Amour, You Stupid Thing

August 4, 2014
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On a pink beach towel spread upon the sand lay a tanned girl of 17. She turned heads wherever she walked, possessed a certain untouchable charm, had full, soft lips like a cloud, and had never kissed a boy in her life. She could seduce effortlessly with her eyes, dark and shining, but only with handsome strangers she passed on the streets. She was an unconventional beauty with charisma and smarts, but in such a way that made her an enigma to her peers. In addition, her parents had immigrated to America from a foreign land, and her ethnicity was never fully confirmed. When she was 16, she became entangled in an innocent friendship over the summer with an Italian boy. To her stifled dismay, it never amounted to much more. That was the extent of her love life. As it were, her story was never one about romance. Yet still, she was amused and curious by those who’s lives were about it, and she liked to pretend sometimes that she was one of them.

That day on the beach, he looked at her with sparkling eyes. They were bright, clear, shining. They had a joyous life in them, intense and light, that was apart from the casual manner of his words and movements. When Anya’s eyes met his, she greeted the warm spark that fired with a thrilled detachment. Around them, their friends’ conversation drifted off into a happy bartering of petty words. She only held his gaze for a second, before tilting her head away, laughing at something someone had said. His girlfriend shifted under his arm, leaning into him. Jay obliged without complaint, but his piercing eyes hovered on Anya. They paused at her warm cheeks, where a flush of rose bloomed. They paused at her smooth hair, which flowed over one shoulder and shivered when she moved. But let it be said again that this is not a love story.

She had been in similar situations countless times before and every time it was the same. A boy would notice her, take interest, and make her heart flip. In the beginning, the flips were tumultuous things that shook her and made her swoon, dreaming of what could be. But as every instance resolved to nothing more but a bewildered amusement for her, the heart acrobatics became a part of a worn routine she knew by rote. For example, later that day, as she sat out on the deck reading Tender is the Night, Jay came out with his Canon film camera and began to photograph her. She smiled shyly and laughed, as rehearsed countless times before. When he photographed her again, from another angle, and once more, up close, a warm, fluttering thrill rushed to her fingers and toes, right on cue. The flat emotions that always ensued felt overused, but regardless, they were there.

It was all so typical and all too tired. She hated herself for always playing along, yet she was helpless in stopping the rose-colored rise of hope that made her do so. A penchant for the dramatic, the sentimental, the mysterious, and the fantastic left you with only that – a stubborn sense of hope, sincere and unfulfilled. She never let herself think about exactly what it was she hoped for. She knew already. One day, she told herself, she wouldn’t feel so foolish for wanting to be loved.

Then she’d sigh and another thought would whisper, biting and sober, “How old-fashioned of you.” She didn’t know what was sabotaging what: the modern culture of casual hookups she grew into, or the anachronistic ideas of love she once believed in, neither of which she actually experienced, only pondered and moralized. Anyhow, getting involved in either was uncharacteristic of the Anya people knew, and of the Anya she knew herself. The realm of men, or rather, boys, remained a distant thing that couldn’t be her reality just yet, something to concern herself with when she was older, like taxes or job interviews. But if she were honest, she would notice how badly her heart ached. It was an ache that trembled like the sea on a moonless night, wistful and deep but virtually indiscernible.

Anya was a girl of 17. Her life on the whole was not about romance. She still couldn’t decide if she hoped it were one day. Over and over, she asked herself with a grave face,

“Am I cynical, because I know that reality kills romanticism? Or is that why I’m immensely romantic, so that I can survive the truth of reality?”

Then she realized she was getting too philosophical again and told herself she needed to stop thinking so much. She knew she only became that way because she spent too much time by herself. Amour, you stupid thing, she would murmur. You make me look lonely.

Meanwhile, her life went on. She closed her book and turned around. Jay took another picture.

“Hey you, don’t take pictures of me,” she told Jay, pretending to pout. “I’m not photogenic enough to waste your film on and you’re making me uncomfortable.”

The air around them was golden and dusty as the sun slipped under the sky. A warm breeze wheezed by. Anya’s acrobatic performance was well underway. Jay paused to look up then said,

“It’s okay. You smile when you’re uncomfortable.”

She chuckled softly, wondering whether the butterflies in her stomach were the instinct to barf or the instinct to swoon. Moreover, she merely thought it interesting for butterflies to be there at all.

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