Smoking With Leesa Cross-Smith

by Ashley Inguantaby Leesa Cross-Smith Read the Story September 23, 2013

Tell me about the beginnings of this story, how it formed as you wrote it.

Originally, I saw the man as almost a superhero-type. A video game hero, of sorts. I worked hard on humanizing him and making him vulnerable. When I create a new character, even a hard one, I like looking for the sweetness. I tend to write about soldiers, adventurers, strong men with big hearts. I tend to write about even stronger, independent women. Then I like to put those men and women together and complicate it as much as I can. I really wanted to put them together in a small space (but even the small space isn’t grounded or still, it’s rocking and floating,) throw in some summery sexual tension, hint at a tempestuous backstory, and go from there.

There is so much strong energy here in this partnership. The last line, to me, feels much like “the overgrown garden” of what was once not said, sprouting. Tell me more about her in this moment, this sprouting, the direction this pair is headed in.

Thank you, thank you for this kindness! When I pictured her writing sometimes we both fight in wars on the bathroom mirror, I thought—how mean! I think she’s being sorta awful in that moment. Comparing her emotional struggles to his actual physical ones—but not in any real way. I think she’s using it to say *pffft* well you’re not the only one around here feeling things. She gets a little drunk and brave enough to say it aloud to him, although it’s whispered while he’s sleeping. But it’s almost like it’s her last blast of fussing/fighting him off, before she can allow herself to become tender and open again and be honest with him about what she really needs/wants. And I think about him waking up and going to the bathroom and seeing that and really challenging her to explain herself to him. And through that—them coming to a place together where they can learn to love each other the right way. Because so far, they’re doing it wrong.

I wrote another story about this couple called “Is That Rain” and it was published over at Spartan Lit. That story time-frame occurs before this one, but still there’s the same amount of fumbling in what they say to one another, how they behave. I unabashedly love happy endings so I always think of them together/married and actually happy when I’m finished writing about them, but it’s gonna take awhile. I can almost see her proposing to him after he keeps her waiting too long on purpose. Once they grow tired of antagonizing one another, they’ll move on from that and find other ways to turn each other on. And maybe they break up a little bit in-between, but the unspoken parts of them feel a lot alike to me (their matching overgrown gardens, fecund with the same heavy, drooping fruits)—male/female parts of one complete piece; one flesh, so somehow someway they have to be together or they won’t be satisfied. But also they both want to keep a bit of mystery about themselves, which I think is important in a relationship, too. They’re completely obsessed with one another in the way I think you kinda need to be in order to want to marry someone/be with them forever.

If this story were going to become a short film, who would you choose to direct it and why? Who would you choose as the actors?

Maybe David Fincher because I think his nighttime scenes are so cozy and probably Sofia Coppola for the dreamy, girly, pretty flashback scenes of him returning home with treats. I’d go with Lisa Bonet and Jason Momoa for the characters because not only are they married in real life but they’re both kinda out-of-this-world beautiful and Jason has the same warrior/alpha male thing going on that my character does.

If you could tell him one thing, what would it be? Her?

There’s a song by Derek Webb that simply says “I was wrong. I’m sorry. And I love you.” I would tell them to say that to each other and mean it. Because love most indeed covers a multitude of sins. If you really love someone you have to let all of that nasty stuff go, forgive each other and just lovelovelove.

About the Interviewer:

Ashley Inguanta is a Florida-based writer and photographer whose work has appeared in Redivider, PANK, and The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review. She is also the Art Director of SmokeLong Quarterly. In 2010, Ashley’s story “The Heart of America” earned an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train for their Very Short Fiction Award. She is a former art director of SmokeLong Quarterly and author of three poetry collections: The Way Home (Dancing Girl Press, 2013), For the Woman Alone (Ampersand Books, 2014), and Bomb (Ampersand Books, 2016). In 2019 Ampersand Books will publish her newest collection, The Flower, about how death shapes us.