Revisionist History

I met him while doing a juice cleanse. On a boat, that then ran out of gas in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. We then crashed a wedding and slow danced to some song I don’t remember now but if I was writing this professionally, or telling the story to others, I’d say it was to Love Bites or Every Rose Has Its Thorn or something equally amazing. Because that’s what we do: we glamorize. We embellish and we condense and we weave the story into a lovely little romantic package so people can relate to it, can use it as an example of things working out how they should or proof that the Universe works in mysterious ways. That’s what we do.

All of those details – save for the song that escapes my memory – are true. What is also true, that I would exclude from the romantic story had it worked out differently, was that he broke my heart. Because I let him, not because of any malintent on his part or even naivete on mine. I let him break my heart because I wanted the story to turn out differently. It’s a risk with us writers; we can craft something out of nothing, choose what details to include and others to leave out. We make our living being convincing and sometimes – too often – we convince even ourselves of our own versions of the story. 

This morning I started reading 40 Days of Dating. It inspired something in me, when they listed out all of their previous dates, condensed each one down to a sentence and then illustrated their relationship history. For me, I’ve been doing something similar, only in prose. And – truth be told – with revisionist history. I err on the bright side, embellishing near-truths to create a sunnier result. Perhaps part defense mechanism, part habit. Yet in doing so, this maligns the authenticity of whatever it was that we had, be it a flirtation or a few dates or three years, on and off, never really having the conversations that mattered and paying the price as a result. Were I to write this story – any of these stories – what would I really say, being truthful to myself and to the relationship? Can we ever really condense the intimacy and vulnerability and love and sadness and ego into a sentence or drawing or story? Should we?

So yes, we met on a boat. But perhaps that story didn’t need to be written, after all.

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