). She reveals her choice below.
We received all sorts of appalling tales. (What's wrong with you people?) There was a hilarious tale about bringing a new boyfriend home to a family who proceeds to take advantage of him. One writer told the story of how he staged his baby brother's death. Another told a tale about stabbing a beach ball to death, just to ruin a whole schoolyard's fun. Someone else considered murdering a senior citizen for stepping in front of her in line at the supermarket.
I chose this story as the winner because it manages to capture the mood of being young and obnoxious in such a charming way. The narrator is endearingly amoral and ditzy, and feels so invincible that we know she's about to plunge headlong into all sorts of danger. Essentially, the over-confident, self-centered, and irresponsible way of being that the author describes is a state of grace that we all fall from. That's why it's such a fun little tidbit of a tale, because it makes you remember how you, too, were once a conceited jerk, but wasn't it lovely while it lasted.
The winning story: Jowita Bydlowska - Toronto, ON
I was 21 and the whole world wanted to make out with me. I was in Paris with a friend who wanted to make out with me. In Paris, I drank a lot until I would feel indifferent to his hands, mouth, and eyes on me.
In the day, I rode in the backs of streetcars, and crisscrossed Paris that way. I walked through markets full of tomatoes straight from vines, sun in my hair. Farmers said ma chérie as I walked by.
In the evening, my friend would take me to bars lit with dim blue or red, pulsing with electronic music, and graffiti on walls. He introduced me to a drink called Pastis. It was like candy cloud water. We danced. Walked home.
One night, we sat on the banks of the Seine. We drank a bottle of wine, my shoe fell into the river.
Near the apartment we stayed at, we got surrounded by a group of Algerian teenagers. One, a very pretty boy, stepped closer; his eyes moved up and down. He pointed to my bare foot, said something. It sounded like flirting. I smiled at him, shrugged. It was clear that he, too, wanted to make out.
Suddenly, the energy changed. Someone grabbed me from the back. Two teenagers held my friend. He yelled to just give them my purse, don't fight them. The pretty boy, his liquid-tar eyes still fixed on me, held out his hand. I handed over my purse.