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      It’s an old story, really. Once upon a time, I fell in love. Just as the air was getting colder, I didn’t feel the chill. I was in love with him and with life itself. Every sparkle of sunlight seemed like this tiny, precious thing full of joy, and the words flowed like all the laughter out of my mouth. Everything seemed easy.

           But nothing can be carefree forever. Every story has conflict; the protagonist has to deal with some kind of tension or difficulty. Mine came with the change of seasons. By the time spring came around, all I could feel was the frigid cold and the empty space where his arms used to be. To write, I think you need to observe life and take notes on the tiny details that make a story mean something. But day by day, that previous feeling of joy chipped. Every precious thing hardened into grey stone with jagged edges, sharp to the touch. Nothing about my life made me want to write or create another reality when I could barely hold mine together. I was a mess.

           So, as the story goes, I began functioning on autopilot, living every day in a cycle of grey that never ended. I didn’t write, thinking it would be painful. You see, I always liked the aesthetic of writing, and the joy it could bring people. But who was I to bring joy, when the act of smiling could seem like too big of an effort?

           I saw him once after our breakup. Just like the way we ended, it was only me who noticed him as he passed me on the street without a single glance. It was symbolic, I suppose. Somewhere inside of me, there was a voice begging me to write, but I couldn’t bear to listen. The screams of agony in my heart were too loud. They all associated writing with his presence, and those focused eyes that were now turned away, deepening the wound.

           If time heals all injuries, what happens if you leave them unattended? Do they really heal, or do they just become a constant pulsing you learn to live with?

           A large part of me held onto that pain. It won. I didn’t write; I didn’t obey the tiny calling. Above all, I learned to live with the pain in my chest, the scarring wound that became the usual beat in my colourless world. The constant concern of friends and family added to the background noise.

           They couldn’t figure out why I stopped writing. But really, it’s simple: he was a writer too. Maybe that’s why I fell for him so easily; he was the person I’d always dreamed of finding. He was the perfect partner in crime when the opponent was writer’s block, and he was the best sounding board I knew. I never felt judged for my strange ideas, and that just deepened the infatuation I felt for him.

           It broke my heart when he said I loved him more than he loved me. Or rather, that I loved the idealized version of him that lived half in real life and half in my head.

           Out of all the tiny pieces, the first emotion I felt was confusion. It wasn’t like one of those stupid couple fights where it was a joke, something to provoke the other one to show increasing amounts of affection. He was serious. As the memory flashes in my mind, I wish I could forget it all over again.

           “Mallory, I can’t do this anymore. It’s cruel for me to stay when you love me more, and when I could never live up to the version of me in your head.”

           I remember the words I asked, barely realizing what was happening at the time. “What are you talking about? I love you, and I love what we have.”

           His sigh of frustration was evident, the tired emotion running over his face as if it were water, dripping down his body until it reached the floor. “I enjoy our time together,” he told me, “But I don’t love you like you love me. You’re not my everything, and the longer I stay, the worse it feels to be showered in your love.”

           Just as my life seemed brighter, he created a void that same night with his absence. It lingered over every space like a ghost that wouldn’t leave. So, I dropped my pen. It was the only solution my wounded heart could think of. If he allowed the words to flow so smoothly, stopping that flow could decrease the thoughts of him. Right? It worked for a while, but I was still drowning. How do you realize when your love isn’t being returned properly?

           At the suggestion of my friends, I turned to self-improvement. I strived to become a better version of myself, one that wouldn’t be blind to falling too hard or too fast for someone who wouldn’t catch me. As much as I wanted to cocoon myself in the solitude of my loneliness, I tried to keep my walls down and my heart open.

           Coffee dates with friends kept the lingering ghosts at bay and I allowed my family to take up more space in my life. It would be cliché to say that my life was empty; that wasn’t the truth. To any outsider, my life seemed basically the same. Yet, though my eyes, the world was moving in slow motion, a colourless experience in a sea full of grey.

           But every good story has a turning point. Mine came when I was dancing with someone new at a friend’s wedding. In typical wedding fashion, the slow song gathered groups of two on the dance floor. A hand reached for mine, and I accepted. As I swayed in his arms, I could feel the magic wash over me. My fingers inched to write. For the first time in a while, I was enchanted enough with life to write about it.

           The next morning, I found myself signing up for a writing workshop. I’d always wanted to attend one, but over time, it had become a forgotten dream. Maybe through this whole journey, it was never just about him or the value I placed in his praise. There’s something to be said about self-love, and how you should never place your worth in someone else. Maybe this was just as much about me.

           I’ve struggled to get to a point without pain, but maybe that’s not the point at all. Not every little thing in life is meant to be joyous or shiny, that's just what I wanted to see. As I share a smile over a table full of white styrofoam coffee cups, open notebooks and laptops, I feel the seeds of hope bloom in my bones. Maybe it was terrible, but maybe it wasn’t. Either way, word by word, I made an inky mess of emotions on my page. I wrote something, enchanted by the beautiful chaos that is life.

           I know, I said it was an old story. Maybe I lied. As of this moment, I’m not in love with someone else. But I have hope, and its sprinkles are little bits of light that sparkle everywhere.

June 19, 2020 18:00

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4 comments

Natalie Rarick
02:13 Jun 27, 2020

Hi Talia! I'm also part of your critique circle :) your nature imagery is so wonderful, even in subtle moments like "the words flowed like laughter out of my mouth," making writing and nature and love so inextricable from each other that their eventual separation is completely shattering. This imagery is particularly striking when you invert it, as the narrator feels cold and dead like winter in the midst of springtime; a stark difference that makes the emotion that much more tangible and painful. I also love how you play with absence; h...

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Talia Vander
23:55 Jul 01, 2020

Thank you so much for your kind words, Natalie! I'm so glad it resonated with you <3 Your response has really blown me away, and I'm so glad that you loved the piece! I thought about giving the protagonist a new love to replace the one she lost in the past, but I kind of saw that as an old story, not one that allows for growth. Like you point out, instead, the story ends with the seed of hope, one that could lead to something so much bigger :) Again, thank you so much for your kind words and support! <3

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Jessica X
15:07 Jun 25, 2020

Hi! I'm part of your critique circle! I loved reading your story! I was just blown away with how well written it was! You're an incredible writer! You are really good at describing emotions and setting the mood of the a story! I could really feel how sad Mallory was throughout the story. Awesome job!! :)

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Talia Vander
05:45 Jun 26, 2020

Omg thank you so much!!! Your comments made my day :D

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