"I’ll write things that’ll break your heart"
December 3, 2018 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Charlotte Flynn's recent story "Lunch With My First Love, 20 Years Later" (The Cut, 28 November): "Where does the history go when the relationship ends? Is there a storage locker in the unconscious that keeps the memories until you meet up decades later at a McDonald’s in the middle of nowhere?"

"It is not how I imagined it, in the version where he admits he messed up. I should feel better. I should feel vindicated. But it feels awful, and I am furious."
posted by bent back tulips (20 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I thought I knew where that was going, emotionally, but it had a really satisfying ending.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 10:20 AM on December 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

She dodged a bullet there, really. I hope she's using a pseudonym for this piece--his wife doesn't deserve that.
posted by praemunire at 10:41 AM on December 3, 2018 [7 favorites]

Neither does her husband.
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 10:49 AM on December 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

It's all bullets all the way.

It is the hardest damned thing to leave some one you loved, keep loving them, love someone new, and stay lucid and put your loyalty where it belongs. You loved them because they were lovable. You left them for reasons. Now you love someone else. None of those things contradict each other, but you can't act on them all at the same time. It is hard to keep that straight.
posted by ckridge at 10:52 AM on December 3, 2018 [17 favorites]

I'm actually not sure if it's a real-life piece or very well-written fiction - I couldn't find any of her other writing to compare, but she does capture this specific tangled situation really well with just a few poignant details. As you say, hopefully it's either anonymised or just a story.
posted by bent back tulips at 10:55 AM on December 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

Ugh, why would anyone torture themselves this way, ripping up that scab every decade or so. I mean, I know why. But like, don’t do it! Move on, let that sleeping dog lie, walk away, hang out with your kids, book a holiday or therapy session with your husband.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:17 AM on December 3, 2018 [5 favorites]

What a load he was. Always looking for something better, then "I just can’t believe you married somebody else." I'll never understand how a grown person, even someone in their twenties, can treat another person like a spaniel. But then, I was raised to believe that members of the opposite sex have agency and independent interests, which is not universally the case.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:46 AM on December 3, 2018 [9 favorites]

why would anyone torture themselves this way

Unfinished business. I met with my ex-wife a couple of years ago after having had no contact, after the divorce, for over a decade. Part of my purpose was to do some Step 9 work, and acknowledge directly to her that, at least as far as some things went, she was right about me, which I could not acknowledge to her or myself or anyone else at the time. And, in return, I got... well, next to nothing. Which is OK, really, as far as Step 9 work goes; in fact, accepting that is part of the work. But it also confirmed to me that leaving her was probably the best thing that I could have done WRT the situation. I had no expectations going in, and none were fulfilled.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:47 AM on December 3, 2018 [6 favorites]

Knowing you're lovable is a gift, especially when things are pear-shaped in your current love life (your meaning MY, lol). But a past love, like my version of the one in this piece, isn't how you remember it. Mine is married to someone else now and even if that weren't true and we found our way to each other, it'd be some other relationship entirely. Not that I think it would necessarily be bad, but it would definitely not be the same.

The end was very good.
posted by wellred at 11:47 AM on December 3, 2018

This is wonderful. :) There is another version of this scene, written from the other side of the table, I would love to read that too.
posted by Dr Ew at 11:52 AM on December 3, 2018

I think it's really well-crafted fiction.
posted by honey badger at 11:58 AM on December 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm actually not sure if it's a real-life piece or very well-written fiction

Weird little thing--with the references, the school seems like it's supposed to be Yale, but I'm not sure how you'd take a train to a 24-hour McDonald's in any reasonable way in that scenario (you're...walking to the train station late at night and hopping on a Metro North to...where?). But, who knows, I could easily be overlooking something.
posted by praemunire at 11:58 AM on December 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

" None of those things contradict each other, but you can't act on them all at the same time."

I might need to embroider this on a pillow. Possibly in French knots in reverse to print it on my sleeping cheek.
posted by clew at 1:05 PM on December 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Interesting. My first love was a girl I had known most of my life that I dated during my junior year of high school. I'm pretty sure I still have a shoebox somewhere with the love letters she sent me whenever we were apart. Anyway, her father did an overseas sabbatical the next year, and the inevitable painfully happened over the course of a year's separation after which we went off to different colleges. We subsequently fell out of touch for some 20 years until we discovered that we both live in NYC. Still, it took almost a decade until we actually met for drinks. It was amazing, and we didn't have nearly enough time to cover all the ground in a few hours. And yet, it's probably been a year since that meeting and we haven't knocked ourselves out trying to meet again -- although I imagine we will at some point. I have the sense that my 16-year-old self is still in love with her 16-year-old self, if that makes any sense. It was a happy and not entirely unemotional meeting, but there was nothing dangerous or fraught or charged about it. Whatever nostalgia or regret or yearning or whatnot I ever might have had is for our past selves. We've grown far from those selves over the intervening decades, needless to say, and so if we end up on a friendly basis beyond the occasional nostalgia visit it will be between our present selves. I sense that we both might like that, but we have busy lives and relationships so I can't say whether it will happen or not. No matter how rose-colored the lenses through which I might view that or any other long-ago relationship, and no matter what difficulties I might encounter in my present romantic relationship, however, I can't imagine the struggles the individuals in the article seem to be experiencing.
posted by slkinsey at 2:21 PM on December 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

I do like the writer's constant assurances that the experience she went through she had thought about then and now plenty and I can totally relate to confronting an old lover who all of a sudden lets all those emotions hit. Whether this is fiction or not, this is very relatable for those people who drift around life with the out-of-sight-out-of-mind relationships to others.

My first love was eerily similar to this. He moved away a year before I graduated college to pursue a music career in a different city - I would have gladly gone with him if he could have just waited for me. I think that hurt the most...
and I get tortured about all these songs about him missing me. One song alluded to us reconnecting in 10 years and WOAH BOY had I done some growing since then. We DID meet and I of course was the nervous wreck I was before I had moved on and his same charisma, charm, and looks just seemed like a shadow of the past. Except this time I wasn't swooning over it. It was oddly relieving.
posted by hillabeans at 2:58 PM on December 3, 2018

Perhaps it's just me, and perhaps I've led a charmed life, but it feels very much like literary revenge porn from a bitter person who refused to move on.

The concept that a past relationship was the 'best' seems like a toxic worldview.
posted by CheapB at 3:58 PM on December 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

My vote is fiction. It's a nice "what-if" with dashes of sentimentality, righteous anger, unbidden tears and the satisfaction of being the one (finally)to be able to be the one to walk away.
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:03 PM on December 3, 2018

Moderately well crafted fiction. This is just too banal and cliched:

I nod emphatically, not saying aloud what I’ve secretly wondered for years: that marriage might be the slowest possible way to kill a once loving relationship. Love and lust are replaced by micromanaging and keeping score over who last loaded the dishwasher.

The petty tribulations of contemporary married life are a pretty well-worn theme, as is thinking back to the one who got away. I mildly enjoyed the piece, but I was hoping for more.
posted by crazy with stars at 7:41 PM on December 3, 2018

I'll just leave "Susan Across The Ocean" here to kinda break your heart.

Lyrics here, but maybe listen first as there's a kicker at the end. Love is complex.
posted by maupuia at 8:44 PM on December 3, 2018

While i don't pine for lost love in the way the article portrays I can totally grok the feeling about children; an ongoing, if occasional, fantasy of my youth that perpetuated long into my adult years was the idea of going back and living my life again with my current knowledge and experience. Like life with the cheat codes activated.

As soon as I had kids, the appeal of it died completely; sure, I might have other kids, but they wouldn't be the same. I would be able to remember my kids, but they wouldn't exist. Real head fuck. Weirdly, i don't have the same concerns about their mother. I love her deeply, but there isn't the same base horror in my gut when i contemplate an alternate timeline where we aren't a couple.

I don't have any unresolved issues with previous loves. To be fair, I probably have more unresolved longing with the younger version of my current partner, and that's not an illicit conversation that I can ever have... nor is it fair or rational.

This article and my thoughts on it are all a little midlife crisis for my liking!
posted by trif at 6:45 AM on December 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

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