Posted in Short Stories

Deborah Eisenberg: What It Was Like, Seeing Chris

Deal Me In 2020 – Week 24

I was thinking that now he had finally called me “honey.” It made me so happy, so happy, even though “honey” was what he called everyone, and I had been the only Laurel.

The title of Deborah Eisenberg’s 1985 short story “What It Was Like, Seeing Chris” has a little play on words in that Laurel, the teenage narrator, has an unnamed eye disease and in a sense dates an older man named Chris. Interestingly, the word “seeing” has more than one meaning.

Laurel is a sophomore in high school and one Thursday a month goes into the city to see her eye doctor. Afterwards, she heads to a restaurant across the street where she meets Chris. He’s apparently there all the time.

At approximately age sixteen, Laurel becomes infatuated with 27 year-old Chris. On the one hand, Laurel seems to have the typical maturity of a sixteen year-old girl. On the other hand, Chris has the maturity of maybe a sixteen year-old boy (but he’s 27).

The story in some ways reminds me of Jean Stafford’s writing in that the narrator is a little quirky and a little insecure but younger than Stafford’s narrators. And as enjoyable as “What It Was Like, Seeing Chris” might be and while nothing “illegal” every happens between the two, the age difference between the characters is uncomfortable. Perhaps that’s the point.

On a minor note at one point, Laurel spends the night at her friend Maureen’s and they stay up all night playing the board game Clue. I couldn’t get past the fact that they were playing Clue with only two people – not exactly challenging.

This story is included in the collection Wonderful Town: New York Stories from the New Yorker edited by David RemnickI read it when I selected the Six of Hearts for Week 24 of my Deal Me In short story project. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.


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