7 Eleven Wine in a Hiroshima Studio Apartment24 November 2020
I’m told that love is big, unconditional romantic gestures. It’s holding a stereo blasting “our” song outside your bedroom window. It’s flash mobs in Grand Central Station. It’s getting off a flight to Paris just before take-off. It’s singing “I Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” in the bleachers in front of the whole school.
Love is big, love is loud, love is crazy, stupid, public, all-consuming and sacrificial. Most importantly it’s validating. Everyone knows you are the chosen one. Numero uno. Do anything for you and don’t care who knows.
Little me got fed these falsities, these Hollywood exaggerations, and I’ve spent a long time since being confused about why everyone doesn’t seem to want to shout just how much I mean to them from the rooftops. If they don’t, stamp it on their forehead, pinkie promise, swear-to-die— is it even real?
I am neither old nor wise, but the little perspective I have started to accumulate has reinforced that this type of love is nothing more than a fantasy based around unrealistic validation and movie sales. It’s not all bad, nor all false but, it’s just not where my true experiences of love lie. So, let me tell you some stories, some beautifully imperfect, quiet love stories.
I’m shown that love is an empty road, a full moon and a tragic tale. It isn’t my tragedy; it’s yours. You lived and breathed it, and it still scares you. But walking down this road you feel safe enough to whisper it to me, to share a fraction of your pain. You tell me about the hardest day of your life, the heaviest thing you’ve borne. It’s a still night at the junction between spring and summer—not quite the tourist season; the weather isn’t nice enough to draw the crowds yet—so it’s quiet, peaceful, and ours. You do not cry as you tell me, but your voice shakes, revealing something I’ve not seen in you yet: vulnerability. I squeeze your hand, a subtle current of electricity passing from my palm to yours. It whispers “you can trust me”, that I don’t think less of you. We walk the rest of the way in silence, listening to waves crash in the distance.
I’m shown that love is a fluorescently lit hotel room in a faraway country. I cry, shattered and far from home. I thought I could outrun my heartache, replace my lost soul with lost feet, but I can’t. I am tired and I need to go home. You call the airline, your voice quiet and firm. In this moment, you are the logic and reason to my chaos. You organise our flights home reassure me that we are making the right choice. You don’t ask me about my heavy heart; you know from the silence that I’m not ready. The truth I know without you saying; you love me, I love you and you will do this for me without expecting the grandeur of thank you flowers or online declarations. You won’t speak of this to those who don’t need to know, and that calms me. Our vow of silence is safe, secure and raw. Later, you turn out the fluorescent lights and tell me you love me. It feels like my first breath out of the cold water I thought I’d drown in.
I’m shown that love is groceries in a tiny kitchen, cheap champagne in wine glasses we don’t have. You cook and tell me about your day. The sweet smells of garlic, chilli and beef that fill the kitchen are the distraction I’ve craved. We speak of 90s TV shows, their flaws, and how we love them anyway. They give us quiet comfort, escapism and laughter. I feel much the same about you right now. The warmth of food and friends slips down my throat and into my stomach, filling my body like a flame relit, a light at the end of a tunnel. You never said I love you but your throw together-meal gives me hope. We sit in bed and chat, not about love, but about nothing at all. I feel warm.
I’m shown that love is a basement in a home that isn’t mine, on the other side of the world. I have siblings and a mother that don’t share my blood but show me kindness nonetheless. An old TV plays Stranger Things. Besides the witty dialogue, the room is still. It is the kind of quiet you only get in summer, when everyone is just a little bit more relaxed, and the air is as heavy and comforting as a blanket in the dark. I let the comfort of a good show in the company of kind people envelope me.
I’m shown that love is cheap 7-Eleven wine in a Hiroshima studio apartment. I sit across from you; the only other person in the room, the only other person I know, in this country and so far in this life. We play cards and top up each other’s wine, getting tipsy, warm and woolly. The world is quiet here in this studio apartment. It feels shrunken to this interaction. I forget my frustrations with who you are becoming, at how different and strange we are growing. But tonight, your love feels familiar, like the calm before the storm. You pour me more wine and look at me, smiling softly. The words are there; you’ve said them before, you’ve said them for five years, you don’t have to say them again. Soon they will fade, but tonight I can feel them in the air, and taste them in this cheap 7-Eleven wine. Later we make love, in the quiet, in the dark and still comfort of our borrowed Hiroshima studio apartment.
What I’m told and shown of love are opposites. I’ve been conditioned to crave the vehement, show-offy kind. When I get that I will be whole, methinks. But really, all I need is the gentle, unassuming, kindness of quiet.