I wrote a story about you. About us, really. It was almost a fairy tale, almost cute. I guess it was a love letter – probably the love letter I have never written to you.
Unfortunately, I made the mistake of removing it from our bedroom, so to speak, thinking it had some value outside the embraces of our romance. I read it aloud to strangers.
She swept past the open gate and whisked through the front door of her home, leaving the door spinning behind her and the latch unlocked. She then vanished up the stairs and into her bedroom. She fell back gracefully onto her bed. Her parents let out a sigh. Not a moment later the house went dark.
The girl had just been kissed. She was still in its hold, frozen as it were in its heat. She fell asleep in its arms.
The boy appeared at the gate. He slipped through, not knowing why nor if or should. He entered her unlocked carelessness and followed the same path – through the front door and up the stairs. He then opened her bedroom door a crack. He gazed at her shape.
His heart stopped and with this everything stopped even time.*
I sadly realize now that none of this was written to be read aloud to anybody but you as you are the only one I would feel comfortable with giving my words the kind of nuance or meaning I feel in my bones.
You see, it imagines us meeting a long time ago, long before we had actually met. It’s about us – or ostensibly about a boy and a girl who share a first love and therefore get into a shared altered state in which only the other exists. A feeling, I guess, unlike anything else except perhaps contemplating death, but that’s another story, and clearly not a love story.
Since it was only about you and I, I thought there was no need to describe us. The boy and the girl were literally swept away from the text. Their identities were insignificant. In fact, the danger of identifying them would be to interfere with our memory.
But just to give some sort of background. The girl would be about nine years old in the tale. The boy a bit older. And before the girl had swept past the open gate, etc., she would have been in a schoolyard where some cute boy had kissed her. Maybe she had dirty blond hair, with a sparkle in her eyes and a giggle around her lips and cheeks, a perfectly small nose, white skin, and she always wore jeans with a red sweater soft to the touch. He was taller than her, but not too big nor too strong nor too thin. He was fairly handsome with brown hair. All of this really escapes me because I actually know the color of your hair and the pure seduction of your immortal youth. And the boy is me.
One thing, however, that I must insist on is that the boy just described was not the one who kissed you in the park earlier in the day. Who knows or cares who that was? Our boy loved you so much that he wanted to see you flushed with the excitement of that first kiss, even if it was not his. He was trying to imagine where it all began, your incomprehensible and bottomless desire. So that’s why he entered your room. To see you in this state but to remain faithful to our actual first kiss.
I am in love with this story – the way I tell it, the way it unfolds, but most of all, the way it perfectly encapsulates how I feel about you, us, and especially how we had first met.
The boy stood there, frozen in time, planting a specific word instead of a kiss onto the girl’s lips, repeating that word again and again, there at the top of the stairs, until time regained and morning came and he was gone.
She opened her eyes and noticed a sprinkle of light coming through the bottom of her bedroom door. She called it Love, this sprinkle. She whispered his word.
You spoke perfect English when we met, though tinged with a slight accent, an alteration of sound that came from nowhere that I knew of. It was entirely of your own making.
She did not really know what this word had meant except she knew it had come from the empty hallway while she was sleeping. She did not speak English, but she knew it was an English word – Love – which she knew also to be the word for kiss. There was more to learn but the boy had already disappeared.
She began to make phrases with this word, relying entirely on sounds. From this came an entire language and a relationship to a language that was both familiar and yet entirely foreign. It had all begun with a kiss and it remained as such on her lips.
The mistake, I repeat, was to read this story aloud to others. It has forever tainted this love letter.
“Who is the girl?” They had asked in unison. “She is nothing to us. There is no description of her. Who is she? It is her story, after all.”
“And why is the boy in her room? Is he the one who kissed her? It’s almost perverted.”
“And it’s crazy, we have no idea what country she’s from.”
You know, I fall in love with you over and over again whenever I hear your perfect command of my language. Always tinged with that faint, otherwordly accent.
Where are you from?
Later, when she come to study translation, she spoke with almost no accent. For her, speaking was breathing. She moved to America.
“It reads almost like a fairy tale, for children? Why read a child’s fairy tale to us?”
It was indeed written like a fairy tale.
What is this story really about? Can I be honest? Even though I can’t help but believe in its authenticity, I also can’t help but believe that, at some level, it is entirely about me.
So much for it being a love letter …
There, when she stepped out of a movie theater, from its dark intimacy, and paused at the exit, and almost fell back from the rush of sunlight, she felt behind her a soft urgency: “What did you think of the film?” She could hear the English words, their familiar linguistic relationships. She understood their daily usage. They were well worn words, economical but sincere. And yet, because they were mixed in with the first sprinkle of daylight, they were more penetrating than usual. She could sense an insistence, a deep familiarity in them.
He then said that he Loved the film and very quickly everything stopped even time.*
I’ve interrupted our lovemaking. But that word. Love. It triggers everything. Doesn’t it? Where does it come from?
I should let the rest of story speak for itself.
His American accent and its utter meagerness of content somehow blended this simple flirt into something singular. It was like a first kiss. When she turned to the voice, snapping herself out of her imperceptible freeze*, she could not imagine who or what she would see.
This time, however, the voice did not disappear into the light. The man who had spoken stared back curiously at her, wondering what he had just said, or why, and if he was to receive any response. He had spoken before deciding to speak.
When they visited her country nearly two years later, and she had fallen asleep on the train from the airport, she was surprised but comforted to find herself waking up in her childhood bed, with he sleeping beside her. There he was, this man who knew nothing of her country nor of its language, who had somehow found her neighborhood and her home, and who had unlocked the gate and front door and carried her up the stairs into her bedroom. She remained thus in his arms.
* “Stopped or frozen time”: First you conceive that everything freezes in motion, a sort of romantic or threatening pause.
And there’s this part. How do you explain two lovers who choose to live together forever?
But if you actually examine the concept, it doesn’t work. Imagine, for example, an ice cube frozen in time. What happens to it when time freezes? Does the ice melt? To melt, it would need time, which has stopped. However, if the ice does not melt, and let’s say it was hot enough for the ice to melt, then what has happened to the temperature? Maybe heat no longer exists, or heat has no meaning or effect in frozen time. The concept of stopping time seems an impossible concept, one in which nothing – neither heat nor ice – exists in its normal capacity of existence. Further still, why does anything remain at all? That is, if heat is to lose its normal effects, why should an ice cube not also lose its shape? Wouldn’t it just come undone? Why wouldn’t everything simply come undone, evaporate? What keeps atoms – if they exist at all – together? Form should evaporate. Consider light – Why does light remain? Does it not need two or more moments of time to exist? Wouldn’t frozen time be completely dark, without any source of light – no sun, no artificial lights? No? But if we allow light to remain in frozen time then we are allowing some forms of motion, like light energy, but not others, like heat energy, to exist, which seems arbitrary. And finally, though not any less significant, there is the observer of frozen time, let’s say the boy: he must retain some notion of time in order just to perceive objects in frozen time. Otherwise, how could his mind grasp the girl smiling if it takes him more than a moment to move his eyes from one end of her smile to the other? Or is he at all conscious? Is he even capable of keeping a thought when there are no moments in which one can “keep” a thought. Yet, if we stop his thoughts altogether he won’t even be able to conceive of his own existence nor of any other object in time.
Even the boy should disappear.
We insist in conceiving of something like frozen time – or, as I write, “everything stopped even time” – using it as a quick descriptive device, to imagine a moment in which one could manipulate some aspect of reality or savor it. But it’s simply not possible.