Written By Aimee Lam
BIO: I read a bunch and write occasionally. - Website: aimeechristinelam.wordpress.com
I have never been able to write about love without killing someone off. I did come close once. Last year I had a creative writing class that met once a week. We had a prompt to write about love.
There was a girl in my class, Jennifer who wrote a love story. “This is not a love story,” it said. It was, however, and I envied her. It wasn’t a love story. It was a heartbreak story, but it’s the same thing.
Two months after a breakup, this was the last thing I wanted to write about, but I wrote about a boy and a girl. They strolled through a field in bum fuck, holding hands as he made empty promises. The premise of a lie was set from the beginning. He whispered sweet words in her ear as they dodged large piles of cow shit, but in the end his words are drowned by the mooing of cows. My teacher couldn’t hide her frustration, because I never wrote about love.
Now Jennifer’s story had a flaw. Her golden boy was perfect, so perfect that she was still in love with him after four years post breakup. Their relationship was also perfect. A boy and a girl in a beach town not too different from The Last Song. I’m talking about the movie with Miley Cyrus. I never read the book. But Jennifer’s love story isn’t the only one, so here’s my attempt at one.
In my story, there was a boy and a girl, and before they strolled through fields of cow shit they had class together. She was sixteen, and he was a year and a half older. She was a tiny girl with tiny shorts, dark haired and a cartilage piercing. He was 6’-2”, blue eyed and way too skinny. They sat next to each other, and he made her feel awkward. Everyday he called her nicknames. Things he told her he made up himself, and did she like it? She only smiled, never more, but sometimes she dropped her pen on her right side so that it rolled a foot and a half, only to be stopped by his white sneaker. He would smile at her and hand it to her. “Here,” he’d say. For a whole year they played that game. Teases, shy smiles and a rolling pen. Nothing more.
Now this boy and this girl got together, as predictable. Three years later they’re boyfriend and girlfriend in Lexington, Virginia, where he goes to school. She’s only visiting. She’s from New York, the city that never sleeps, the city of dreams, or the city of broken dreams, once you’re jaded. Virginia is weird. People are nice, and they say hi as you walk by. No one’s shoved her with a shoulder yet, and she doesn’t know what to make of it. She misses the smell of piss from her city, but no matter, because she’s missed him more, and they hug on his driveway. One can see the stars from there, because there’s nothing tall or bright to obstruct their view. She feels small. Not small as in surrounded by tall people, but small in the universal way. She feels like there’s a god and she can see, really see, that the world is round.
So here is the perfect part. The next morning after brunch in a tiny street they’re strolling through a field at the back of his house. His roommates are gone, and he thinks they’re giving them space. He takes her hand to help her through the fence, but she ignores it and hops over it by herself. I don’t need you was her undeclared statement. He liked that she pretended, but he had known her tears, and he liked that as well. He walks ahead and she watches him. He looks like a country boy in flannel, jeans, and Timberlands, but most shocking, it’s the beard he dons. When they started he was freshly shaven, because she told him that his stubble was rough on her face when they kissed. He shaved it off the next day, but over time, he’s taken it back.
They hold hands as they walk, evading obstacles. There’s cow shit everywhere, as big as car tires. Discarded blunts and cigarettes litter the floor. “Bunch of potheads,” she thinks. She hates his friends, but she’ll never tell him. They rest on a big rock, big enough for the two of them. She’s surprised at how well she fits in that nook under his shoulder.
“I’m thinking forever,” he tells her. They had passed their six-month anniversary. Mistaken fools, they thought their honeymoon phase was over and this was the real deal.
“I’d love that, she says. She meant it, and he probably did too, but young minds are fickle, though at the moment the promises seemed as permanent as the fact that the cows would continue pooping.
It wasn’t always perfect, and this is what Jennifer missed in hers. They had fights, because who doesn’t? They were banal, though, and perhaps not worth writing about. Fights over the fact that he was always smoking pot, fights over the fact that she was always jealous. She demanded more of him, he invalidated her feelings.
She never thought she’d say it, but one day she did. One night over dinner, perhaps because they had exhausted all topics of conversation, and maybe because his friend had called him and he ignored her for half an hour during date night, she said it.
“I hate your friends. They’re immature potheads.”
“I hate yours too. They’re sluts,” was his reply.
Jennifer was a blonde with dark red lipstick, though she looked much better when after two drinks she’d disappear into the bathroom and smear it off. There’s a part where she describes the New York bar scene, and how she leans into guy’s ear and whispers empty flirtations. I can see her dark lips moving against the guy’s ears. I always felt sorry for her, because I imagined Jennifer in a constant state of post-breakup funk. Of course, she must not feel sad anymore, because that would be too much sadness. I believe that sadness has its peak, and after that, it’s just empty.
The girl in my story saw it coming. One time, she was sitting on his couch, curled up in that nook while his dad watched hockey in the next couch. They were always watching hockey.
“But I’d make an excellent salesman,” he said after a City Furniture commercial. “I would get so much commission and be rich in no time.”
“You mean you’re a really good liar,” she said.
“Not a liar,” he said. “Just persuasive.”
“My son could sell ice to an eskimo,” his dad interjected. In normal cases this would be a red flag, but coming from a drunk with issues that far surpassed his children’s and wife’s combined, she took his comment with a grain of salt. Besides, she liked the way she fit under his shoulder too much to make herself aware of red flags.
He was persuasive, though, and maybe a little more. The distinction between lies, white lies, misinformation and repressed information is a thin one. The point is that he could sell ice to an Eskimo, and by the end he had sold her a bunch of ice.
Perhaps Jennifer felt that her relationship had been mostly good, otherwise she wouldn’t still be in love. But she also couldn’t describe the heartbreak itself. I can understand that she couldn’t write the heartbreak because it was painful. I have never been able to write in the midst of raw emotion. In moments when you head’s bursting with feelings that seeks to be put on paper for the sake of not going crazy. It’s never coherent, but perhaps heartbreak is never coherent. I’ll add the part that Jennifer skipped, because I imagine she felt it too.
She walked the streets of New York City. Sometimes there’s nothing left but a cliché: that image where a person’s standing still and the whole world keeps walking around them. There were songs she listened to summon courage, and songs she listened to keep the tears dry. It was always quiet, but at the same time she felt peace. And confusion, because she had always grown up believing that love moved mountains. She knew this had been love, because what else could it have been? But the mountains hadn’t been moved, at least not enough. It was a concept she couldn’t grasp, and she cursed her happy childhood for giving such false representations. At this point I can’t even talk about the boy because after he skipped out she never talks to him again. Jennifer’s couple split for the simple reason that they just grew apart, and so did this boy and girl. One day he thought forever, and the next he didn’t. It’s as simple as that.
This is the third love story I write with the same boy and girl, yet their fate is always the same. It’s not a case of déjà vu. It’s the case that there’s only one love story that I can write. Perhaps in writing it over and over I think I can change the futures, but I don’t know how. I contemplated killing one of them off, for the sake that their love ended by the hand of destiny and that they loved each other until the very end. But some things can’t be rewritten. Jennifer claims hers wasn’t a love story, but it was. It was a heartbreak story, and before there’s heartbreak, there’s love.
This boy and girl, they loved each other. They loved each other in those perfect moments, until they didn’t. It’s simple, like the process of melting ice.