Smaller Place: A lonely crofter’s cottage
REPORTER: Well, first of all, congratulations on your universally-applauded performance in Hamlet.
BENEDICT (quietly): Thank you.
REPORTER: Critics and audiences alike commented on the unprecedented melancholy you brought to the role; night after night, you seemed to draw upon stores of human emotion most actors could only dream of. How interesting, too, that your Hamlet really did not gain that kind of traction until the show’s second week. May I ask why?
BENEDICT (inhales): It was then that I found and lost great love, I think, perhaps, for the first time in my life.
REPORTER: You haven’t been linked to anyone seriously since the play wrapped, just, well…
BENEDICT: A different one every week.
BENEDICT: They mean nothing to me.
REPORTER: They’ve all been very beautiful.
BENEDICT: Some men might find them so, I suppose. No, let me be clear, all women are beautiful; beautiful and strong.
REPORTER: I’ve read your misandrist blog, you seem to feel very strongly about women.
BENEDICT: Oh, yes. Women are better than men, that’s obvious to anyone who thinks about it for more than a few minutes.
REPORTER: I’m sorry, I interrupted you. The models?
BENEDICT: Again, just to be extremely clear: all women’s bodies are perfect, just look at these Shapely Prose posts I have bookmarked in Chrome. But, to my very individual and personal taste, I simply cannot experience deep passion for a woman who has flat abs.
BENEDICT: Yes. For a woman to be supremely beautiful, she should have abs that protrude outwards in a more bulgy fashion, like Flo Rida’s. I think that, in purely aesthetic terms, a woman’s abs should say: “Hey, I work out a whole lot. Not just the pretty muscles, all of them. Maybe I’m working through some personal stuff, maybe it’s not for everyone, but I’m cool with it.”
BENEDICT: Yes, the perfect woman should be extremely pale, with bulgy abs, and very, very thin lips. She should have no facial features that would imprint themselves on the memory, and butch arms.
REPORTER: Butch arms?
BENEDICT (firmly): Butch arms.
REPORTER: How butch are we talking?
BENEDICT: I mean, I would NEVER, ever put pressure on my partner to lift, but if at some point it became difficult for her to shave her armpits because of her upper-body definition, that would be ideal. That would be a great goal to shoot for.
REPORTER: You’re clearly describing a specific woman.
REPORTER: Can you tell us a little more? This must be the great love you referenced earlier.
BENEDICT: During the second week of Hamlet, my publicist asked me if I could meet briefly with a fan. It’s a common enough request, and, of course, I dread it. But he said, “look, she’s written a bunch of odd, intrusive, sexual stories about you, and this brilliant, as-yet-unpublished scholarly monograph on two leading pieces of Mystrade fanfic–”
REPORTER: Do they share screentime?
BENEDICT: They do not.
REPORTER: …you were saying.
BENEDICT: Yes! I quickly read her work, and the rare purity of her wit and the warmth of her soul leapt off the printouts from Tumblr and into my heart and my mind and made a home there. “Let her in,” I said, hoarsely. “Please, leave us alone.” We only had twenty minutes. I fell deeply and hopelessly in love with her, I begged her to stay longer.
REPORTER: Why didn’t she? Did she not return your affections?
BENEDICT: She’s married. She’s married, and she has a child. I told her I would marry her at once, the instant she obtained a divorce. I told her that if she had objections to divorce, I would simply move in next door to her and respond instantly to her texts about her favourite television shows, her favourite 1970s singer-songwriters, whatever portmanteaus of doughnuts and pies and cakes are being created in the bakeries of Manhattan. That I would wait forever, just to help her trim her vicious cat’s claws, and ask nothing in return, except to sample the delights of her muscular body whenever her husband was briefly away from home.
REPORTER: But she refused to break her vows?
BENEDICT: I almost talked her into it that night. I said, “please, please, siren, lie down on this couch in my dressing room while the heat from our bodies melts the greasepaint on my angular, British form,” and then I kissed her.
REPORTER: That must have filled her with confusion and arousal.
BENEDICT: I believe it did, yes. She leaned into our embrace for but a moment, then fled. I have not seen her since.
REPORTER: Hence the melancholy.
BENEDICT: Yes. I thought of her every night, when I took the stage. I shall never love another woman.
REPORTER: I notice that you said “woman.”
BENEDICT: My encounters with Martin Freeman still have their charmingly shy and tender charms, yes.
REPORTER: What’s left for you, now? Where will you go from here?
BENEDICT: I send her emails every day. Long, thoughtful emails, discussing her work and its merits. Since I cannot openly retweet or favorite her Tweets, I write fervent missives about each one individually.
REPORTER: Does she write back?
BENEDICT: I know she cannot. Each day that she does not write back only fills me with greater ardency, for her loyalty and strong moral code is even sexier than the body I fantasize about while grimly making love to Miranda Kerr or Brooklyn Decker. I will wait for her until I die.
Benedict stares off into space, and ceases responding to the reporter’s questions. Graciously and kindly, she leaves him alone with his thoughts.
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.