Nicole Haroutunian’s work was featured in Issue #9 of Newtown Literary. Below, she discusses her story “In the Morning” and how she wrote it around her friend Lindsay Sullivan’s song by the same name, which you can hear on Spotify or buy on iTunes. You can read more of Nicole’s work at NicoleHaroutunian.com.
When I needed a few song lyrics to put into a character’s notebook for a short story in my book Speed Dreaming, I knew I wasn’t equipped to write them. After a few mortifying attempts, I texted my dear friend, songwriter Lindsay Sullivan, who was at JFK, waiting to board her plane back to L.A. after a too-short visit to New York. Before she even took flight, she sent me back two perfect verses.
So when Lindsay released her most recent EP, Cross-Constellation, I wanted to return the favor. She didn’t need a short story for her song like I need a song for my short story, but we were both excited by the prospect of a reciprocal effort. I listened to the album’s first track, “In the Morning (E.S.T.)”, on repeat, jotting down phrases and images that stayed with me.
I started with the title. Because I first met Lindsay when I was living in Williamsburg in 2003, the story began to take shape on a morning in that time and place, back when The Bagel Store on Bedford Ave. was the spot to grab Saturday morning breakfast. The next line that struck me was this one: There was a time when the rocks bit the tides / and a shark came so close / pulled me aside and said whoa, it’s a warning. Fourteen years ago, the way to get to the East River was to duck through a chain link fence at the end of North Seventh Street. I braced for the worst and said whoa, it’s coming. I thought the protagonist, a young woman in a new city, a new job, a new relationship, would spend the story anticipating disaster, but not necessarily doing her best to avert it—isn’t disaster exciting, sometimes, when one is 22?
My Williamsburg phase lasted three years before I landed in Woodside, Queens, where I have spent the past 10 years and counting. Lindsay held out longer in Brooklyn but went much further when she left—all the way to the West Coast. The characters in the story head to a mattress store on Queens Boulevard, hoping to equip their new life together with some sort of comfort, but wind up sharing nothing more than a paper cup of coffee under the rumblings of the 7 train and later, tossing and turning on a cheap consolation mattress, dreaming of sharks and riverbeds. It is hard to know at the end of my story if the couple is going to make it, but listening to Lindsay’s song, I think that at least one of them will, one day, make it to L.A.