Behind the Titles: A Closer Look
at What Becomes of Ours, an Afternoon Short by Jeremy Broyles
Featuring ELJ Publications’ April Jones and Stephen Barry
APRIL: I definitely felt this piece was outside of my comfort zone. My initial impression was “Um…,” but once I got over the initial reaction, I found the writing was solid and paced well. Though, for me, the real reaction came with the wife’s heartbreak at the end. I found the irony sharp but beautiful. After all, the open marriage was her idea, and her realization at the end was an eye-opener. Of course, the ending could be read in a completely different way. Whether it’s regret or sadness, the reader can’t be sure. I’m sticking to my interpretation of her insecurity and her lack of control in the final moments of the piece.
Overall, do you think that this piece is trying to make a statement or just show us the complexities love/getting older/feeling insecure?
I loved the connection between the flowers the husband buys at the beginning of the story and it’s foreshadowing of the last moments the couple interacts. It was well placed and subtle.
Do you think the topic of open marriage, was the right setting for the emotions flowing through this piece. I have to admit, I was pretty taken-aback in the beginning of the piece.
STEPHEN: I agree with you about the writing. There were a number of subtle bits that gave hints about the characters which I found done with a deft hand. The husband’s liking of “trails” rather than “streets” hinting at a longing to be a trailblazer or frontiersman but still within the confines of the city. Also the door of their home – scarlet door with cream trim. A bold burst of color but surrounded by middle class conformity. Even the birthday celebration had its middle class conventions. Would you have expected the bold polyamorous to have ice cream cake? And why is he so upset by the drunken poet who makes people uncomfortable. Despite the appearance of “sin” they are so very conventional.
For me the discussion of boundaries between the husband and his friend was important. What are boundaries and how do they define us.
As much as I enjoyed the strong writing of this piece, I wish it had either been a bit longer (exploring the wife further) or a bit shorter. On first reading I was a bit disappointed at how the story ended, but in retrospect and upon a second read it was exactly right. There is no ending. Rather there is a confinement within the “boundaries” set by society or more likely the individuals sense of “self.” What I was reminded of more than anything else was friends I knew years ago who took themselves much too seriously and were so intent on proving how advanced and sophisticated they were that they ended up with lifestyles rather than lives.
Do you believe his love for Clarissa is dying or do you believe he has become the role he (and she) created? Both parties made choices and perhaps now, on the 39th birthday – the end of youth and cusp of middle age, both are becoming aware of the consequences of the choices they have made.
APRIL: I agree that the conversation between the husband and his friend was key. I also agree that the piece could be a bit shorter, but then, if it were, we wouldn’t be reading it as an Afternoon Short.
As for the husband’s love for his wife, I think it’s both. I think that by living up to the role that she created–that to her in her youth sounded romantic and made total sense, it probably helped her cope with such a big commitment, meaning it helped her to feel less trapped, but she still got to belong to him– it caused their love to become what she feared: lessened and superficial in the worst way. I think that it takes her all that time and rejection to realize that she’s spent years trying to be loved only because of the way she did it she ended up giving up the love that mattered to her most. If that makes sense.
I do think that he’s totally oblivious to what’s actually happening in their relationship. Which only worsens the blow to his wife. It’s really quite heart-breaking. It would make sense to me that eventually his girlfriend is going to want him all to herself and his wife will be trapped by her own logic, that he should be with the people he loves. And, I think his wife sees that. Thus I feel like the birthday party is a cusp, but not of youth but rather the beginning of the end for the wife.
What do you think?
STEPHEN: You are making me wonder. I viewed the husband’s girlfriend as a bit of fluff but maybe you are right about her successfully taking him away from his wife. But I don’t think his love for his wife is any less. I get a feeling of his wanting out of the lifestyle- whether it is because his wife broke the rules by falling in love with his friend, whether it is shame/confusion over the threesome, or aging but it does seem he wants out.
For me one of the tests of a successful fiction is whether or not it sparks thought. Using that test this was a successful fiction for me.
My overall thoughts on the story is the writing is solid and the story itself did lead to thought concerning the future of these characters. While not for everyone it was a well crafted short story.
APRIL: What I enjoyed most about this piece is the emotion. It’s so easy to care about the characters, and you feel their loneliness. I agree that this piece is for select readers, but it’s beautifully written and worth the read.