Five love stories for Valentine’s Day

By Corky Thatcher

1. Love Your Goals
Shannon tensed again as she threw up into the sink. Someone was going to come in here and think she was bulimic, she thought. But Shannon had nothing in common with those underweight, power-dressing, popular scenester types that had slipped ahead of her and…

More throwing up. The competition had ended two weeks ago, but she was still having awful dreams about it, and the sickness. Depression made her not eat and then get sick like this. But the dizziness couldn’t push the thoughts away: I’m hardworking, qualiÞed, good-spirited, kind and honest, thought Shannon. Yet knowing she was the best wasn’t enough. You have to really succeed to be the best, to carry it out in real life once you’ve got the form together in your head. Potentiality and actuality. Existence and then essence. Disposition and manifestation. All that philosophical crap from school that she knew and breathed and understood so well.

But her wisdom didn’t make a difference–nor would it save her from the empty days to follow where there were no old friends around, no work or school to Þll the space, no reason to get up in the morning. Shannon wanted to achieve something, and loved the idea of caring about something and working hard for it with the buoyant optimism which was maybe, truly, the stuff of life. Next: loss and disappointment, bitter irony, bad luck. What is this teaching me? Shannon tearfully asked the dirty, saliva-Þlled sink before another heave rose in her belly. What do I do now?

2. Love Your Girlfriend
It was like a scene right out of one of those ’50s romance Þlms you see on late-night TV. Judy came bursting through the arrival doors, spotted James at a distance, and ran headlong into his arms. James thought it was all happening in slow motion, while people in the airport turned slowly, and the way all the light in the room seemed to attach itself to his girlfriend’s body and smiling face. She smelled so good and felt so soft James thought he was going to fall over.

In the movies everyone in the airport would have started clapping as the two walked out arm in arm to their waiting chauffeur. This present feeling was just as good for James, though. He stopped to look at Judy as she ruffled through her purse outside. She smiled back at him.

This is better than TV, James thought. This is my partner Judy, and we’re the latest in a great tradition of crime-Þghting duos like Starsky & Hutch, Crockett and Tubbs. Backs pressed against one another, we’re going to catch the bad guys, look out for each other and have more fun and adventure than we ever thought possible. But it’s real life, our lives, and happy times and feelings have come home to roost like we always imagined they were supposed to do. James and Judy. James cracked a huge magazine cover-worthy smile. Our love will be famous.

3. Love Yourself
I walk ever so slowly down the aisles of the supermarket, pausing for unnaturally long periods of time to look at the different items on the shelves. It’s warm enough in the store, but I don’t take my scarf and winter jacket off. Being extra warm keeps me in a state of slow drowsiness. Sometimes numb is better. Other shoppers give me suspicious looks and avoid me. Fine.

I’m now holding a jar of grape jelly, hoping everything will slam back into place if I stare at it long enough, perhaps getting back to a place where an unopened jar of this stuff was something I got excited about. Nothing happens.

At the cashier, the grizzled check-out lady looks like she’s worked at this job for ages, punching the clock, taking home the same unremarkable paycheque year in, year out. But she’s laughing and smiling at the customers as they trundle through the line, making idle talk about the weather, how pretty the young couple’s baby is, what they thought of the hockey game the other night. She’s happy. I’m suddenly envying this woman as she beeps my purchases over the laser checker.

Would her life be better than an existence of vague disappointment, battles fought and lost, hollow friends, parents there but not there mood-altering prescription drugs that didn’t work hugs from people but you can’t feel it any more cold walks home wakingnightmares nastylaughterthenviolenceboredomapathymoralbankruptcy
recklessdrivingbloodyknucklesontheinside and a huge laundry list of things that must Þnally get sorted out so maybe we can be–

“Anything else, sir?” the check-out lady asks me, tugging me back into reality. Fuck this life, I’ll take another, please. Fortunately the words stay in my throat rather than spilling out of my mouth.

4. Love Your Family
Peri basked in the glow of the setting sun as it dipped over the island, as she led her pack of merry tourists down the promenade to tonight’s selected dinner venue.

“Who are these people?” Peri thought. Parents with their two teenagers, travellers from the faraway place called England, here to enjoy the city and spend some time with their long-lost niece/cousin who no one had seen for over 18 years. Peri. She radiated silently.
Who knew having a family could make you feel like this? Of course, Peri’s friends had told her many stories about tedious holiday times with boring, sometimes petulant relatives, but growing up without all that made Peri curious. What was I like when I was small? Did you see anything in me that Mom and Dad didn’t tell me? Her aunt told her.

They all laughed, and Peri learned and glowed some more.

The surprise of it was what got her. “What else have I been missing out on?” Peri wondered. You can have friends, a good career, independent wealth, disposable income, yet it wouldn’t be complete without connecting to some sort of family background and sense of belonging. Like what had turned up here. Now. Although it was all very strange and new, Peri could sense it shining near her and moved to it like a moth.

She had never known. She didn’t ever really understand. But since that had all changed now, Peri was determined to do it right. She suddenly knew it was vitally important, and she was going to make a great job of it. There’s something special between relatives, because there should be. Good family–she had Þnally Þgured something out. Peri was proud.

5. Love Life
Alex curled himself up into a ball on the þoor next to the small vinyl bed, shaking slightly and raising his head from time to time. He didn’t want to sit and wait in comfort. Every once in a while a doctor would whisk by, but it must have been over 15 minutes before the nurse Þnally came in. In the meantime, stretchers rolled by, pages went out across the hospital intercom. Alex felt a bit guilty and confused after catching a glimpse of a bloody er patient being hustled down the hall. What do they do to you here if you’re broken, mangled and bleeding fatally on the inside instead? Alex moved over to the bench to read the words “I want to die” awkwardly carved into the wood. Depression. The end of hope. He knew he had come to the right place.

“So what brings you down here today?” the nurse asked, more than a little bored and, as Alex was sadly starting to see, totally ill-equipped to do anything other than keep an eye on him and allay his fears about being a danger to himself. It all seemed like a game, this business of Alex checking himself in here, thinking about death, now slowly describing in a detached manner the Coles Notes version of the sad events that brought him here. To a hospital. For his own safety. It seemed like a dangerous game that might have already turned real.

The questions continued, boring Alex but slowly drawing him back into the world of human contact. “Are you on any medication? Have you felt this way for some time?” and the familiar classic: “Do you hear voices in your head?”

The last one got him though, and he suddenly realized with a lucid, breathtaking vision the scope of his mess and what he had to do. “Do you want to die?” the nurse asked.

“No,” Alex replied eventually, his voice cracking as he forced it out, “… but I don’t want to live like this.”

Leave a comment