To: Tim O'Brien, or How I Learned to Speak English by Peter Morgan Nadel
I like the way your cardigan's sleeves never fit properly
It lets me know that when we're older, we'll both neglect our property
--milo, Vinz Clortho meets Zuul She always told me she likes talking to me. She thinks I’m too humble to believe her. I’m beginning to think so myself. Breakfast was the worst. Our breakfasts scared me. The first time I had breakfast with her, I woke up late and came downstairs to find her finished. “Hey, sleepy head,” she said quite obviously, syrup dripping in her mouth like cave stalactites. There were times when she said things that she was supposed to say, this was one of them. I hated these times, never her though. I just stared when she said that, as if I were staring at the camera shooting some cruel situation comedy. She had slept over at my house that night, nothing but that, films and movies passed the night away, and here she was a mere six hours later, fork still sticky and expression in a false pout, as if to say she was angry at me for sleeping. Her pout was something special. It made you remember she was a teenager, and that she was fallible. Her thin, pumpernickel hair fell in sheets upon her soft and freckled face. It was all rounded and slim and she had just the slightest whisper of a scar, obtained through some pre-adolescent bicycling accident, below her low, subtle nose. She was wearing her makeup from the night before. Red lips that made her look too old, and black eyes, which made her seem too young to care. I had breakfast with her many times since, but it wasn’t in my house, nor did I eat. She lived at the school, which is to say she took breakfast every morning in our drab and dark dining hall. She shone like the sun, and I think that’s what kept me coming back there. It certainly was not the rest of the cohort, who in their brazen predisposition to hate me would ask, “Is it cold out?” Nor was it the gray stark table that pulled me through shiveringly cold walks from where the bus dropped me off to where I felt I was needed, marching over hillocks like they were dunes of some biblical desert and with the determination of an aged magi, searching for that heavenly shine among the dingy clouds. My morning time visits, always pleasant for her, who secretly hated everyone else she sat with, turned into a form of self-flagellation for me. To tell a love story is not moral. It is not didactic, explanatory, nor epic. It presents no epitome of good human behavior, nor does it give any reason to the reader to read on, yet we do; yet you do. A love story is by definition true. A love story’s vocabulary is not words, but rather feelings, and words’ inaccuracy in expressing those feelings. Writing a love story is a herculean task, one must to learn to decide between what happened and what one wanted to happen. It was lunch, and I was eating with her and the same dreaded group, who, regardless of meal, glared at me. I received a text message from a good friend telling me to meet with him and some mutual friends somewhere. This was peculiar, so I left. Meeting them in the drizzle of the topically warm fall afternoon, I was concerned, but brimming with hope. Had they come to tell me some inherent truth of romantics, or to explain that my dream was merely steps away? “She said yes to him.” Anger, purely that, seemed to course through my veins as blood used to. Like some animal, I beat my chest and cried. I swore godly smite upon his household, and plagues upon whatever he held dear, so that he may learn what I felt then. Rain soaked and tear stained, I was sat down minutes later to rest a little, still boiling though. All love stories must lie. This is not to embellish facts or to make something interesting more interesting, but rather it is to express a deeper truth. A love story’s lesson, if it has one, is inconsistency. Emotions come and go like sinusoidal curves, and like a stick carried by a stream a love story must reflect that transience. I never screamed or cried, at least I have not, in quite some time. Here’s how it really happened. I got a text from Broekhuijse about how he wanted to see me, and Al and Hailey were with him. So I told him I was eating, and he told me to come anyways, so I did. When I found them, their heads were down, and they looked angry, and it’s too bad they did because I was quite content that day. “She’s going out with Ken.” “Sure.” I nodded. I was too accepting of that fact I think. “I’m sorry.” “For what? You did nothing. I already knew.” I didn’t but I had subtle premonitions. We walked to our usual meeting place. Everyone was furious: you’re better and I’ll kill him shot around, but I would not have them. I simply sat and smiled slightly. A love story meanders and wanders just as a writer trailblazes and wonders. I think it was supposed to happen the way it did. It seemed evident that nothing served a purpose any longer, but that was alright, in fact that was the natural state of things. A love story highlights that moment when humans stop using and start being. I was sitting at one of those stark, gray tables, but it was lunch and I had a sandwich with ham and cheese and some lettuce. My phone buzzed: come down, we need to talk. I responded: I’m eating. He responded: Just come. I responded: ok. I bounced down the stairs, and saw it was raining, only a little though. “And she agreed, and now they’re going out.” And I couldn’t stop laughing. My body turned into some vessel for humor, no longer a metabolizing being. It was the most whimsical feeling I have ever felt. My stomach hurt from all that effort, my eyes squinted in grotesque fashion, and my legs could barely hold me up. The others just stood and stared, soon taking me by the arms and leading me inside; it was getting cold. And I couldn’t think about her or them or the pounding in my head; all I could think about was, in 1990, when Tim O’Brien published How to Tell a True War Story, the tears on the faces of the first who read it. The story of a certain Rat Kiley and one Burt Lemon, and when Burt died all of the ways Rat cried for his lost friend. 
 It occurred to me later that day, all I wanted to do was sit up with Rat Kiley and shoot buffalo, but I couldn’t and what a shame that was. How could I have just written one explanation, one story, one telling? They were all different and they all happened to me, all at the same time. A love story is fair, and grossly inaccurate. A love story is terrifying and just a great big hug. A love story is a whole life and an infinitesimal moment. And finally, a love story is never really about love, is it? It’s about the girl. Or the rain. Or about how when she stares at me I still feel some bubbling fear, some uncontainable excitability deep down there in the core of things. A love story is most about people, and how words can never really listen, no matter how much I want them to.