Ain’t so Easy to Write a Bad Romance

This is my contribution to my hostel’s entry for the inter hostel creative writing contest, uploaded mostly as a backup.   We were supposed to hand in one broadsheet with certain required elements. The basic idea for our entry is that it’s a scrapbook kept by a woman in New York whose fiance went off to London to be an editor at a newspaper at around 1911-1912, consisting mostly of letters that he sent her and lots of other little tidbits. There’s really not a whole lot else in the story that you need to know, I think. We took a bit of a gamble in having the real weight of the entire theme rest on the last sentence of the last letter, which I wrote and which is posted below. There were two other letters and a clipping from an editorial that the man wrote (it was one of the required elements). Warning: It’s quite a bit over the top with the lovin’, so if you’re in a particularly cynical mood you might want to give this post a miss 🙂 .

April 9th, 1912


My landlady does not believe in the luxury of a log fire come April, and so I write with shivering hands on this unnaturally cold night, longing for the warmth of you held close to me… ah, the memory is enough to lift the cold. Things are going quite well. I remember your apprehensions about my journey here, and how silly they do seem now-the people are ever so kind, and the opportunities ever so much more here than they could be for me back home.

Mr. Davis at the office has very kindly allowed me 2 whole months off, as there are no pressing matters at present. The suffragette movement is in full swing here, but it does not appear to have much popular support, as evidenced by the increasingly desperate acts of its supporters, and in any case my employers do not think anything will come of it. I am less skeptical; it seems rather outrageous to me that women have been denied the vote even this far into the Age of Reason, and sooner or later this must be rectified. Perhaps I speak from liberal naivete and my inexperience of city politics, though, and this is just another ill-fated movement that nobody will remember ten years hence.

Lord Sheperd, my father’s friend (you will recall my mentioning how helpful he has been, helping me navigate through the absurd theatre that is London society, as appreciative as it is of my humble talents) took me to see the house I hope we can call our own. Of course I cannot yet afford one in his neighbourhood, but it is a charming area nonetheless- indeed, it is quite ideal, a haven of quiet in this crowded, smog-filled city, with the only disadvantage being the rather bohemian neighbours, whom we should hardly mind. Indeed, they will be a welcome change in this stodgy city. It is small, but it should be sufficient for our needs. It has the most wonderful little yard; no sooner did I enter it than a vision appeared to me of a sweet young child, our own if God grants it, playing on a ramshackle swing, and I knew that this was the place we should call home. I have already made an offer, and I feel we should be quite happy there.

Tomorrow I will board for “back home”, as I still call it. Yet I hope that this soon may change, for home is where the heart is, and my heart is ever with you; and when I return you will at last be by my side, as my wife. Every hour, every minute, every beat of my heart I long for you, and the closer I come to meeting you the harder it gets. I try to work, but my mind will not stay- I care not for my thoughts, unless they are thoughts of you. Blake was right- there is an eternity in every hour that I am apart from you, and I have been condemned to this lonesome purgatory for all of them. I find your likeness in everything I see; your face lies hidden behind every cloud and you dance in every flame. Every note I hear sings out for you; every robin’s trill, every nightingale’s song. I keep telling myself that you cannot possibly be as fair as I think you to be, that my mind is simply toying with me, that no mortal woman could be to mortal man all that you are to me, and yet it will not be quelled.

You will wait for me on the pier, won’t you? I will wait as long as I must, but to wait an instant more is sheer folly. Your friends will call it eagerness, I suspect, but what if it is? There are worse sins. Tomorrow I shall board the Titanic, and in a week my torment shall be at an end.

Yours in every way,

Yes, I know: Lester. But whatever. Also, read that last line again.

There’s also a poem that I wrote for inclusion in another letter, because the guidelines required a poem.  I’m actually quite proud of this, considering I wrote the whole thing in little over half an hour.

Love catches up to me in the middle of the street
and strikes me down,
and carries me away across the water.
Love guards my back as I prepare for bed,
fighting off Time as it gnaws away at my memories.
Love knocks me off my feet as I rush to work,
and overwhelms me with your sweet scent
(lavender, and jasmine, and something I can never place)
Love sets me afire and takes no note of my objections;
it knows nothing of delayed gratification,
and it is never in mind to learn.
Love is in no mood to wait, yet wait it must,
and it is tearing me apart;
and I can do naught but watch.



8 thoughts on “Ain’t so Easy to Write a Bad Romance

  1. I sort of guessed what the ending was going to be, especially after seeing the time frame. (Also because I’m in navarch). You’re right, though. All the emphasis is on the last line.

    The poem fared better. I usually don’t dig poems but this was pretty good, in my opinion.

    • 🙂 I know, it’s really fairly obvious, but since you can’t really tell for sure till the end I thought that was alright. And glad you liked it.


  2. Finally got around to reading this. [I hope you still take my comment, even if it’s late. ;)]

    Love the language of the letter – it seems absolutely perfect for the time that it’s supposed to be from (what’s the opposite of anachronistic? Chronistic?). Anyways, yeah, it was pretty clear what was coming, something you could have avoided if you’d chosen to leave out the date (or just the year) at the beginning of the letter.

    And I actually don’t think it that over the top (if you don’t consider the poem, at least). I’m surprising myself right now because I’m usually the first one to cry that something’s too schmaltzy. I mean, the letter is a little heavy on the kitsch but I can totally see somebody romantic and in love write this.

    Anyway. The poem. There are some very nice touches there (I especially loved those two lines:
    “and carries me away across the water” and “(lavender, and jasmine, and something I can never place)”. But it felt anachronistic (it was supposed to have been written around 1910, right?) and I thought the rhythm was a little off. In short, it’s good for a first draft (which this is, as you say), but it’d deserve a little more work.

  3. Ah, it is obvious, but it doesn’t really seem appropriate to have a letter without a date. Also, if it comes out of nowhere it would seem a little strange, wouldn’t it? That was the rationale, anyway.

    And yes, I guess it isn’t really that appropriate for the time, but it was either this or a (probably more appropriate but) rather weird sounding poem that someone else had written, so finally we went with this. We would have left it out entirely except for the fact that it was one of the required elements.

    • Well, I like to be surprised, so I wouldn’t have minded that. But to avoid the “coming out of nowhere thing”, you could put the date at the end of the letter and mention in the letter that the person’s boarding a ship. Then it would have been announced but not obvious.
      But it’s not essential to be surprised by the text, so you can completely ignore all I’m saying about that. 😉

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