My folks, they left the TV on.
I was falling in love years before I ever met someone.
Like a prayer, you don’t expect an answer,
Though you ask for one.
Assured my love would come along–
Like a bird, and only I would recognize its song.
–Typhoon, “Prosthetic Love”
I leaned over with the sick feeling welling up inside my stomach.
On the television the characters said goodbye and did not kiss.
No, no, no. It’s not meant to be like this.
I’m a sucker for happy endings. The completion of the fairy tale gives me release, a sense of the butterfly bandage tightening closed on my heart. Like without that, what’s left inside me is some gaping wound.
I’m not sure when this began. Maybe it was the afternoon when I was 12 and the first boy I fell in love with led me up a ladder to the roof of my middle school. Gravel and blue skies.
I am afraid of love now. I think my fear is bound to what I’ve only just begun to understand: that love is not Love. That fairy tales are just fairy tales. That happy endings take work.
I thought I was smart. But somehow I fell into a trap that’s proliferant enough that I suppose we are all drawn toward it — in one way or another.
What I mean to say is this:
When I went to college, I met a boy who was unremarkable. He was not overtly generous or kind. His pursuits were deep and detailed, but mundane. His backstory was tragic but not incredible. He had occasional existential crises, which he worked through doggedly. He was okay with carving out a life of regular size. (Unlike me, forever the perpetrator of unreasonably large dreams and fairy tales.)
Unremarkable: I fell in love like a rockslide. Left with bruises and bloodied shins.
I believed in fairy tales.
My best friend fell in love like a whirlpool (she believed in fairy tales) and her love materialized. I felt myself begin picking holes in the hot flesh of my heart. She became proof of the real-world television love story that was so far beyond my grasp.
There was no way the boy would ever love me.
I have trouble watching TV shows. In every one, I become attached to a relationship, live and die by its highs and lows. I fall in so deep that I walk away from these shows feeling as if my own life has changed. They do me damage.
The past year has challenged me. Suddenly I am relearning myself. Relearning love and understanding that love is not Love. (I do not need to believe in fairy tales.)
I suppose what it comes down to is that years of belief are hard to undo. I thought the only lasting love I could ever have would have to look and feel like it felt with the boy. Dreamlike, miserable, feverish, impossible, beautiful. Endless. Tumbling stones and rips in my knees.
I know in my head it’s not like that. Even if it starts like that, it can’t live that way. All love is work. And good love, solid love, has its own magic. Something much quieter and more stable.
But some part of me wants the bleeding. I choose to live it out through the television screen.
I want to be happy — and it is a choice that I make. But I want to believe in fairy tales, too.
It’s a backwards take on the Book of Job.
His life was a wager, and mine’s a joke.
Give him what he wants, he will never know —
He’s tied up trying to let himself go.