I have been staring for a long time on the screen. My eyes are on the screen but my mind is miles and years away. Nothing seems to click in my head.
A hand came in front of me and the fingers snapped. Not really loud but it startled me.
“Juls, stop that!”
Juls, short for Julia, is the girl next door. Our families have been friends since I can’t remember when. We are in the same school and grade together. Sometimes it’s an advantage, especially when schoolwork and exams come around. Sometimes it’s an irritation, especially when she surprises me just like right now and make snide and sarcastic comments on just about anything.
She’s a fixture. She’s a nuisance.
“What are you doing? You’ve been like a statue for five minutes.”
“Can’t you tell? I’m writing a story.”
“Hahaha! What’s the story about, how to be a statue? Hahaha!”
Sometimes she gets on my nerves.
“No,” with some vehemence “It’s for a contest. The Willowsy Site is asking for submissions for stories. The winner gets a prize of Fifty Dollars.”
It piqued her interest. She has been writing since we were very young. We are budding writers and all that.
“Can I join?”
“Sorry, applications are closed. And I don’t have a story. Yet”
“I can help with that. I get prizes all the time.”
That’s true. She almost always wins. The highest I’ve ever come to a prize is second place. To her.
“No, you’ll ruin it” I said. “You have Barbara Cartland and Danielle Steel books all over your place. I bet you have a book in your backpack there right now.”
“Hey, you’ve been going through my backpack again?!”
“I don’t have to. I know.”
Mollified, she asked “What’s your story about?”
“That’s just it. I don’t have a clue yet. Maybe if you let me work, you’ll know.”
“Hmmpt! Okay, I’ll go over it when you’ve done it.” And with that “Himmpt!” she left. I saw a Danielle Steel book peeking out of the pocket of her backpack.
Over the next few days I tried to write my story. With little success.
She was reading aloud one of my less successful effort.
“…and she read the reviews of her performance. She was disappointed that the critic said that with that much effort, one expects a high note to the heavens, but instead they heard a squeak like a rat being stepped on…”
I was apprehensive but proud of my efforts at writing.
“Really, your writing doesn’t have any emotion. After reading it I would react with a ‘so what?’”
“Could you please continue?” I requested, “You’re coming up to the climax”
She continued reading.
“…so as she was trying to reach a high note, she looked up at the balcony. She saw a man trying to fend off an assailant, but failed, and was stabbed several times in the chest. So she screamed. Upon hearing her scream the audience stood up and clapped with shouts of ‘Bravo! Bravo!’ drowning her screams and her frantic calls. It was a command performance…”
Julia paused her reading. Then I heard her voice, a bit small, but unmistakable:
“So you liked it? Was it funny?”
“Yes, it was funny, in a slapstick kind of way…hehehe!”
“So, I can submit it?”
“Of course not!” she said, horrified. “It needs work and it doesn’t have that quality of a winner. You better try another story.”
The award winner speaks! Back to the drawing board for me. She does have an uncanny sense of the appropriate for writing.
A few days later I came up with another story.
As before, she was reading it.
“…and the moon rose up slowly. Romeo looked up to Juliet on the balcony, and began his song of love. Juliet’s eyes filled with mist, and looked at Romeo with longing. His voice was full and heart rending. And then, just as he was about to declare his love for Juliet, the moon fell on him with a loud thud against his head, and he fell flat on the stage half covered with the flattened moon, only his legs showing…”
Julia paused her reading again. This time I can clearly hear it:
“Hahaha…hahaha…hahaha! That’s funny!”
She was holding her tummy trying to stop the laughter.
“So, it’s alright? I could submit it?”
With some effort she said:
“Hahaha…No! Not to your contest. Maybe to a Jokes Magazine. Hahahaha!”
“What’s wrong with it?”
She stopped her guffaws, getting serious:
“It’s good comedy. But it doesn’t have the human element. Did you know how Romeo felt in their love story?”
“He loved Juliet. He was stupid. The story sucks. End of story.”
“No, no, no! You should do a little research into ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and see the motivation. Then the feelings. The human element. Only then can you write.”
“You mean you want me to write a tragedy? Why should I?”
“It’s one of the classics. If you do things right you are almost sure to win.”
“But ‘Romeo and Juliet’ has been done umpteenth times. The Plays. The Stage. The Songs. The Books. The Movies. It’s a boring topic.” I complained.
“Just do the research.” And dropping my story as she stood up, she left.
“Just do the research, she says” I muttered under my breath.
So I did the research. If I have to write about a love story for a contest, I have to do research. After all, it’s for the contest.
Shakespeare wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in the 1590’s. He got materials from various books, as early as the 1470’s. So in this sense, he re-wrote the originals, adding some of his ideas, and made revisions.
In brief, there is rivalry between the Montagues and the Capulets. Romeo Montague was persuaded to gate crash the party of the Capulets. He meets and then falls in love with Juliet Capulet (I guess it’s one of the love-at-first sight things). Later, with the help of the priest Friar Laurence, Romeo and Juliet secretly got married.
Tybalt Capulet, one of Juliet’s cousins, resented the gate crashing, and challenged Romeo to a duel, which Romeo refused because of his love with Juliet.
Mercutio, who is just a friend of Romeo and not Montague or Capulet, accepts Tybalt’s challenge on behalf of Romeo’s refusal. Tybalt kills Mercutio. Romeo, angered at the death of his friend Mercutio, kills Tybalt.
Romeo is banished. Then Juliet’s family the Capulets arranged for Juliet to be married to someone else.
To avoid being married off, Friar Laurence gives Juliet fake poison and sends word to Romeo, who, through bad luck, didn’t get the message. Romeo arrives when he hears that Juliet is dead. Seeing her dead he drinks poison and dies. Juliet awakens, sees Romeo dead, and kills herself.
After overcoming my sarcasm at the waste and stupidity, I begin to see why. The circumstances dictated their actions and with their mind set, they had no choice.
I can understand now why Romeo kills himself. It’s because he really loved Juliet.
You have to see people and circumstances in order to understand.
In the course of the next few days, I begin to see Julia. Not as the girl-next-door and classmate, but as Julia.
It began as an exercise in observation which spilled over into the girl next door.
I began to notice her smell, and she smells like fresh flowers after a rain.
I began to feel her touch, and sometimes, deliberately but not so obviously, I would let our touch linger. Wanting more but refraining.
Sometimes, I feel like there are butterflies inside my stomach when I hear her voice.
There awakened within me a strange longing for Julia. Even at night I long for Julia.
When we speak, I space out.
“Hey, wake up!” she would pull my attention back. “What’s wrong with you?”
If she only knew.
The world with Julia seems so much alive. All the colors around me seem more vivid. I could feel as if everything is going our way.
Is this what love feels like?
I can feel now why Romeo has to kill himself after losing Julia. I mean Juliet. It’s because I love her. I mean, Romeo really loved Juliet.
I completed the story with new understanding and feelings.
She started reading it aloud and became silent when she read Romeo’s feelings for Juliet:
“…you were there all along, and yet I didn’t see you. When you touch me it feels like you are touching my heart. And having touched me my heart sings. How I wanted to let your touch stay in my heart forever…”
She didn’t say anything, just nodded.
I submitted the story.
The title of the story?
“Revisiting Romeo and Juliet”