There was this badass coworker of mine, a teacher who skedaddled to Hungary last year. We chatted a lot between classes, in the halls of our school. Who knows where he is now (as in, I haven’t messaged him in a while, and he’s probably still modeling three-piece suits on the streets of Budapest, last I saw).
Something he said to me never left.
Before teaching a writing class, I asked, “Yo, why are stories important?”
He, a handful of weeks from leaving our school, in a Hawaiian button up, said, “Because,” with a wink, “each one of us is a story.”
What a guy.
This image comes to mind, because it perfectly sums up a feeling I, and many others, have had for a long time. We are each the stories we tell ourselves. How we get home. Where we are from. What we like and don’t like. Why we get up in the morning, or don’t. Add to these the stories we have read, heard and watched, and you have the total of the stories we tell ourselves.
Let us remember, none of these stories play out with as much intensity, with as much passion and risk, without as much recourse, sometimes even without success: as love.
I feel like that word, love, should always go at the end of a sentence, love. Or in the beginning, middle.
But, spinning with my words, allow me to think about today’s prompt. As I do, watch me run up against a wall.
What is my favorite love story?
I think of plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with its love triangles and marriages. Short stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, with it’s aphorisms. I think of novels, of TV shows, of operas, of paintings — my favorite painting in the world, Madame Kupka Among Verticals, in the MOMA, itself the result of an artist and his muse, of their falling in love.
I remember asking my father once, why are songs always about love? Being five years old, the only music I listened to was The Police, mind you. He must have told me something sensible, like, no not always. But the feeling that all songs, at least pop songs, are always about love has never left me, despite the answer. Look, even nowadays, every once in a while I’ll play a Billboard Hot 100 track for my students, and I’m amazed how each and every song is about a relationship. Check for yourselves.
Love is everywhere, in the air. Alan Watts, paraphrased of course, says something to the tune of, Love is us living.
Where am I going with this? Don’t you feel the gravitational force holding me toward a central answer to the central question? I admit, I am spinning a bit, but, fear not, I am spinning yet falling, too, falling towards, a meteor about to crash.
Well, what is my, ahem, favorite love story?
I don’t know! I don’t know. Or, I do. Everything, it would appear, that’s what I’ve been trying to say, there’s love in the middle, beginning or end or everything, love everywhere in the spectrum. That’s how I see it. It is pretty well understood by now that our stories mish-mash into one purple-pink glob story, a strawberry, passion-fruit smoothie with honey and dulce de leche ice cream, with lucky charms crushed up inside, and almond milk — what I mean is, all stories are one story.
There’s a Garcia Marquez line about bitter almonds and unrequited love, one would recall. Now that guy could write a line or two about unrequited love. Back on track . . .
Did I mention real life? There are true stories that inspire me. Happy ones, sad ones. Family ones, friends ones. As a high schooler, I even liked the stories of people who I kinda knew. As an adult, I’m interested in stories from complete strangers. So what’s there to say. A writer I’ve been connecting with lately sent me a travelog of his and his wife’s time in Argentina/Uruguay. Married a few decades, let’s put it. Now, this travelog, narrated by the wife, at the end has a note by the writer, who jots down a line to the effect of, “It was the perfect date.” Seriously? After so many years. That line warmed my heart! Yes, cheese it up, folks, warmed-my-bloody-heart, with wine and stinky goo so tasty.
Even religious stories are love stories. C’mon. Psalm 17:8: “Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings.” More than one timeless sexy line in these old books. Take, as another example, the Holy Quran 78:8. “And of everything We have created pairs. Heaven and earth. Night and day. Sun and moon. Shore and sea. Light and darkness. Her for him.”
Or perhaps this translated 1 Corinthians 13. (Best read out loud.)
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love is sometimes translated as charity in these lines. But I think the point is the same. Love, this selfless thing, esta cosa que llamamos el amor, I think, doesn’t have to do with the word itself, but all the other words that generate from it.
To conclude on some solid ground, I’ll end by saying, decidedly, this:
I turn up to my bookshelves, and in each bound story recall a love tale within. From within my mind, I remember movie upon movie, the thought that each involved a romance. On my computer, a system involving ones and zeros, there shout twos, all the love songs bubbled inside.
That, all in all, when it comes down to it — as each man, woman, child, and individual must pave one’s own path too — for me, each love story has been a sign, pointing in the same direction: forward, onward, chin-high, and chest-out, shoulders-back, and smile-wide. Your favorite story is your favorite story, is the story of you. And for me, too.
Mine is hers, a tale co-written with the one I love.