The air was cold, but it felt like home somehow. He looked at me like I was autumn, golden hair shining against a rust red sweater. His hands were crisp like the air and his hair mussed like the leaves drifting across the ground outside, but he reminded me of winter. We were toasty inside, seated on a brown leather couch worn by years of moments like this. He was cold, distant despite the millimeters of space between us, and I was hesitant to close the gap, afraid of rejection because he reminded me so much of my father. It’s only when I’m cold, shaking from fear and anxiety so deep it burns a hole right through my insides, that I feel most alive. So I crossed the bridge that separated us and reached for his hand.
“We met at the wrong time. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway. Maybe one day years from now, we’ll meet in a coffee shop in a far away city somewhere and we could give it another shot.”
I’m sat alone in Letna park, in a patch of shade overlooking the Old Town of Prague. The three Australian girls I met in my hostel room last night have just left me, and for the first time in over a week, I have a chance to think. To reflect, to write. And in a way, to grieve.
Last night, I saw a man in a suit hand over the lead of a black lab puppy to a haggard-looking woman who was clearly on drugs. He paid her 100 CZK in cash and she yanked the dog harshly, holding the leash tight and dragging it upwards by the neck, making it yelp. Watching it all sort of broke my heart, and I wanted to cry.
Some people might say I’m a pessimist, and a lot of the time I’d agree with them. But deep down, when it comes to it, I’m a dreamer. A hopeless wanderer, with itchy feet and an open mind prone to fantasies. I love adventures, and the idea of romance, and I want it all, together. I used to want it abstractly and from a distance; it was more of a “someday” sort of dream than an active one. Until I got a little taste. Just a drop—three days. But it was enough.
Enough for me to want more, and to realize I probably won’t get it. Not this time, at least. It’s odd, because I’d never really worried about being clingy before I traveled. I’ve always been pretty good at separating my feelings, isolating the annoying or unnecessary in the presence of someone who might not reciprocate them. And I’ve had flings, and even hookups, during the last three months abroad. They’re fun, and they don’t last. We go our separate ways. We might stay friends on Facebook, or we might not remember any more about each other than a blurry face and a first name. That’s the unspoken rule of travel: you let go. Everyone’s here to meet people and see the world, not to stay or settle down or fall in love. Not in a way that lasts, at least. But somehow, despite knowing all of this, I sort of did.
I don’t wish it didn’t happen, not really. He’s a good, good guy. One of the best I’ve met. In fact, I can only think of one other guy I’ve known, back home, who comes across as pure and lovely as this one. My cynical British friend insists I’m naive about it, too hopeful and foolhardy. But I know. I’ve met good guys, I’ve met decent guys, bad guys as well. But only a few are… tender and pure. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s more of a feeling, that they respect you, treat you like an equal. They might be more reserved with touch because they’re a bit shy and don’t want to overstep your boundaries. They’re sweet and can express their feelings but they don’t overload you with them. They feel lucky to be with you, but not because they’re insecure. I’m doing a shit job of trying to articulate it, but like I said, when I meet one of these guys, I know.
I feel fortunate, really. It was a beautiful thing for me, and I’ll always have the memories. But it still hurts. It feels like I lost something that I only barely managed to grasp as the time slipped away. Part of it is lust, of course; I’m not entirely immune to that feeling, or the knowledge that it’s a factor in all of this. But for me at least, there was an audible click. And the hard part is not knowing whether he heard it too. Or rather, whether it was loud enough to last. Like I said, I’ve never worried about being clingy, but expectations are different with travelers. Snapchatting or messaging a few times a day at home would be normal, but I’m suddenly worried it’s too much. That maybe I’m a bother. This is all internal fear; nothing he’s done has implied as much. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised when he messaged me that day, after we’d said goodbye. I left expecting it to be over, and was prepared to resign myself to it. I prefer to leave rather than be left, so perhaps I’m overanalyzing the signs, preparing for the worst and to be the first person to take that step if need be. It’s such a long shot for anything to come of it… And yet I want something to. That’s what makes me a dreamer, and that’s what makes it hurt. Because in some parallel world or storyline, something like this could happen, and does happen, for people. The knowledge that, if feelings and motivation were mutual, something grand could emerge from a simple travel fling makes the leaving hard sometimes. Painful even. Because they often aren’t or maybe they are but the two people don’t know that they both feel the same way. Want the same thing. We’re too scared to be honest, to make ourselves vulnerable, and who knows how many opportunities we miss out on because of those fears. I fear rejection, because rejection ruins the dream. And if you let it, taints the beautiful memories.
I’ve never had a breakup before, never had my heart broken. Not in love, anyway. This is probably the closest thing to it I’ve felt, and I don’t quite understand why. Why him, why now. I wasn’t even looking for anything that night, had worn a loose dress and little makeup and thrown my hair in a bun because I was tired of going home with someone. Tired of missing out on dancing with my friends because I’d met a guy. It’s funny how you find what you’ve been looking for when you finally stop searching for it. And it’s sad because the beginning was almost the end for us; we were both about to move on.
I could have stayed another night. Thought about it, but not really. I was going to stick with my new friends and see another town, because after all, that’s what I’m here for. Not boys, but places. And the people I meet along the way. But then he came the next day, and stayed up all night with me, long after our friends had gone to bed, because I had to catch an early bus and didn’t want to sleep and didn’t want to miss a moment of this goodbye. I can’t say how much I appreciated that. To sleep with someone—twice—without any sex. Without feeling like I owe something, or that someone expects it from me. Not to say I didn’t want to, because I did. But I think it means more to me this way. It’s more special, rare, and therefore treasured.
It’s hard right now to imagine meeting another guy. Charlie Puth’s lyric “Does it feel, feel like you’re never gonna find nothing better?” comes to mind. I’ve only thought that before about one other guy, the only other good, good one that I’ve known. (Known and been interested in, I should say.) And even with him, it wasn’t to this extent. That adds to the sadness, because I can’t help but wonder about the “what if’s” and the “might be’s”. Will the feelings fade? They have to, if nothing comes of them, because people move on from real relationships and breakups all the time. They survive, and thrive, and fall in love again. At the moment, I don’t understand how, but I guess I’ll just have to trust the journey. Travel is crazy, and can make you crazy, I swear it. Yet I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
After a week, I think that’s what I needed to say. To get it out of my system, or at least sort it out a bit in my head. Writing down my feelings helps me validate and understand them, and I’ve been in a bit of a limbo this last week having them bounce around with no sort of sense. This has been a stream-of-conscious post, which I love doing when I want to dump my thoughts and feelings onto paper (or in this case, the notes section of my phone) without worrying about making them sound orderly or pretty. Despite the fact that I’ll probably post this on my blog, it’s not for anyone else. If you can take something from it, all the better, but I wrote it for me, and I hope that if you’re reading it, you can understand and respect that. I’ve been pretty open and vulnerable, and I hope to God that doesn’t make me come across as fucking clingy. Or crazy. And that I can stop worrying about those words entirely.
“So we’ll just let things take their course, and never be sorry.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Novel: The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon | Goodreads
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: 4.5 stars
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
The Sun Is Also a Star is the story of a girl and boy from different backgrounds meeting and falling in love. It’s also about family, cultural identities and assimilation, and the challenges of immigration in the United States. The novel is set in New York City and takes place over the course of a single day. Despite it being a young adult contemporary novel, which is a genre I generally avoid, I found The Sun Is Also a Star to be brilliantly composed, well-researched, thought-provoking, and fun.
Let’s start with the basics.
Natasha is a seventeen-year-old undocumented immigrant living in NYC. She moved to the U.S. with her mother at the age of eight to join her father, who’d been trying to make it as a Broadway actor for several years. She’s smart, cynical, and hardworking—a no nonsense kind of girl who knows what she wants and how to get it. She doesn’t believe in love, fate, destiny, religion, or even dreams; she believes in science, and science alone.
Natasha’s world is falling apart. Her dad is living in la-la land within his own mind—he’s failing as an actor and has pretty much given up on work and the world. He’s resentful of his family and feels he gave up his dream career, his “God-given talent” of acting, for his wife and two kids. One night, he gets a D.U.I., revealing to a police officer the illegal immigration status of his family. The Kingsley family is thus issued a deportation order, which ruins all of Natasha’s plans for the rest of her senior year of high school, college, and a career. The day that her family is supposed to leave the United States—presumably forever—Natasha sets out into the city to find someone, anyone, who can help her get the deportation order reversed. Why should her life be wrecked because her father made a stupid mistake?
Enter Daniel. Daniel was born in America and is the youngest son of Korean immigrants. His older brother Charlie’s suspension from Harvard leads his parents to exert more pressure on Daniel to attend Yale and become a doctor. Daniel’s parents know what it’s like to be poor, and the thought of their sons living in poverty someday haunts them. They think they know what’s best for Daniel and refuse him any room to design his own life and career.
Daniel is a dreamer. He’s honest, self-deprecating, passionate, and funny, and he aspires to be a poet. Daniel believes in God, in fate, and in “meant to be.” Most of all, though, he believes in love. When Daniel and Natasha cross paths, is it purely due to coincidence, or has a string of events caused by fate led them together? Upon first look, they’re polar opposites of each other, but as the day goes on, they discover they have more and more in common: dysfunctional families, problems with their parents, and an undeniable connection with each other. Whether it’s simply chemicals in their brains, as Natasha believes, or a grand destiny, as Daniel thinks, the 12 hour love story of Natasha and Daniel is fascinating, funny, and heartwarming. I found that it was easy to put aside the little voice in my head that likes to chant “unrealistic” at me while reading YA contemporary novels and go with the flow of Nicola Yoon’s story. The relationships, cultures, science, and politics involved make it different from any other novel I’ve read, and I appreciate the personal touches and amount of research Yoon put into her story. The format of The Sun Is Also a Star, which consists of chapters that alternate by POV, sprinkled tidbits of outside perspectives, and short chapters on topics such as love, irie, and scientific theories/studies, was delightful and interesting to read.
I thoroughly enjoyed Nicola Yoon’s sophomore novel, The Sun Is Also a Star, and I recommend it to the non-believers and those who enjoy a bit of whimsicality in their contemporary reading. It hits shelves November 1st, so be sure to grab yourself a copy!
Thanks for reading.
so how come things move on, how come cars don’t slow
and we swore on that night we’d be friends til we die
but the changing of winds, and the way waters flow
life as short as the falling of snow
I’ve never broken up with anyone. I’ve never been in a romantic relationship, so there’s never been a need to. You don’t break up with your friends, or so I’ve always thought.
I’ve had friendships end, of course. People drift apart, or switch schools, or move away, or stop getting along, or have a huge fight that destroys their relationship. I’m familiar enough with the ebbs and flows of friendships, the tides that bring them into my life and then sweep them away. But I’ve never felt quite the way I do now. It’s foreign and strange to me to end a good friendship. One that’s been solid and strong for several years. I didn’t realize that even some good friendships have their expiration dates. Is it normal to feel this way?
I draw comparisons to a romantic relationship because there’s nothing inherently wrong with this friendship; I’m just not satisfied anymore. I don’t feel like I’m drawing much from interacting and it seems that one person is growing and the other is not. Change can certainly alter friendships, but this is different. It’s as though the relationship has come full circle; I don’t feel like I need it anymore. I feel like it will only weigh me down in the future, as I head off to college and try to juggle and balance and enjoy the many facets of my new adult life. I feel ready to let go, ready to move on. To leave her and our friendship behind. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s no longer enhancing my life. There is no bitterness, no anger, no hard feelings on my part. I don’t dislike or resent her. I am simply ready to move forward, to have adventures and explore the world and try to be a more well-rounded person, while she is content to remain the same, to live in her sheltered bubble. I think change is challenging, yet we challenge ourselves by changing. By broadening our minds and perspectives and branching out. By trying new things and exploring new ideas. By leaving our bubbles of comfort and sameness. I don’t want to fault people for their choices, but I find it sad and stifling and boring to remain the same. To be around people who remain the same. Growth and change are part of what makes us human; they are two of the blessings of mortality. It’s a shame not to embrace them. To ignore them and let the possibilities and opportunities they bring pass you by.
I wonder whether she’s thinking about these things too, whether she feels the same way about our friendship or whether she’s upset at all or whether she’s entirely oblivious. Whether she resents me for changing, or whether she even notices. I wonder, but I won’t ask. I won’t end it, tell her it’s over. Because this isn’t a breakup; it’s a step forward.
Somehow, though, it feels like both.
xx. Until Next Time.
- A Court of Mist and Fury
- Sarah J. Maas
- The end of AP exams
- Not having an appetite
- Finding a new all-time favorite, #1 book for the first time since freshman year
- College friends coming home
- 70s style
- Feeling better about my body
- Emotions of all kinds, especially hope
- The possibility, however slim, that Lightning players are coming to my grad party
- Nighttime dreams
- Ear plugs
- Lavender sleep mist
- An amazing mom
- Music, books, and writing that inspire me, that make me feel alive
Thanks for reading.