Theme XI: Modern Love, “Tell Me That You Modern Love Me”

By Natalie Soloperto

“What is the modern love story? You know, like, what’s the updated version of they get married, they buy a house together, they have 2.5 kids, and they send them off to universities twenty years later? What’s your modern love story?” He asked me, fingers pushing up against his temple, hiding half of his face from the light beside his camera. Do I look at him when I answer, or do I look directly into his lens? Which one is more important, I ask myself half-subconsciously, half aware. Still, I know the answer, and it finds its way from the thorns, and the thistle in my throat much easier than any of the poetry I know I wrote yesterday about it did.

“You know” I begin after a moment of quiet pause “It’s the story of two people who don’t end up together. It’s two people who go into a year long apartment lease, and end up hating each other by month six, or seven and they can’t look each other in the face and are counting down the days until August when the sun sets high, and late and the sheets feel like desert sand against sweaty bodies. They wake up and brew shitty coffee that they don’t want to drink, and tell themselves that one day it’ll all be worth it if they can just catch a break.

I don’t know, my modern love stories have always been singular, gray space and the ‘don’t tell me to stay when we both know if I do you’ll be confused, and so will I’ kind of pseudo-romance that two people who can’t commit to what kind of fucking statuses they want to post get into when they need someone to wake up to and don’t want to fall asleep alone. It’s that truth that you find only alone, only late at night, that you construct to follow you home. That new truth will accompany you through the red light, green light life that makes you subconsciously understand, never lets you second guess why the bodegas around the corner always have too many wilting bouquets of roses and, why it is that when you turn your key in your lock you find that your apartment is vacant when you were sure you left at least one ghost behind to meet you by the door.

Modern love, God, how do I tell you it’s the story of a mother, untucked, stained, on the end of the D-train’s last compartment at 11pm, a sleeping kid in a stroller and another one crying on her hip. Her hair is coming out, her make-up smudged, and you know she’s way past her wit’s end. She’s gotta wake up in approximately six hours just to make it back into the city to give most of her money to her landlords, the rest to her kids so they can have a better life in a city where they don’t have to romanticize the smell of piss just to get by. It’s the story of how there’s probably a cockroach somewhere in your apartment and you think you’re crazy because it’s only one cockroach, and you see it intermittently, and your partner never does and you can’t help but fume over the fact that they just won’t believe you.

You know? It’s that blue autumn light, that sunset color, that ‘don’t tell me this is over when it’s just beginning’, that shade of ‘you can’t even admit to being my lover’, and a closed eyelid hue of ‘I wish you’d wake up and kiss me sober’. Modern love tastes like that kind of frustration and the urgency of making love when you know that you may never see that person again. Two people who just don’t end up together. That’s what we all are now, that’s what we’re subjecting ourselves to because we’re too afraid to submit to each other.”

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