All these polarized concepts of love—and I cannot put them into words.
Witness to almost all kinds of love, I think I know a thing or two about heartbeats, heartaches, heartbreaks. I was the first to pass out after left and right shots of tequila—the epilogue of a night highlighted by a newly announced couple who were strangers just the week before. And yes, I was best friend to a career woman who chose to break up with her lover after realizing that she needed to pass the boards for a license in accountancy.
I have been writing for 13 years now, and never have I written a love story before. There is no love in the articles I write. In the world I live in, coffee dates are reserved for bosses who adore the splendor of deadlines. The stories I share present, not the fancy scent of roses that lingers during the season of love, but the stench of a rotting culture in the suburbs. There is no love in the articles I write, only tragedy.
It is hard to write a story about love. This is how I see it, or at least how I try. Love is everywhere, as one cliché keeps reminding me. But that being said, there’s something majestic about it that it no longer needs to be written. And even if I try to write one, it would require a variation of resolutions, ups and downs, an impeding event midway to the timeline, and the alteration of reality just to conclude with a happy ending.
Such must start with the perfect characters—the protagonists of the story, if you will. The girl, as the mainstream media portray it, must have a wicked smile that can sweep anybody off their feet—one that lights up the night like New Year’s Eve. Her eyes, bright as daylight, are the ones you’d like to see every single morning before you crave a cup of hot cocoa.
The boy must be quite different. As beautiful as the girl your story must present, the other must have visual flaws for balance. An edgy face marked with remnants of acne can be one thing; messy hair, haphazardly trimmed by a local barber, is also a good highlight for a main character trying to hide an outsized forehead.
You should know up-front that you are about to write a love story, although the beginning does not resonate with how you want your tale to be told.
The girl can be an aspiring journalist who is sometimes urged to pursue further studies in the dynamics of poverty alleviation and humanitarian efforts to help uneducated youth chase their dreams. She can be the creative one, always tasked to do, say, the script of an hourlong stage play as a requirement in a major subject for her undergraduate course.
The boy can be an aspiring lawyer who is often blasted for his ideas on changing the government. He can be the technical one, always required to beat his own deadline when it comes to writing the campus paper’s editorial, and the one who often spouts the teachings of public administration practitioners in leadership symposiums and the like.
The characters meet, not in a fancy restaurant with a complicated menu, but in an office that is home to a handful of writers, artists and photographers catering to the needs of students through the various forms of art. They exchange words, not for the purpose of sharing mutual interests, but for the yearly interview of aspiring campus journalists.
But it was not love at first sight. It must not be.
A life before this one must always be considered. She can already be taken—committed to a classmate who, from Day One of freshman year, has confessed his admiration for the beauty that the aspiring journalist is. He, meanwhile, has already been lured by a strictly-academics kind of life and content with a mutual understanding with a girl he fell in love with at the height of the campaign for the Supreme Student Council.
It may not be love at first sight, but it must be love all along. Tragedy must happen to their former lives for this attempt at another love story to live.
So the characters are both broken by their respective pasts. After months of not noticing each other, they now share conversations on who is to blame for the delay of the articles to be submitted to the editor in chief, which coffee shop serves the best frappé, and how each other’s political candidates differ from one another.
Great stories often boast unusual details in the plot. It can be the bouncy way of walking on crowded streets and other public places by the indecisive lad, who now quickly falls for his cowriter. It can be that large cup of Oreo Milky Way ordered by the gal who blushes every time her senior editor joins her in a walk to the jeepney terminal. Hell, it can even be a 40-minute conversation between the two characters in which half of the time is spent in soundless laughter.
And as every love story is expected to go further, the kilig factor must not fail your audience. The characters can be placed beside each other in a van traveling endlessly on rough and dusty roads to Tuguegarao. And in the 16-hour drive from the outskirts of Lucban, their warm and tired hands can touch slowly, intimately, unnoticeably. It can be the best form of friction they have felt in months. And in that time, where most of the passengers are dreaming and aching for a long rest on a comfy bed, the characters clasp their hands, their fingers interlace—like insects on flypaper.
This must be a story on how two different people can be brighter than a supernova when together. This must be a story on how a drink can be milk to the girl, yet poison to the boy. This must be a story on how eating pasta with a spoon and fork is the perfect way for the girl, yet the oddest manner possible for the boy. This must be a story on how beer is but a beverage brewed to suppress the ideas of heartbreak for the girl, yet is the culture of celebration for the boy. This must be a story of the oddest of all possibilities, and all the polarities inscribed in it: They fit and fall in love.
Of course, the story you are about to write must have characters with names to remember. Joyce, for all the delight she brings the world, can be her name. Archiebald, for all his attempts at nobility, can be his.
All these polarized concepts of love—and I cannot put them into words. Or maybe I just did.
Archiebald F. Capila, 22, is a freshman at San Beda College of Law.