Last night I fell asleep under the influence of this strange and sweet liquor, Liquor 43 it’s called. Before I slept, the world was normal, but this morning it was surreal. The window was frosted over so I never looked outside before venturing out.
But I could swear as I walked down Maxstrasse, I saw ghosts. Ghosts strolling through the streets, ghosts whispering together as they walked past me. Something was terribly wrong. I had walked right into another reality – where all of them were dead, these people – all of them were spirits. Life was in monochrome, fading in and out like the reception from a 1986 Sony Trinitron – like the little one that used to sit in the living room when I was four. But in 1986, I wasn’t even born. These must be someone else’s memories.
Lost in thought, I never saw him sneaking toward me – a particularly nasty ghost, grey blood pouring from his mouth and the bottom of his ghostly eyes a well of dried tears. “Whore!” He was screaming. Was he screaming at me? He lunged at me and I braced myself for the charge. But it never came.
I can assure you it is possible to fall in love with words. The biggest complication is finding someone to attach these words to. People say it’s typical that a woman falls for love stories. I can tell you how this best of all emotions has been taken apart by stereotypical thinking, seemingly making it lose all of it’s magic. But to be in love, and to want to see a love story as it unfolds is still the best feeling in the world. To be able to describe it in words that can be ethereal and illustrative, wondrous and unconditionally felt, is even better.
People attach all sorts of meaning to words, and sadly, some people attach none. To truly be able to understand what a person says is the greatest magic of all. Of course, this is all in relation to love stories. So the question, why I like them so much? The theme occurred to me while I was watching ‘Silver Linings Playbook’. It shows a love story which is so different from the average love story; it shows imperfect people. And it is so good to watch imperfect people in love. I am usually dominated by the idea of a ‘perfect love’, with perfect individuals, representing the pinnacles of all of human attributes, presented in the best way possible; holy, brave, humble. I can blame this on watching Disney movies while growing up; but who hasn’t fallen through this trap of conventional love at least once in their lives?
In Silver Linings Playbook, both of our male and female protagonists are represented as flawed. Their feelings are a result of flawed actions which make them come together. Is everything a mistake or are mistakes in love just the way we see them because we want love to be so conventional all the time? It is never a story of her meeting him, ring on her finger, they lived happily ever after. The roller coaster ride of ‘getting there’ is the best part. When people are imperfect, they make mistakes. When they make mistakes, things go wrong. And the only way to prove themselves is when they make things right. That part is so amazing, proving what you can do for the people you love and what they can do for you.
The thing about love stories is that unless you’re brave enough to be in one of your own, you will never be in one. Why I like love stories is because I know they will hurt, they must hurt, otherwise it’s not worth anything. They will create storms in your life which you wished you’d never have to face and they will wake you up from the reality you are living in, just until your love story lasts. You can live inside a world where most things will seem like magic to you, where waking up in the morning will be something you want to do, where having moments of silence will be most wanted so you can let yourself relive everything all over again. And you will want to have words to immortalize your love, because there will be a time when you have it no longer but the words will never leave you.
Was it someone wise who spoke those words? I don’t know anymore. Today, on this dreary, grey, lowly day, those are the words which came into my head. Normally, I don’t like to write short stories. Stories shouldn’t be short, I think. Life is very long to fit into a short story. Words are too many to type to describe a typical moment. But what can I do? I don’t have time to write a novel, I don’t have the patience to write ten thousand words. But I really want to tell you something. On the other hand, I would like to have some advice also. One-sided conversations can be so boring. Why don’t you speak? Or do you want me to tell you what’s on my mind?
I am in the mood to tell a story today. It’s one of those days when you would curl up next to the fire, in a warm, red blanket, with your head on your grandmother’s lap. And she would tell you a story. All of a sudden, you become a child again. You feel safe, you feel warm. There’s hot chocolate to sip from, there’s the comforting sound of her voice. You have nothing to worry about. And then, while that voice has not even begun to grow dim in your mind, you grow up. And she is no longer there to tell you a story. You won’t hear anymore about the princess who was locked up in the tower and a prince comes to rescue her. You won’t hear any longer about the princess who was taken captive by the witch, and now the prince will never come to rescue her.
I had a grandmother who told me such stories. I could ask her why she did that, I could joke that I wait for that prince, always. I could tell her the princess stories weren’t good for me to hear. But I can’t. She is no longer here. And I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in life after death so I know she can never know. And I know I can never tell her. She won’t hear me because she is really, truly gone. I’m left with only a few memories of her. If I try, I can hear her voice. She sits next to me as I write this, and maybe for a few seconds my words can make her rise back to life. After all, what is the life I know but perception? Shadows can be a powerful thing.
But this is not what my story is about. My story is about someone I used to know a long time ago, a girl who was like me in many ways. She always wanted to do more, she wanted to be more. For so many years, she fought for the man she loved. He was her everything. He was the only one for her, she used to say. He was the one she could live with, forever. And never had those words more meaning to her than when she was with him. When you’re young, love is all you see everywhere. You love to live and nothing feels better than that. It is always spring in the mind. I won’t say heart because I don’t believe there’s more to love than infatuation of the mind. However, the girl I knew, she believed it was a matter of the heart, she believed in having a soul, in life after death, in God and belief. So to her, it was meant to be. Two people put on the planet, just to be together. And never had she known more need to be with someone like the need she felt for him. If I knew her then, I would have told her not to depend so much on this man, I would have told her there are more things in life. But chances are she wouldn’t have listened to me. You know the frame of mind girls are in when they believe they’re in love.
But hers is a sad story.
The guy she loved left her. Not only did he leave, he gave her scars she would never be able to forget. They would never heal completely. You see, one morning, after they had a long, long fight, she agreed to meet him at his home so they could finally try and make things better. It was a good chance, she thought. She was tired of fighting, of arguing and feeling hurt all the time. Plus, she also missed him. She wasn’t used to spending so much time without him. So they got in his car and drove to his home. It was a nice home, big and green, with gardens and flowers, near the stream which ran through the middle of the city. But it was a morning like this, grey and dreary, although in another country, in another time, so long ago. But it was the day all her problems would be gone and she could be with the man she loved so much.
Only when they got to his home, and they walked inside his room, it wasn’t at all like she imagined. He didn’t bring her there to talk about their problems or solve them. He brought her there for punishment. In his mind, it was over already. And he wanted an end that would be fitting. So ignoring her love, ignoring her humanity, he took what he never got from her before. He raped her. And there was blood in the darkness, but it didn’t stop him. It just drove him on. He took everything from her that day. And the worst part is, she sat next to him while he drove her home. And then it was goodbye.
So, with her spirit broken, with no strength even for tears, she had to go back home and smile through it all because she couldn’t tell anyone. She fought for this man, and this is what she got. And nobody should know but her, she thought.
Now, as I said, many years have passed since this happened. But this kind of experience leaves people with a different sense of intuition than others. For instance, when your sight is blocked and you have felt fear in the darkness, you are able to sense emotion better because you rely on your other senses, other than sight, and you rely not on words but from the energy you feel around others. Of course she is long over what happened to her, she learnt to deal with it, to live with it. It occasionally haunts her, I’m sure. Who wouldn’t it haunt, I ask you? It’s reasonable to assume it sometimes crept back into her mind. However, a few years after it happened, she left the place where she had grown up, where she had met the first man she had ever loved. She talked about how she could not walk on the streets there because everything brought back memories of the sunsets she had seen with him. The roads, the trees and even the color of the sky in the dusk made her remember. It wasn’t possible to live like that anymore.
But it should have taught her more lessons, she thinks now. She thinks she learnt nothing from it. It should have taught her about need; it should have taught her about controlling that need. It should have taught her about not falling in love, it should have taught her all the stories her grandmother told her when she was young were not real. There are no princesses, there is no prince. But she can’t help believing still. And no one can help. You see, people like her never learn, they would keep falling and falling. They would keep trying to turn their story into the one with the princess. It is possible, it is, they say. People like her, they have a flaw. Their belief for people is stronger than their belief for anything else. They imagine everyone to be like them, they imagine all darkness has a side which is bright, a sun for the moon, a flower for the thorn, that kind of thing. How to teach these people that just because nature is like that, it doesn’t mean people are like that? How to teach people like her anything… that would keep them safe, running no risks, keeping danger at bay? You can’t. You really can’t.
As I said before, she left her home and decided to find a better life for herself. She went to a place far away. The straight roads were replaced by mountains. The dusky air of the city changed into fresh one, like from heaven. Springs of water, streams and stones, freedom and nice people; that’s where she went. It was good in the beginning. It was exhilarating. But you already know, girls like her, they never learn. We talked about it before also. She embraced life again and that was her mistake. She fell in love. All her misty ideas about love at first sight came back to her. To fight for things you’ve already lost, nobody runs that risk, nobody plays that game anymore. But she did, she tried to have something that was clearly out of her reach. People could see, and they were confused you know. Maybe they tried to hint her away. But she was always too stubborn to believe in what was good for her.
She met another man after so long, who made her feel like she used to. Young, and in love, hoping everyday for the next one just because she wanted every next day to be with him. I guess she had never grown out of her childish way of loving a man. I can feel sorry for the man she haunted, day and night, with her silly words and her real wants. Can you imagine if a man would feel so smothered by that treatment? If only she had managed to glance out of her spherical tunnel of love, she would have realized what she was doing. She was driving him away, taking away the sense of his self. It was when her intuition failed. She was too happy, and that clouded the way she would have objectively thought about this new development. The thing about men is that they usually jump into things without thinking and they make themselves vulnerable. But soon after, they want to get out. It feels like a prison where their identity is withering away. I could have told her that but I was too far away. Should I take responsibility? Probably, I was her friend, her voice of reason, as I said in the beginning.
It’s like Virginia Woolf wrote, “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
She will always do as she chooses and she will continue to fall, every time. But it’s as I say, humans are resilient. They pick themselves up and they walk on. Yes, hers is a sad story, but she will walk on, I know. And maybe next time I can tell you a happier story about her.
All credit for the artwork goes to Lazarina Nedelcheva. Her original website is Zinaarts, and you can also find her on Escape into Life. Her work is in no way related to, or based on my story. I used it purely as inspiration for my piece of writing.