Book reviews

Where Do I Begin?

love+story.jpg

Erich Segal’s Love Story should be at the top of every writer’s read list. The plotting is masterful and the story goes down easier than a Hostess Fruit Pie. That being said, Love is easy to have fun with.

I’m Oliver Barrett the IV and I’m ticked and p.o.ed. My brawny shoulder carries a big chip. It’s cause of Dad, Oliver III. Dad rubs it in how much better he is. He crewed at Harvard; I just whack at hockey pucks.

Dad took a break from mergers and acquisitions—banking stuff—and traveled three hours to my hockey game, but not to cheer me on. It was so he could gloat what a better athlete he was. He has bigger trophies. His team went to the Olympics. He’s a stonyface phonyface. I got sore and chomping Dad watching me. I beat up on the other team, man to man, stick to stick. Grrr! I’m a one-man fighting machine. But then I had to do time in the box and blew my team’s shot at Nationals.

Dad can’t appreciate Jenny at all. Jen speaks Cranston, that’s a language they speak in Rhode Island, where she’s from. Her dad runs a bakery there. Her mom died in a car accident.

two maps of rhode island on postcards

Map of Rhode Island.

The first time I heard Jen saying, “Oh, Phil, I love you, too,” on the phone, I got sore. I thought I might have to end it with her. But then Jen explained she calls her dad Phil and everything was good again.

Jen said our romance would end after graduation: Jen from Radcliffe, me from Harvard. It’s ‘cause she’s poor and on scholarship and I’ve got dough. She’ll pack her cello or violin or whatever that instrument she plays is and go to Paris where she got a music scholarship. But then I said “Will you marry me?” –magic words– and Jen jumped into my arms and tossed her ticket to Paris. ‘Cause being my wife is way better than having her own career and her own life.

Eiffel Tower: The Iron Lady – Paris Landmark

Eiffel Tower (in Paris).

Ol 3 said over his dead body was I marrying a Rhode Island nobody. I should at least wait a year. No way, Dad. I’m not gonna. So there.

Oops. ‘Cause then Dad said he wasn’t gonna pay for me to go to Harvard Law.

“Fine.  Go right ahead. Don’t pay. I’m going to pull myself up by my own boot straps, or,—er, Jenny is.”

Jen got a job teaching and we got a crum dum apt. Jen trudged home each night to make spaghetti and I hit the books real hard, proving myself and becoming top-notch law guy.

Being poor was fun, like camping or being a pioneer. We made do and practiced our resourcefulness skills. It was romantic, too. Like the revolutionaries in Les Miserables or The Brothers Karamazov.

Then one night Jenny did a baddy. We got this invite to Dad’s 60th big to do birthday party. The invite said RSVP. No way was I gonna. I’m mad at him for cutting me off for not waiting to marry Jenny.

Take that, Dad. I’ll show you.

But Jenny and Dad had this big chat and Jenny tried to get me to say hi. No way. I’m mad at Dad. He’s in a big time out.

Then Jenny said to Dad how Ol 4 loved Dad in his own way. Whopper lie. I do not.

I hurled the phone. Wham! Against the wall. I’m in a fight with Dad. I’m rebelling. I’m turning my back. No fair, Jenny. You can’t say I love Dad. I don’t. I’m in a tantrum I’m so mad.

OMG! Jenny’s gone. Am I gonna lose my bride? I’ll have to figure out how to boil water for spaghetti plus learn law?

I looked everywhere. All the places we used to go. Jen is like nowhere. What am I gonna do? She was my—where do I begin, man? I mean, from the first hello. She brought me so much meaning into my empty world. She filled my heart. With so many wild imaginings and angel’s wings. Plus she knew Mozart and The Beatles.

I tramped around—all night I looked. Just before dawn, I made it back to our crum dum. There she is. Waiting on the steps.

“Oh, man. Jen. I’m sorr—”

She holds up her hand; stops me. Tells me what love means. It means never having to say you’re sorry.

Really? Wow.

I graduated third in my class—I would’ve been first but remember about the spaghetti and all the other hardships—, and me and Jen moved to NYC where I got a job with Big Law. Jen stayed home, grocery shopping and catching up on cultural stuff. And we worked on Ol 5. But no luck. So we saw the doc. I doubted it was me ‘cause I’m big and strapping and manly but I’m enough of a guy to handle it just in case I’m the one. But it wasn’t me. It was her. Jen. And it was more than baby ability. She had the big C.

Only, it was the totally awesome kind of cancer. The kind where you stay cheerful and beautiful and loving and funny and never complain.

One day it was time for her to die and we went to the hospital. Jen got situated on the bed hooked in with tubes and monitors and there was just enough room for me to squeeze in. I cuddled in and wrapped her in my arms and then she went, without any bad smells or screaming or bellyaching, just a pretty tear rolling down her cheek. I got this big lump in my throat and everyone watching the movie version or reading the book does, too. It’s totally awesome how she died.  We get this tragic moment and Jen is so beautiful and nice.

And then in the lobby I ran into Dad. He heard Jen was sick. He drove over as quick as he could.

Well, guess what, Dad. You’re too late.

“I’m sor—” Dad started in but I held out my paw.

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” I said. My best line. Ever.

Dad nodded. I jumped up and down inside. Ha ha. I won. I proved myself. Dad and I are going to have a great relationship from now on. Because both of us have grown. He’s learned something. I’ve learned something. The moment is big.

And then Dad said, “I meant about the spaghetti. Sorry about all the white flour and processed food you ate while pulling yourselves up by your bootstraps. See, processed foods are bad. They cause cancer. That’s why Jenny died.”

I’m still mad. Dad stole my moment. Cheater.

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