“I thought about the things he’d said about her in his journal. The morning after they first kissed, when he’d spent forty minutes writing her a three-line email. The game of bowling where they got high in the bathroom, the way he’d described her collarbone and her smile and the first time he saw her band play in the basement during the storm. The first time they had sex and didn’t use a condom and the first time he came home with her for Thanksgiving and met her alcoholic mother and the discussion they’d had about it afterward. How he’d said he held her and told her it’d be O.K. and that he’d always be there. The bad poem he wrote for her and the good song she’d written for him. The time they thought she was pregnant and the time his grandfather died. How they’d said how much they loved each other and how they always would. How he worried he loved her more than she loved him and that she had a crush on a boy named Emmanuel. And I thought then of how he’d described things growing old. Growing similar, habitual. How he’d begun to wake up in the morning without rolling over to kiss her. How he’d started to resent the time away from his friends, her nagging habits. How he’d begun to look at other girls and compare her to the hypothetical. How’d she’d begun to ignore him, too, and how they’d gone along anyway for another six months, another year. How it’d ended and how he’d felt free and young and energized. But then how he’d begun to miss her. And doubt himself. And worry that they’d screwed things up forever. How he’d loved her, still, whether or not he understood it, and how, when it came down to it, I could never really compare.”
The above excerpt comes from a fiction piece written by Marina Keegan that was published in The New Yorker. Many said Keegan would be the voice of our generation if she hadn’t died in a car accident first. After reading this, I believe them.
These words spoke to me on a rainy, cold day in October when I felt like the world was folding in front of me. Having just come home from work, I slipped under my covers, where I cried and cried. It was the kind of cry that just takes you over, the kind that doesn’t ask first, but instead comes accompanied with deep, gasping sobs that make you feel like you’ll never stop.
Alas, I did stop, I had to. I couldn’t spend the afternoon desperately crying in my bed, so I picked myself back up using all the strength I had, opened up my laptop, and happened across this excerpt.
Marina Keegan did in 311 words what I wish I could do for my entire life. She summed up the good, glorious, soul-calming beginning of any good relationship and explained the soul-wrenching, slow fall of it into a dust of heartbreak.
I just got it, because I had been there. I’d been that girl that experienced those things. I’ve been with the guy who did those things for me. And before it started it’s slow decent into a world full of nagging, jealousy, and ugliness, it was good. So good that once it ended – perhaps six months or a year later than it should have – there was nothing worth looking back on but the good times.
It made me wonder why relationships are so universal to so many people but so personal at the very same time. She crafted the template of so many relationships that came before her and would come after. The magic of it, the dullness of it, the heartbreak of it. There’s a hope that arose within me, because the beginning is so good; the exaggerated lengths we all go through to say the entirely right thing, the soul sharing way you open up to a person and feel so confident and safe about it. But then there was the sadness; the end of the excitement, of the newness and the creation of strain and boredom that wears the relationship down.
I think once everything is said and done, if the relationship was real and raw and intimate, we all look back and wonder what it was we ruined and if it was all worth it. Friends will tell us that we are better off, we weren’t that happy, it wasn’t as good as we thought. We know better, though, because for a few moments of our lives, it mattered.
For a few moments, we were able to go home to our beds and fall asleep knowing we had something to look forward to the next day, something to distract ourselves from the dullness of our own lives. We had a person to share things with, to laugh with, and to conquer the world with.
When we inevitably get comfortable and begin to stop conquering and instead start bickering, we take things for granted. We start to look to other places and we move on.
Why do we do this?
I’ve been telling myself lately that I don’t believe in love. I’m not sure if I don’t or I’m too scared to. I look at the couples around me and I see the dullness, the nagging, and I think to myself that these things are just not worth it. The thing is, I don’t get to see the moments of clarity, the closeness they feel when they open themselves up to the other person and are accepted for being exactly who they are—good and bad.
Until I read this, I forgot about those magical moments I’ve had in my life – and there’s only been a few. I’d rather not remember them, because then I start to miss the people with whom I’ve shared them, and that’s just too painful and scary.
However, I think there’s something to be said about finding another person to open up to and I think it’s this: It’s worth it. It means something. Regardless of how it may end, it’s what keeps us going, keeps us alive and saves us from the ugliness in life. So while you have it, cherish it.