Twenty years ago this week, I met a man who doesn’t exist.

Let me explain.

On Martin Luther King Day in 1991, I was a bored high-school sophomore. For reasons I don’t recall (but which probably involved either icy roads or another abysmal performance on an Algebra III test), I was stuck at home for the entire day. Casting about for something to do, I went rummaging through a closet and liberated a few records from my mother’s vinyl collection.

While I was listening to one of those records, I closed my eyes and conjured up a vision of a depressed has-been singer-songwriter wandering along a lonely beach, delivering an existential tirade to no one in particular, while a pretty young fan stood just out of sight, waiting for an appropriate moment to make her presence (and admiration for the singer) known — a revelation that would, of course, effectively end the man’s apparent midlife crisis.

I wrote my daydream up as a short play. It was pretty much crap — start with some Norma Desmond-style denial, mix in a double helping of angsty 15-year-old naivete, and express the whole thing in dialogue so hackneyed it would make Anne “Oh, oh, Louis, my dark prince” Rice cringe, and you’ve got the idea — but it didn’t stop me from falling in love with the main character.

I’ve been writing about him, in one form or another, ever since.

Happy anniversary, Morgan. Thanks for tolerating my poor attempts to commit you to paper — and thanks for refusing to cooperate until I had enough life under my belt to do you justice. I think we’re getting close to that moment, and I can’t wait to see what our next 20 years together will bring.


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