Tuesday, February 14, 2006

It’s Valentine’s Day, which means I’m supposed to write about how Valentine’s Days sucks, how love sucks, and how the opposite sex sucks. That’s what you do on V-day.

I’m not though, because I don’t believe it.

I will say, though, as far as this endeavor goes, I’ve hit a wall. You see, it’s not that I haven’t stories to tell, or that I don’t know which one’s to tell. It’s that there are too many stories, and that I don’t know how to tell them.

I called this “Just like in the movies…” because when I used to talk to people about what was happening between Fanfan and I, they would say, “Oh my gosh! It’s just like You’ve Got Mail!” (which it’s not, even though I’ve never seen the movie, it’s not) or any other movie with the “spending long periods of time far away from one another + communication + coming from far ‘different worlds’” theme.

I figured that if so many people feel that way, that the story is extraordinary, then by writing this I could do something bigger than just write a sappy love story (not that that’s what it is to me). I have the belief that most of the problems in the world come from an inability, impatience even, to communicate, and on top of that I believe that most of the differences that exist among peoples and cultures exist because we think they do.

I saw a video recently of John Lennon in which he said that he would like to think that he and Yoko were proof that people from different cultures could get along without trouble. That struck a cord with me, because not only does my happiness with Fanfan give me personally a satisfaction that I couldn’t find elsewhere, it also gives me hope in the world.

Fanfan and I grew up on different sides of the planet. Though, the climate in Taiwan is much like the climate of Charleston. For that, we grew up doing much of the same things.

We grew up speaking languages that couldn’t be more different. Chinese is one of the oldest languages in human history, and it, from what I know, has changed very little compared to other languages. Not to mention it is a tonal language, which is to say, you can say the same syllable “ma,” for example, in two different accents and it could mean two completely different things.

On the other hand, English is a relatively new language, maybe 400 years old. It’s a bastard language too, taking words from Latin, French, German, etc. This is why English has very few strict rules for pronunciation: “read” and “read;” the “ough” on thought, though, through, etc.; mischief and chief; find and fin; etc.

Despite that, though, we speak French to each other, which is neither of our langue maternelle. That levels the field, gives a common ground, with which we can both explore the language of the other. (Fanfan speaks English, I should mention, and I don’t yet speak Chinese).

I grew up in the “Bible Belt,” though to a somewhat Easter-Christmas-and-some-in-between family. I went to Catholic and Baptist schools. Christianity was the traditional religion for nearly everyone, aside from a few Jews. I have never met a Muslim in Charleston.

Fanfan grew up in a country that is far less religious that is traditionally Taoist or Buddhist, with Confucian traditions.

Yet, both of us have very similar views on religion and God.

My point is that there are differences between the environments from which we came that are clear as night and day, but somehow we turned out incredibly similar. Not just us, but our families, our friends, etc. For instance, one of the few bands that both my father and I agree on is the Eagles, so imagine my surprise when Fanfan said one night that she and her father used to listen to the Eagles when she was little. She says it’s one of her dad’s favorite bands.

This point has become so clear to me over the last two years, but it’s so huge and all-encompassing that there is no easy way to explain it. I have so much trouble explaining things like. The most frustrating aspect of my life is seeing things that would make the world better if I could find a way to convey the idea to others, but I don’t know how to put it into words.

I have the same problem with Fanfan, actually. So often, I look at her, and I can’t stop thinking how in love with her I am. I know that sounds corny and I hate myself for putting it that way, but it’s true. I’m struck, still, after all this time. After all that we went through to be together, I still don’t believe I’m here with her. It’s the first time in my life that I feel love so viscerally that I feel short of breath at the thought of not being with her, of losing her, of seeing her cry.

John Steinbeck said in Travels With Charlie, “A sad soul will kill you quicker than any germ,” and right now I believe it. I feel physical pain at the thought of her being anything but happy, and I’m not exaggerating.

That said, I have no idea how to explain why I love her. I know why. I love her for all of those ephemeral moments where she crippled me with absolute cuteness (I can’t think of a better word). Those moments that pass at the speed of light when I’m sitting on my melodrama, thinking the world is crumbling and the war is coming, and she reminds me that there are reasons to hope. She can do it with a look, with a word. There’s no way I could ever explain what it is in her that smoothes all of the jagged edges of what I feel inside and calms the waters when I think I’m drowning. Most of all, she keeps me from being an adult, which is the equivalent of pulling me head first out of the abyss.

You see? It seems exaggerated. But, I really mean it. I don’t mean to give the impression that we’re always perfect. We fight. Not often, but we fight. I can say in all honesty, I’ve never even heard of someone having a love this strong though.

Still, I digress. I’ve been meaning to explain, that often when I look at her, I tell her I love her. Without thinking about it, just because that’s what’s in my head. I’m always thinking it. I love her. Even when I’m not thinking about us or about her specifically, I’m trying to figure out how I can be with her for the rest of my life.

Like the trains in France which all lead to Paris, all of my thoughts lead to Fanfan. When I think about careers, about my family, about my friends, about religion, I think of how it relates to Fanfan. I think of how my family will accept her. I think about if she’ll get along with my friends. I think about what career I could follow that would allow me be with her.

But, nearly every time I tell her I love her, without missing a beat, she asks one of two questions: “Pourquoi?” or “Combien?” The latter is easy. I can say, “More than there’s sand in the dessert” or “More than there’s light from the sun.”

But, when she asks me “Pourquoi?” I’m often struck dumb. I tell her because she makes me happy, because I can’t live without her, but she just sighs and says, “You’ve already used that one.”

Then I usually end up saying something like, “You make me laugh when you sing like an eighties rock star,” and she grumbles that I’m not very creative.

I hope one day I can find the words to explain to those of you reading this why I feel the way I do about us. I hope one day you’ll believe me.

Until then, Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Blogger Michael Turton said...

We grew up speaking languages that couldn’t be more different. Chinese is one of the oldest languages in human history, and it, from what I know, has changed very little compared to other languages.

Ummm....mandarin is a relatively recent arrival. It is about the same age as English, perhaps a little older. See Wiki:



12:01 AM  
Blogger Robo said...

I'm not talking about Mandarin, specifically. I'm referencing the Chinese linguistic tradition (I guess I could put it that way). This is noted in Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel.

This cannot be said for English, which has been in almost constant change, taking in French, Latin, Germanic, Scandinavian words. Not to mention the revolution in vocabulary brought on by the age of exploration, the enlightenment, etc.

I'm aware that Chinese dialects sound so different that they can hardly be understood sometimes, however, it seems to me that their tradition can be traced back much easier than can english.

I could be wrong. It happens a lot.

1:13 PM  

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