Long Distances (The Only Love Story I Have)

Hey guys. Been a while since I checked in just for the sake of checking in. It’s past midnight on a surprisingly lovely Sunday (Monday?). I may have spent the last half-hour blog-stalking some of my poetry idols (as you do). I’m in the sort of mood where you want to ravel on a thread, and I’d rather do it here because this blog needs some love, and also I need to deliver on the “lit” and the “musings” of my subtitle.

So. Love. Last night we had another round of Hideaway, with (so original) the theme of love. People sang love stories. Spoke them. Made me cry a couple of (hundred) times. My friend Marvs turned up with his girlfriend, and they are adorable in the way that couples I feel should be–the kind of adorability that comes from two people who are their best selves, making each other better.

Also, I realized something.

Last night I realized there’s a difference in the way people who have experienced love talk about it–write about it, sing about it–from those who have only dreamed of it. #Hugot traffics in the clichés of the unrequited, while the real thing? The real thing is often  horrible Pokémon jokes and audio love letters and retellings of a life’s story framed from the perspective of the years he gave you. I’m pretty immune to #hugot because it’s so popular now, but real love still gets me. Every time.

I don’t have a real love story. Not really. But last night I tried to add to the score of authenticity by telling the best story I had that comes close to one. I sang a song about a city I loved, not for itself–because to be honest it’s too new, too chrome-plated and luxury-decorated and, forgive me, but who cares about Disneyland?–but because the one time I was there I could only ever think about one person.

I have never been in a long distance relationship, but I fell in love with long distances because one boy, with a Hong Kong British accent, looked at me and said I was as beautiful. It was the first time someone I crushed on (a shallow but, I suppose, technically accurate word) said that to me, matter of fact, like I was the sky or a sunset, and that was the first moment I felt anything like love coming from someone who wasn’t God or my mum.

In actuality, the story of him and me became something that was sadly more conventional and embarrassing: the tale of a naïve girl who hoped too hard and a charming boy who played his cards too well–the Jake Gyllenhaal to my Taylor Swift, whose mark on my life was equal parts “Treacherous” and “Sad, Beautiful, Tragic.” There have been boys who have tempted me and boys who have made me fall, but this boy–maybe we should call him Jake?–is probably still the closest I’ve ever gotten to someone who was both.

I call him my “one big college love,” and while that’s probably an over-romanticization of everything, it’s also somewhat true. Before the crash and burn and pathetic lingering with its multiple attempts at closure (a pattern with me that I’m hoping ends now that I’m turning twenty-three), there was something.  Maybe not a something that ends with me getting chosen, or even a chance, but it was enough to hang my inspiration on.

He was the closest I’d ever gotten to a love story, so I wrote him into them. Poems. Stories. Letters. I even tried to launch a “Twitterserye” (after my thesis mentor) based on fragments of how I’d fallen for him. The day I’d found out I’d won a national love letter writing contest with a letter I’d written to him, I was in Brazil and me and my then-crush were having cake to celebrate and though then-crush was (and still is) the most gorgeous dude I have ever seen in my life outside of Tom Hiddleston…all I could think of was if I should tell “Jake.”

High on cake and the fact that I’d actually won something, I did. I Facebook messaged him. But before I could say anything, he told me that he had some great news–he was in love. He had a girlfriend.

Before you start shouting “HUGOT!” please know that statement actually hurt a ton less than it sounds in writing. Honestly, I didn’t expect to become his girlfriend. I even wrote that down in the love letter, used four pages of university yellow pad to say that I didn’t expect us to ever be anything more than what we were. Even then, I knew our love story, for all of its literary potential, would eventually devolve into what it became.

But even after how it “ended” (really, there was nothing to end), Jake is still the first person that pops into my head when I need to write something about love. A friend (who I used to like) joked at a poetry event that I was his “contribution to the arts” because I wrote six poems about him. The boy I liked after him got a short story and nearly a whole #NaPoWriMo blog.

But, as you can see, I’m still writing about Jake.

The last poem I wrote about him is dated over a year ago. It’s on this blog, if you’re feeling like digging, the title reference to a song by We Are Scientists that he used to sing when he was teaching me guitar. The Jake who walks around now isn’t anything like that poem suggests, truth be told. Maybe he never really was, because when you fall for someone and turn them into words you sort of make them convenient fiction. I think I can accept that, but I’d like to believe, even for a just a little while longer, in the Jake who loaned me a copy of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin despite barely knowing me, just because he saw me post a quote from it (you know the one) and had to comment, excitedly, in all-caps, “YOU’VE READ CCM?”

I’d like to believe there was a Jake who told me “You’re beautiful” in a way that has me carrying around that statement in my head ever since.

Last night a poet I respect turned to me excitedly and said, in the vocal approximation of all-caps, “You like Hamilton?”** For a split-second the light in his eyes reminded me of what the skyscrapers looked like at night, when you’re looking down from Victoria Peak.

“There will always be that boy that every boy reminds you of,” my friend John B. said, earlier that evening. I don’t know if Jake is that boy–I don’t think what we had was “love” enough to justify that–but of all the stories in my world, his is the one that comes closest.


“Do I really need to tell you anyway?”



**I do, and the line I forgot from “Wait For It” was “Love doesn’t discriminate/Between the sinners and the saints/It takes and it takes and it takes/And we keep loving anyway.” You all need to listen to the Original Broadway Cast recording. You will thank me.



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