Do you know that there is more to a story than just reading it? I sit on your bed and I realize this, after long summer days filled with creamy pages. You get up to pour more tea into that special tea cup, you offer me some more but I shake my head. My glass is still half-full or half-empty as you would say, you never look at the bright side.
I’m reading this book about a boy and a girl, I know that you know what’s going to happen, I do too. It’s a beautifully crafted story though and I can’t look away from the pages, I can’t stop my brain from drinking each word. It’s the same with you; I can’t look away.
There’s a boy named Zephyr, he’s a little rugged and lost, he’s broken. There’s a girl named Juliet and she kills people. They’re both lost. Except, they find each other deep inside the restless city at dawn, the gaudy neon lights shadowing across their faces and they’re somewhat not as lost as before because now they have a map. They fall in love, they fight and they won’t give up against the strong pull that is love. They are everything we are but a little less. I realize when I am at page 276 and Juliet says to the Zephyr with lips that are messy with kisses he hasn’t given, that reading a story is about the characters. It’s about peeling away the layers of them, like the layers of translucent onion and if it’s a good story…. You’ll think you’re done, only to find out that there is more.With Zephyr and Juliet there is more, so much more.
“I love you, I do.”
“Then stop,” Zephyr says because Juliet is laying on his bed sheets with a white dress stained red and it’s cliched but it’s love.
“You know I can’t, Zephyr. This is why we won’t work because I need this but I need you more and I can’t need you this much.” Juliet says.
“So, I think we should stop seeing each other. I can’t drag you down with me.” Juliet continues.
Zephyr nods, he looks away, he looks back and he stands on feet that don’t properly work.
The author tells me that her lips are ferociously bitten and that Zephyr knows that if he kisses her she’ll taste of wine gone sour, I cry.
Because reading a story is being drawn into a relationship, with each and every character. My heart breaks into tiny little fragments, exactly like that first time we said goodbye, when Zephyr walks out of his apartment and arrives 3 hours later to find Juliet gone.
Zephyr leaves everything the way it is: He leaves Juliet’s towel hanging behind the door, he leaves her make up messy on the counter of the toilet, he leaves bits and pieces of her all around the apartment because he can’t move them. Not when it means letting go of the only piece of Juliet he has left.
The next 20 pages is torture, slow drawn out torture that makes me throw a tantrum on the bed and let out a frustrated scream. This causes you to smile that lazy smile you save just for me, it reminds me of summer heat sprawled lazily across Kuala Lumpur.
The next 20 pages for Zephyr is a blur of nights and days that last too long but for me it’s a build of anger, sadness and everything in between because this is Zephyr. This is the Zephyr who’s been hurt so many times before, this is the Zephyr who whispered into Juliet’s hair ‘ I love you’ because he couldn’t say it to her. Not when she would’ve run away with eyes blown wide because Juliet is afraid.
This is the Zephyr that is a reflection of me.
And because there is only a thin layer of pages left, I think it’s over and I don’t want to read. I put the book down and you slant a look towards me, you tell me the same thing you always do when I put a book down in frustration: “Anything can happen.”
Anything does happen, I won’t say spoiler alert because you have read this, Juliet comes back one night. She kisses Zephyr with lips that are cold and she’s covered in blood, Zephyr doesn’t think it’s hers because it never is. That night they make love, soft and sweet like the life they were supposed to have. Juliet shivers and Zephyr presses lips against her hair once more when she’s still.
“I love you.” Zephyr says quietly because it has to be kept a secret from the stars, the moon and especially Juliet. There is silence filled with only the breathing of two bodies so close in distance and mind.
“I love you too.” Juliet says after long drawn out moments.
And everything should be perfect because Zephyr knows.
Zephyr wakes up early to make breakfast, he walks back into the room and he doesn’t care for the stained red sheets, it’s normal now. He tries to wake Juliet up but she doesn’t wake up. Juliet is dead.
I cry tears that are salty with eyes that are rimmed red while you wrap arms around me. I don’t stop crying for minutes that pass by too quickly. You press kisses to my lips and you get the saltiness of tears in your mouth. You tell me, ‘It’s just a story.’ just like you always do.
You get up when you know I am less emotionally drained and you offer me tea, I accept.
“There’s this other book, you’ll love it.” You say leaving the room. You come back a few moments later with warm tea, we sit on the bed legs crossed elegantly below us. You take two bits of papers and two pens, you hand them to me. I write on mine ‘Page 276’, I give mine to you and you give me yours. Your piece of paper is the same except it’s written with letters that hold each others hands.
“It’s Juliet,” You say and you tell me about how it’s effected you. I do the same. Tomorrow is the end of summer break and we’ll walk to college because your car always breaks down halfway there. You’ll tell me about that other book you mentioned and I’ll come over late at night to read on your bed.