Excerpt: 'How Should a Person Be?' by Sheila Heti


From N+1:

That night, after spending several hours staring at my impossible play, I finally decided I would tell the theater to pull it. I had been laboring on it for so many years, never getting any closer to making it a thing of beauty. It resisted my every advance. I got up and left my apartment in frustration and went out to a party to celebrate three more books of poetry in the world.

The party was in a wide and cavernous room with a stage up front and the ceiling painted brown, hung around the sides with brown velvet. A large disco ball rotated in the center, and everything was polished wood, semi-formal and awful.

Standing alone by the bar, I wondered if I could love the boy I noticed at the end of it — the one with the curly brown hair, who looked like a washed-out, more neutral version of the first boy I loved. When he stepped outside onto the front steps, I thought, If he has gone out there to smoke, I will love him. But when I got outside, though I could see a cigarette dangling from his lips, I did not love him.

I went back inside to get myself a drink, and was standing by the bar when a man, slightly taller than me, stepped out from the crowd and moved toward me. My stomach lurched. I turned away. I felt so attracted to him, I couldn’t let myself speak. I knew him: his name was Israel. This was a guy whose girlfriend I had complimented the year before, running into her on the street and saying, Your boyfriend is the sexiest guy in the city. Later, when I learned that she was mad at me for saying this, I got upset. I had genuinely wanted to compliment her!

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