In Greek theatre, when a narrative gets trapped in its own corner of the story, storytellers would normally apply the Deus Ex Machina — god from the machine, where characters playing as gods are literally brought onto stage using a machine to resolve the impossible plot hole. In Avengers: Endgame, it was the time travel plot.
As a Thespian, you’ve always wished for one whenever it gets too unresolvable. What could go wrong with a little divine intervention, right? You don’t call yourself religious, but you’ve always felt that He is on your side because you were born on Christmas Day. Now that’s a fallacy.
That’s what you wished for in 2018 when you were head over heels for this boy who wouldn’t even adjust their time for you. You wanted out — so badly — but you couldn’t. Red flags are invisible when the wind is blowing to your direction, right? You endured and hoped that maybe all you needed was a Deus Ex Machina.
And boy you got one. When it was getting too much and unresolvable, all of a sudden there was a secret boyfriend halfway across the globe. Naturally that would have made it worse for most people, but you, you felt relieved. You didn’t want the responsibility of saying goodbye to him then suddenly, you’re now forced to. You wrote a little Twitter thread about him, and now you have thousands of Twitter followers because of that. Deus ex machina on steroids.
See, I know you wouldn’t know what to do if the boyfriend didn’t magically arrive on stage. The narrative was set to go downhill for you. It was going to be messy. You lost control and an intervention was warranted. Then snap. All was fixed.
That was three years ago. You stopped hoping for one — even after a painful break-up and a global pandemic. Things were bad but they weren’t unsolvable. You’ve gotten more reasonable with subplots; you don’t write your characters (yourself) into unescapable stories anymore. You’ve become friends with the exposition. You now know your way out, or you now know how to figure it out.
Until this boy who had no single clue that you’ve already written two letters about him.
You met him by chance on a random trip with friends. Weeks later, you saw him again at a mutual friend’s birthday party and you both got to talk. You started hanging out. And some more. You started questioning this plot. Everyone called him shy and quiet, you called him a big mistake and waste of time. You will never need another intervention, so you said.
I told you it was going to be bad. You had to shut off mutual friends in fear of having to explain what happened, or what didn’t happen. You had to leave your safe space because he was in it too. Every small step you took towards recovery, it felt like the Universe was playing tricks on you. You would be okay for a few days, and then all of a sudden he was in your dreams. Or he was in one of your friends’ Instagram stories. And back to square one.
Then something happened. I had thought my recovery was going to be like that for a much longer time. Suddenly I wasn’t thinking about him anymore. Suddenly I feel safe in my head again. Suddenly I realized I didn’t need a Deus Ex Machina: in itself an intervention. One day I woke up and I forgot how his voice sounded like.
So, when the intervention did happen — a story for next time — it wasn’t a usable plot device anymore. It was a chapter too late. It was the last season of Game of Thrones, an unnecessary end. I thought it would sting, but it didn’t. There was relief, there was comfort in knowing, finally, that I didn’t imagine things in my head.
In retrospect, I wasn’t really recovering from him; I was recovering from my own doing. There was a sense of betrayal. Why did I let that happen? Why wasn’t I careful? I was gaslighting myself for the most part of my recovery. My story didn’t need an intervention; my protagonist just found a reasonable resolution.
I can’t say I’m fully recovered yet but I’m glad I now have the strength to write sequels again. I was scared that that plot hole would have caused so much damage in me but maybe I had just overreacted — as I did when I felt things for him. A reset was warranted, call it a writer’s retreat. And boy, I’ve got new stories to tell.