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How They Met and Other Stories (Borzoi Books) Paperback – December 22, 2009
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
It was my aunt who pimped me out.
We had this arrangement: I would get to live with her for a few weeks over the summer and take a pre-college course at Columbia before my senior year. In return, I wouldn't have to do a thing besides stay out of the way. It sounded like a good plan to me, except that when I got to Columbia on the first day of summer classes, I found that my course had been dropped. Apparently, there'd been a notice that nobody in my family had bothered to notice.
I thought Aunt Celia would be mad. Or at least concerned. But instead she said, "Well, this could actually solve Elise's problem."
Elise was a friend of Aunt Celia's who lived in the same apartment building. She had a six-year-old daughter.
"I'm sure you're wonderful with children," Aunt Celia told me.
This was an especially strange statement coming from Aunt Celia, who (as far as I could tell) considered the continued existence of children to be something akin to a plague. We have a picture we love to look at in my immediate family, taken right after my brother, Jonathan, was born. It's Aunt Celia's turn to hold him, and from the look on her face and the positioning of her body, you'd think that someone had asked her to cradle a ten-pound turd. Nothing personal against Jonathan--I'm sure she was the same with me. As Jonathan and I grew up, Aunt Celia always gave us presents to "save for later." For my seventh birthday I received a pair of Tiffany candlesticks. For my eighth, it was a matching finger bowl. I freaked out, thinking a finger bowl was meant to hold fingers. (Aunt Celia left the room so my parents could explain.) When I turned thirteen, Aunt Celia actually seemed relieved. She finally stopped maintaining any pretense of treating me like a child, and started treating me like a lesser form of adult instead.
"Aren't you?" she now prompted. "Wonderful? With children?"
I didn't know where we were going with this, but I was sure that If I had no reason to stay in New York, Aunt Celia would ship me back to suburbia faster than she could dial out for dinner. Even if I found a way to avoid being underfoot, she would be unnerved by the concept of me being underfoot.
"I'm wonderful with children," I assured her. Various instances of me "babysitting" Jonathan flashed through my head--we hadn't been allowed to have pets, so I'd often encouraged him to act like one. I thought it best not to mention the particulars of my sitting experience, which, at its most extreme, stopped just short of accidental lobotomy.
"Perfect," she said. Then she picked up her cell phone off the front table, speed-dialed, and told the person on the other end, "Elise, it's Celia. I have a solution for the whole Astrid affair. My nephew . . . yes, Gabriel. The one I was telling you about . . . escaping my sister, yes. Well, it seems that his course has been canceled. And I happen to know he's wonderful with children. A complete charmer . . . Yes, he's entirely free. . . . I'm sure those hours would be fine. . . . He's delighted. . . . You'll see him then. . . . Yes, it's quite a loaded potato . . . . Absolutely my pleasure!"
She hung up and looked at me like I'd just been checked off a list.
"It's all set," she said. "Although you'll have to dress nicer than that."
"What's all set?" I asked. If I couldn't do it in a T-shirt, I was worried.
"Why, your job. For the next three weeks."
"Which is . . . ?" I coaxed.
She sighed. "To take care of Elise's daughter, Arabella. You'll love her. She's wonderful."
No follow-up questions were possible. With an air kiss and a trail of perfume, Aunt Celia was off.
I started the next morning at eight. My class was supposed to have started at ten, and I'd looked forward to the extra hours of sleep. Instead, Aunt Celia came into my room at seven-fifteen, turned on the lights, released a low-octaved "Be ready by eight," and left before I could see her without the compensations of makeup.
Even after I cured my early-morning dayblindness with two cups of coffee and a shower prolonged by ten minutes of tangential thinking, I still wasn't fully awake when I rang the doorbell of apartment 8C. I looked presentable enough in my button-down shirt and khakis, but my mind felt buttoned-down and khaki as well. I was already starting to resent my new job.
Aunt Celia's friend Elise was three-quarters out the door when she opened it for me.
"You must be Gabriel," she said. "I've heard so much about you. Come in."
Elise was one of those women who exercised so often that she was starting to look like a piece of exercise equipment herself. She walked around the apartment as if she were still on a treadmill, telling me about emergency numbers and people to call and when to expect her back.
"I really appreciate you doing this," she said, putting on her jacket and leading me down a hallway. "Arabella's back here."
Arabella's door was decorated with a framed copy of the unicorn tapestry from The Cloisters. Elise knocked three quick raps into the door, then opened it for me. I was astounded, but not particularly surprised, by the room that was revealed to me. It was everything you might expect from a fairly rich New York City girl named Arabella. It was designed like a Vogue version of Disney, with a four-poster bed and no-poster walls. Pink was the dominant color, with blue and green playing the major supporting roles. My attention was caught by a number of wide-eyed dolls relegated to size-order rows on a magisterial display shelf, as if they were about to take a class picture and had dressed for the occasion. This was the room I had never dreamed about as a little boy, and still feared now. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Best known for his positive, normalizing portrayals of teen relationships --- regardless of sexual orientation --- Levithan's stories focus on those longings that are the common denominators for the human heart. HOW THEY MET features matchmakers, chance encounters and broken hearts, in addition to the different kinds of love that exist between family and friends.
The collection begins with "Starbucks Boy," a hilarious story about the all-too-common experience of crushing on the neighborhood barista. Readers will no doubt identify with the self-aware tone of Levithan's narrator:
"Now, it has to be one of Starbucks's more brilliant marketing strategies to maintain at least one completely dreamy guy behind the counter at any given shift. This guy is invariably known as Starbucks Boy to the hundreds of regular customers who have a crush on him, and the glory of it is that he always seems just accessible enough to be within reach, but never accessible enough to actually touch.... He is, unlike most beautiful people you've ever encountered, friendly --- and you honestly believe it's not because that's a part of his job....[you] think that the way he says `good morning' or 'have a good one' or 'here you go' to you is a little different than the way he says it to anyone else. Or at least that's the hope.Read more ›
How They Met, and Other Stories by David Levithan is more than just a collection of eighteen tales written by the same hand. The author prefers to call them as "stories about love" rather than "love stories," and I agree. This anthology is a many-splendored thing, a testament to different kinds of love: first crushes, the love of family, coincidental meetings, set-ups, break-ups, and make-ups. The Memory Dance celebrates a marriage of forty years, while Lost Sometimes (previously released in the 21 Proms anthology) has someone looking for more in his relationship.
As he did in The Realm of Possibility, Levithan has once again captured multiple voices and made it seem effortless. He offers first-person, second-person, and third-person narratives, with protagonists ranging in age from their teen years to their twilight years.
Starbucks Boy was my favorite piece in this collection, with its sweet story of a six-year-old who knows what (or who) is best for her new baby-sitter. The Number of People Who Meet on Airplanes and What a Song Can Do also vied for my affection.
The stories are not connected, and yet they are: By their underlying currents. By what they envoke (empathy and sympathy, tears and laughter) in readers. Each story has a different piece of the heart; when put together, they make for the loveliest of puzzles.
How They Met, and Other Stories is recommended for teens and adults.
It's always awkward to review a collection of short stories. Do I review each individual story? Do I just review the overall book? Do I review some highlights? I think what I'll do is give you my overall feel of the book and then throw some random things at you that you might find intriguing.
One thing I loved about these short stories was that initially you didn't necessarily know the gender of the main character in each story. If you don't know the gender then you definitely don't know their sexual orientation. It shows how universal love is. Gender and sexual orientations don't matter. Everyone experiences love. I also liked the variety of the relationships shown. Reading about high school relationships as a 24-year old brings back nostalgia for such naivety.
Here comes the random. Miss Lucy had a Steamboat. Prom. Chance, luck, and coincidences on an airplane. Middle school crushes. A purely physical relationship. Family expectations and acceptance. When someone you love is far away. Alternate prom. Physics. The power of music. Unrequited love. Long lasting, routine love. Accidents create life.
I highly recommend this book. Devid Levithan is such a great author. If you haven't read Every Day go read that now! And read this collection of short stories as well! I give this collection a 4/5.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The collection of stories is amazing. I love each of the story. I just love how David Levithan create such wonderful master piece. I love it!Published 9 months ago by erin vinson
This master piece is a collection of your 18 realistic different stories and i find each of them really well driven.Published 9 months ago by Marie Tarango
This is a collection of stories written for Valentine's Day over a number of years. They are all, naturally, concerned with the beginnings of relationships. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Ignite
When you think about a book about romance, you think sweet, fluffy, fuzzy and emotional. But How They Met and Other Stories covered a whole spectrum of scenarios featuring love,... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence
I love the way he can make me forget where I'm sitting and so vividly see the scenes playing out from the page. Amazing story teller.Published 18 months ago by Rachel Simmons
I like David Levithan and originally fell in love with the Lover's Dictionary. This book is cute and has a wide range of love stories. People who meet on planes was my favorite. Read morePublished on January 29, 2014 by ALB