Lissy’s Romance Recommendations [Part 2]
“I love you.”
One of my writing teachers used to say if you have a story in need of more conflict, throw in a scene with a dinner party. I think Phoebe-Waller Bridge would say the same, adding that it doesn’t hurt to have four people walk away with bloody noses before the wine’s done. I watched both seasons of Fleabag in two days, luring my sister away from studying for the bar with pleas for one more episode; it is to this date my biggest failure at being a good sister. Yet I remember being in the family room watching the final episode with her, wishing I was alone; it felt too private to be in the room with other people as I watched the priest walk away from that wretched bus stop and out of our (my) life. Love is not always patient. Love intends to be kind but can be self-seeking, can anger, can keep a long list of supposed wrongs. Love can fail. But my love for this show never will.
And when I love a show, I must consume everything around it. Like when a pastry tastes so wonderful, you’re tempted to eat the packaging. And I loved Fleabag. I read all the reviews; the article about the significance of the fox; the memes about hair being everything, the Andrew Scott interviews where he is unfailingly kind and humble, always blushing. My favorite discovery was the Fleabag/priest fan videos on Youtube. They are so carefully done; the connections they draw so considerate and detailed. One of my favorites takes clips from the show and matches it to a Deptford Goth song, “Feel real.” It draws so many parallels in the second season I hadn’t seen the first go around.
How Fleabag’s inhale of breath is later matched by an exhale of his against the same brick wall at the restaurant where they first met; the matching looks between them and how long the looks last and who blinks first. Each time he hands her something, a Bible, a drink—matched to all the times her hands are full around him. He points and she picks up a drink. He gives and she learns to accept, and then to hold, so that one day she can learn to give back. The way they both say, “fuck you then” to each other before rounding a corner so that the person turns to find them smiling, so it sounds more like I like you, I’m interested, I’m here and then, I love you, I’m going, I’m gone.
“I’m in love with you.”
“Snap out of it!”
It is odd to be of a generation where I’ve seen Nicholas Cage in National Treasure before Moonstruck. Every time Nicholas said, “I’ve lost my hand!” in the latter, I waited for him to finish, “But at least I’ve got the Declaration of Independence.” But that faded as the movie continued. Cher plays Loretta. She’s newly engaged, but she doesn’t love him; she even tells her mother this (Olympia Dukkakis, wonderful), who responds, “Good.” While her fiance goes to Italy to visit his dying mother, he asks Loretta to go to his estranged brother Ronnie (Nic Cage) and get him to come to the wedding. It’s not a simple request, and it doesn’t get any simpler as the film goes on.
The first time Loretta goes to see Ronnie, he asks for a big knife so that he can cut out his heart while she watches and report the scene back to his brother. She tells him that perhaps she should visit him at another time. Still there’s an interest between them. He’s all passion; she can’t be ruffled. They’re both a little sore from past hurt. The scene when Cher wakes up in Ronnie’s bed, she opens her eyes as if from a most dreadful dream and yells “Omg!” Then she whips the bed sheets around her and whisks into the closet with her clothes, as if she hasn’t spent the whole night lying naked beside him. She keeps yelling stuff out at him—about her bad luck, how she’s marrying his brother and that’s that, and in the midst of it, he peeks inside the closet door like she’s a kid who’s run away from a spill on the floor and asks, “What did you do?” His voice is so gentle.
Hers isn’t. She yells, “What did I do?”
He laughs. “You ruined my life.”
“That’s impossible!” She closes the door on him. “It was ruined when I got here! You ruined my life!”
I always rewind on the bit where he says, “What did you do? / You ruined my life.” He says it in the same way he later says “I’m in love with you,” like they are all synonyms. I’m in love with you. What did you do? You ruined my life. I’ve stolen the Declaration of Independence.
There’s nothing remarkable about Snow’s eyes. They’re a standard size and shape. A little pouchy. And his eyelashes are stubby and dark brown. His eyes aren’t even a remarkable color. Just blue. Not cornflower. Not navy. Not shot with hazel or violet.
He blinks them at me.
You know it’s wonderful having a crush on someone until it’s awful. Until you’re stuck in a room waiting desperately, holding your breath until they walk in. Then when they do, you freeze up, horrified, wishing they had never come.
I kept thinking about that as I read on through the cat and mouse game Baz and Simon were playing at in Carry On; batting at each other, waiting to bite or get bitten, eat or get eaten. Simon’s a wizard, the Chosen One. The one meant to save everyone else, even if it means he has to die doing it, and Baz is an almost certainly evil vampire magician whose supposed to kill Snow if he doesn’t die trying to save everyone. Baz is also in love with him, they’re in their last year at a magical school for wizards, and they share a room. It’s complicated.
I remember those interminable hundred pages when Baz still hasn’t arrived at school. It’s been weeks of Simon waiting for him, searching for him, asking everyone from the mage who runs the school to the wood nymphs in the magic woods where he could be. It’s so long, in fact, I went as desperately mad as Simon thinking, arrive, arrive, until Baz burst onto the page and into the dining hall. I nearly jumped out of my seat reading it like Simon did, as if I hadn’t been waiting all this time for him to come. As if I hadn’t hurried through 150 pages to get here. As if I needed more time.
There’s a part when Baz has just comes back. He’s finally there, sleeping in their shared room, and he goes, “I roll over onto my side, facing Snow. He’s sleeping so it doesn’t matter if I stare at him. Which I do. Even though I know it doesn’t do me any good.” Whenever I read that, I always think of this book I read once for a history class; I was supposed to be focusing on the depiction of women in an office environment in the 1920’s yet I kept getting hung up on the romance of it, of this shy girl falling in love with this whirlwind of a man, and when he leaves— when it doesn’t work out—she feels him following her on the street like a shadow. There’s this bit that goes, “She could not picture the imaginary man who walked beside her. She refused to permit him to resemble Walter Babson, and he refused to resemble anybody else.” I always think of Baz then, trying to think of Simon’s eyes as nothing more than an ordinary blue, nothing to moon over, nothing to dream about. Nothing at all. Meanwhile they refuse to be anything but lovely in his eyes, better than navy or violet, better than anything shot with hazel. Blue. And I think to myself, when does love do us any good really? When does trying to fight it do us any good either?
Pride and Prejudice
“Your defect is a propensity to hate everybody.”
“And yours,” he replied with a smile, “is to willfully misunderstand them.”
Of course I was always going to touch on this: the beginning and end of my romantic history lesson. I remember watching the movie and wanting to run my fingers across like pen on a page of my favorite poem. There are so many beautiful scenes.
The dance scene. I’ve already written about it; I could write about it a thousand times and watch it a thousand more—watch the way Darcy and Elizabeth move, as if there is a string tied under his rib connected to one tied under hers that keeps tugging them together, closer, closer. Sometimes I go on Youtube and search for that one scene just to watch it as its own standalone film. I scroll past the video with 3.5 million views down to a version with 50k; it has an extra 20 seconds at the end that are absolutely critical.
After Elizabeth and Darcy are done dancing and have bowed and looked at each in a bewildered fashion, the camera makes its slow amble across all the rooms, catching Mary embarrassing herself on the piano as her father goes over and nearly shuts it on her fingers, Lydia and Kitty giggling over nothing, Mrs. Bennet with a glass of sherry in her hands, hastily predicting the certainty of Jane’s wedding, before finally ending on Elizabeth. She’s hiding away from all the bustle and people and light in a dark room. She leans against the wall behind her like she can hardly hold herself up and only moves to take a ragged breath or a long sigh. You can tell her mind is moving fast between thoughts. What was that? What were all those questions? Why did I even agree to dance with him? Why did I let him get so close, to touch my shoulder? Why did it have to stop?
There was someone I used to know, not quite a man but not quite a boy. He meant well or he didn’t, I still am not sure. Talking to him for some reason always reminded me of strip poker; with every turn, it was like taking off another layer and watching it fall to the floor. I used to always wish I was a smoker then, just for the excuse to go outside in the cold or the stifling heat—any extreme of temperature always sounded good after seeing him. Instead I would go into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror for a long time trying to see what he was seeing. Trying to spot the differences between who I was in here and who I was out there in the open, where it felt like the hairs on my arm were porcupine quills. Where I felt so close to hurting and being hurt.
Most times in the end, when I decided to just let it be fun instead of trying to make it mean something, I’d go to the bathroom and put a hand over my heart, trying to hold onto the moment, to hold it there in my heart, like pressing a stamp to paper; I wanted this message to be sent back to me; to be remembered. I wanted to hold on.
Of course I hope someday I’ll get to tell someone they’ve ruined my life and I’ve ruined theirs, and what I’ll mean is thank you; you’ve come late, at the worst possible time, yet I’m happy to see you; I love you, don’t leave me alone, stay. And then all of this binge watching—the books and clips and poetry—will just seem like training, like exercise, like preparation.
Lissy Fitzgerald is an English and Media Studies graduate from Northeastern University. She lives perilously close to a fresh pasta place in Somerville, MA. She is currently working on an independent magazine PASSAGES with four very cool, talented people. She is particularly fond of pranks, planning office parties, and trying to convince her family to participate in a murder mystery game.
PASSAGES is an independent magazine that celebrates the writing of young adults. We publish original work about the exciting and sometimes unpleasant in-between phases of adulthood. We’d love for you to say email@example.com.