How have you been? I hope the winters in NY haven’t been too harsh on you – you’ve always had cold hands and I hope you’re coping well. It’s been awhile since we last talked. It feels strange because I can’t remember many days where we didn’t talk at all. Ever since our relationship ended, our communications have been sparse and overly polite.
I’ll be 36 years old when he gets out of prison in 2030. It occurred to me that scientists have been saying that by that year all the polar ice caps will have melted. Across the street from Auburn, there’s a small gas station with a convenience store that sells Marlboros and sodas and lottery tickets and bite-sized snacks. Upon my first visit, I found it odd that a string of local businesses would situate themselves so near to a maximum-security facility. I guess Auburn prison has been around for so long that it’s merged into the landscape like a wall in the city.
This piece is very different from what I usually write; it is inspired from the NYT Modern Love column, which I read avidly, and from my own life – for one can speak generally and universally only to a certain extent. When my mother told me about love, she always mentioned Paolo, her high school sweetheart. When I asked why it ended, she confessed that she was dating someone else, an older guy; when Paolo found out, a fist fight broke out, and two relationships were broken up. I always found myself amazed at the fact that they didn’t punch her, as I wondered how is love compatible with deceit, fist fights and lies? My mother would quickly add that Paolo was too immature for her; it would have ended anyway.
In my first year of college, I made the misstep of taking class at the ungodly hour of 8:00 a.m. Against all advice, I, the beaming young student, was eager to tackle the demons of chemistry in the wee hours of the morning. The folly of my decision would soon become apparent through sleepless nights of composing reports and balancing equations, but for the moment I possessed an unrelenting determination to succeed. After successfully ignoring my alarm for a week, I soon understood that 8 a.m. was not as charming as I had thought, and I numbered the days until I would finally drop the course. On the last day, I decided out of respect for the teacher that I would brave the challenge of the early morning one final time. So I sat in the last row of seats, unsure of whether or not to take notes, feeling an awkward sense of premonition.
Buzzfeed, or some similar listicle oracle, recently informed me oh-so-helpfully of the top seventeen most romantic places to visit (I assume they meant with a partner and not just by yourself). Which, of course, got me thinking – what makes a place romantic? I guess this is where we have to admit that romantic means something different for everyone. So dozens of people might call Ithaca’s gorges romantic, but to one person that might mean, “Damn, these gorges really make me wanna bang anything that moves,” and to another, “Golly doesn’t this gorge just make me want to stare at the moon and talk about our spirit animals,” and to yet another person, “This would be a postcard-perfect place to begin an attempt to beat the 50% odds of divorce.” And yet, most people can agree that scenic vistas of nature are romantic, similar to cute or expensive restaurants or places that are quiet and private. Then, you have misattribution of arousal – a term used in psychology – which is actually pretty trippy.
When I went home for winter break and saw The Prince Who Turns Into A Frog broadcasting on television for the twentieth time since its first airing in 2005, I still felt the nostalgia that only certain dramas can evoke in me. The plot is quite cliché and unrealistic at times, but it is one of those classic dramas that unknowingly makes you accept the impossible for the hour that it broadcasts just so you can immerse yourself in the romantic fantasy of the drama. As expected, The Prince Who Turns Into A Frog revolves around the love story between a poor girl and a rich man – you know the gist. But their relationship is actually much more complicated than you think, with Shan Jun Hao, the CEO of a hotel chain, constantly getting into accidents and losing his memory and Ye Tian Yu, an ambitious gold digger, falling in love with the contrived identity she gave Jun Hao when he first loses his memory. Not to mention, Jun Hao was already engaged with his childhood friend Fan Yun Xi when he falls in love with Tian Yu after Tian Yu takes care of him while he remains clueless about his own past.
In more ways than one, To The Dearest Intruder reminds me of The Fierce Wife, as both are Taiwanese dramas that revolve around the themes of family, love and the taboo of adultery. But while the former irritates me more than the latter in terms of the fake mustache of the male protagonist and many other little details regarding the actors and actresses – yes, I am an extremely judgmental person – I still find To The Dearest Intruder pretty intriguing. The Fierce Wife was, in 2011, a popular drama about a naïve mother named Xie An Zhen who lets her cousin Li Wei En temporarily live with her family of three, only to regret her decision tremendously later on when she discovers that her husband Wen Rui Fan has begun to cheat on her with Wei En. She receives guidance from Lan Tian Wei on how to become a more attractive and independent woman in hopes of winning Rui Fan’s love back, but slowly realizes that his love is no longer what she desires for. Similarly, To The Dearest Intruder also illustrates the life of a married couple and the female protagonist’s discovery of her husband’s infidelity, but what makes this particular drama different from The Fierce Wife is that the intruder is, in fact, the female protagonist’s own best friend.