Let Me Tell You About "Love"

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28-year-old Juliana is having the worst day of her life: her heart had just been broken after a failed love confession to her FWB (Lucas), she's having a meltdown at work, and it's another rainy day in Berlin's dreadful winter. On her way home, as she's busy hating herself and the rest of the world, she finds a wet biz card of a guardian angel. Although she's certain it's just another quirky joke (Berlin is all about weird, after all) she picks up the card. Longing for a new adventure and something to ease her pain, she contacts the "angel" and they meet at a happening bar. As it turns out, Rafael is a gorgeous, to-die-for adonis, who just might be able to make her forget about Lucas. Is he really who he says he is, though?

Humor / Romance
Hadar Badt
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

I will never forget the day I met Raphael, as it happened to be the same day I finally stopped believing in love, and everything else, for that matter. It was a gloomy winter Wednesday. Absolutely horrific. The rain was coming down like crazy. I was almost certain it did so out of spite, knowing I had forgotten to bring an umbrella. I was walking along a quiet street in Berlin—yes, we have dull streets here, too, believe it or not; it’s not Schicki-Micki[1] überall—soaked to the bone, and far too busy indulging myself in self-pity, trying to make up for all those years my pride had prevented me from doing so, when some mysterious urge compelled me to look down and behold a weird business card:

Raphael: Personal Guardian Angel

[email protected]

Raphael? A personal guardian angel? Oh, puh-leese! I can’t say I was surprised. After five years of living in this city, I found myself reacting as does every fellow—or wannabe—Berliner when encountering another obscenity or oddity: a shake of the head and a smirk, accompanied by the notorious shrug. People warned me about Berlin, saying how incorrigible it is, but I thought they were exaggerating. Well, they weren’t. Impossible things happen daily in this fun-loving hipster paradise: From those weirdos who talk with their imaginary friends on the subway; to that stranger last week who claimed to have met me in a former life; to that French bartender at my local Kneipe[2], who also happens to be a psychic for pets. Say what? God only knows what led me to pick up the card and put it in my pocket—but I promptly forgot all about it, for the time being.

Caught up in thought and my own misery, I let my feet carry me home. I had left work early that day. My excuse? I said I was sick. I wasn’t really sick-sick, but it wasn’t a lie-lie either. I just had to get out of there. I couldn’t stand even one more second sitting there, in my cubicle, the same cubicle I’d been sitting in for the past five years of my life, forced to listen to that never-ending, meaningless chatter of my coworkers. I really don’t know why I lost it that particular day. It wasn’t the first time my heart had been broken. Shitty days happen—that’s life. Get over it, right? One minute I was sitting at my Mac, going through a tiresome financial report my boss had sent, and the next I felt like I was about to throw up, cry, scream, pluck my hair out, and tear down that fucking cubicle, all at the same time. But I didn’t, of course. I sat there for one more hour, staring blankly at the ninety-eight-page PDF report in disbelief. Five years. Five years of my life had vanished—just like that!—for a job I hated. It wasn’t that the job was boring, or that my boss was an asshole—he was actually a nice guy, decent and fair, and so were my colleagues. It was fear: Would I still be doing this from now until retirement? From now until death finds me? From now until the end of time? Life was so full of promise on graduation day. They told me great things were in store. Where were those great things? Eh? Fucking liars! How did I end up being one of those people enslaved in a cubicle, like some “Dilbert” character? And what was this? Was I finally having the nervous breakdown I’d always expected? At twenty-eight? Aren’t you supposed to be older when this shit happens? Alright, I was being a tad melodramatic. But we’re all entitled to embrace our inner diva-bitch from time to time, right?

I was so busy hating the entire world during those fifteen minutes that separated me from my beloved bed, I hadn’t even noticed the fancy-suited business woman appear from around the corner. She was running on her pointy high heels, trying to avoid the rain. The collision was inevitable. The folder she carried flipped open, her papers flew above our heads in all directions, then dove straight into the puddles below. I mumbled a few distressed Entschuldigungs[3] and knelt beside her, handing her some soaked papers I had picked up from the pavement. She swore quietly in German, assuming, as most Germans do, I would not understand—after all, my American accent was quite noticeable. But I did understand. I forced a fake smile, pretending to not have heard her insults while I held back tears, then ran the hell out of there, leaving her passive-aggressive grunts behind me. Why did my walk home seem so long all of a sudden? I didn’t want to think about all that had happened, yet I was forced to, because I was walking in the rain, hating myself and everybody else, and there was nothing better to do.

How could I have been so stupid? So fucking stupid? Me and love? Who am I kidding? We’ve never really got along. Even when we did get along, we didn’t. I don’t know why it took me so long to see that—twenty-eight years, to be exact. It’s funny when you think about it. I don’t really have any reason to complain about my life compared to others less fortunate than myself, but when it comes to love, I feel like it’s a battle I’ve already lost even before it had begun. I mean, there were signs all over the place—hell, sirens, alarms, you name it. I just chose to ignore them. Nothing is easier, right? There’s a problem? Ignore it and hope it goes away by itself. The truth is overrated, trust me, I know what I’m talking about. From my own experience, I can say the truth usually sucks. After you hear it, you’re never the same. You’re either scared to death, inconceivably sad, frighteningly angry, or deeply disappointed, all of your dreams utterly crushed.

I don’t know who’s responsible for our belief in romantic love. Are those pink and red Valentine’s Day cards and heart-shaped chocolates to blame? Or those chick flicks? What about those ’80s songs we grew up on—“I Want to Know What Love Is” and “The Power of Love”? Are they to blame? If I didn’t know better, I’d say that romantic love is a universal religion. All humans believe in it. Complex rituals surround it: holding hands, hugging, kissing, caressing, yearning, flirting, and more, much more, but also chest pain, difficulty breathing, sleepless nights, unwanted tears and swollen eyes. Oh yes, and self-hatred. Like many of you, like every true believer, I let them—whoever they are—convince me that love exists. Blindly, without asking questions or doubting its existence, I kept on looking for love in all the wrong places, hoping it wouldn’t be long before I found it. Until that unfortunate Wednesday.

Earlier that same morning, I was still in bed with Lucas—a gorgeous six-feet-two Argentinian to whom every possible positive adjective could be attached. I ran my fingers through his thick brown hair and blurted, “I think I’m in love with you.” Lucas was lying on his back and I was by his side, looking at him while he stared at the ceiling.

Lucas chuckled, his blue eyes still avoiding mine, and said, “You are something else, Jules! Always such a goofball!” He laughed, turned on his side, and started to tickle me.

“Stop!” I demanded, laughing as well. I didn’t even have time to grasp what had just happened; what I had just told him. The last thing I wanted to do was to laugh, but those damn instincts forced me to.

“Say the magic word!” Lucas said, refusing to stop. I was twitching and laughing hysterically when Lucas brought out the big guns and said, “Any man would be lucky to have such a good friend with benefits like you, Jules. Really. You are by far the best friend with benefits ever!”

“¡Por favor! ¡Déjame en paz![4] I called out of breath. Lucas stopped and flipped on his back again. I sat in bed, my back turned to him, and gathered my breath. Shit. What did I do? What the fuck was I thinking?! This has got to be the worst moment of my life! I have to get the fuck out of here!

Lucas patted the bed and touched my bare back. “Come on, Jules, get back in bed, we still have time for another round before work.” He wrapped his arms around me and kissed my neck.

God only knows how I managed to play it cool, acting as if he hadn’t crushed me completely. I forced myself not to shed any tears while still in his bed, threatening to punish myself if I did—If you cry now, no dessert for the next six months! If you cry now, no vacation for the next two years and you will suffer all winter long in Berlin!—that sort of thing. I released myself from his grip and stepped out of bed. “I can’t,” I said, “I have an early meeting.” This was a lie, of course. I ran to the shower, brushed my teeth and washed my face, put on my clothes as quickly as possible, and left his place. Without an umbrella. I couldn’t wait to get to work—that’s before I knew about my upcoming meltdown, mind you—so I wouldn’t need to face the cold, harsh truth: Lucas didn’t feel the same way about me, nor would he ever. You can tell by looking into the other person’s eyes. You know when there’s something there, and you know when there isn’t.

Only a few days before, we had been hanging out at some Kneipe in Neukölln, Lucas, me and some friends, talking about this very topic—love. After a few shots, Lucas had declared that all emotions were merely caused by a chemical reaction in the brain. We are basically only flesh, bones, and organs—according to him—a walking mess with millions of atoms. Because we can’t deal with this truth, we tell ourselves that we have souls, that we each have a density, and that love really exists. Well, after having been his...whatever for nearly seven months, I concluded he must be a robot, like many other people I had met in Berlin. Too bad I had realized this at roughly around the same time I finally admitted to myself that I was in love with him, despite my attempts to deny it, to fight it. He was the first guy in the world to whom I had said such a thing. I was determined to make him the last. I will never get my hands dirty again with this BS, I thought.

Sitting at work later that Wednesday, pretending to be busy, a few minutes before my meltdown, I realized Lucas was right: Love doesn’t exist. It all begins and ends with chemistry. That’s when the self-hatred kicked in, by the way. Of all people, I should have known better, given my history with love. I was never good at these things, with expressing emotions. Why did I think it would suddenly change? I could never get it right. Yeah, that’s me. I was the classic introvert-extrovert. It was easier to keep a safe distance from everyone. Keep everything cool and casual. Drama? Declarations of love? Deep conversations about the meaning of life? Nah, those weren’t for me. No. I was always the kind of person everybody liked—well, if you don’t count my ex-best friend, Michelle, that backstabbing bitch. No, really. I was cool with everybody and they were cool with me, without realizing they didn’t even know the real me. Nobody knew the real me. Not even my parents. I wanted to keep me all to myself—not let others taint it by imposing social obligations, norms, expectations, and make claims of unrealized potential accompanied by disappointment-filled sighs. So what if I was actually a loner disguised as a social animal? It’s astounding how nobody bothers you with personal questions when you’re in a big crowd. You’re just one of them. You’re not the same you you are alone at home. I won’t lie. It was all part of the plan. I made them think I was one of them to be left alone; to not be forced to do things I really didn’t want to do, but must because I’m still a member of society and there are responsibilities to follow. I avoided confrontations and ignored gray areas which could lead to potential disputes. Take my parents, for example. I never got into big fights with them, even when I was a teenager and expected to do so; even after they got divorced when I was fifteen. I could have made a scene. I could have blamed my parents for breaking the family apart. I could have played with their guilty conscience by saying things like, “Thanks to you, I might never have a healthy relationship when I grow up.” But I didn’t. Instead, I said, “I understand, Mom and Dad. I’m no longer a kid. These things happen. People grow apart. It’s a natural thing. I don’t want you to stay together for my sake if that’s not what you want.” Yeah, I pretended to be cool with it, even though I wasn’t, and it broke my heart, which never truly healed after that. I don’t see what I could have done to stop it, to change it. Screaming and crying is just a big waste of time. So are revelations of the heart. So why? Why did I go against my nature and say these fucking seven words to Lucas?

Come to think about it, maybe my fake I’m-cool-with-your-divorce-mom-and-dad act can explain why I turned into an argumentative adult (not that I claim to be an adult). Years of self-restraint; years of holding on to my real thoughts and feelings, not daring to share them, had taken a toll on me. The monster was unleashed all at once. It happened sometime during my first semester at college in a dreadful microeconomics course. The presumptuous professor tried to humiliate me in front of nearly 300 other students. I couldn’t hold my rage inside and answered back, making me a heroine to my fellow students, if not to the faculty dean. From then on, there was no stopping me.

As I reached my building, a dramatic refrain started playing in my head: Ha-lle-lu-jah! Ha-lle-lu-jah! Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Halle-lu-jah! I stepped inside, walked up the stairs to the third floor, and opened the door to my apartment, slamming it behind me. I went directly to the kitchen, my wet sneakers leaving a watery trail of footprints, and drank a glass of water. I took off my soaked clothes, tossed my shoes, jeans, and T-shirt onto the floor, and crawled into bed. It only took me two minutes to fall asleep.

[1] Schmancy

[2] Bar, pub

[3] Pardon

[4] Please! Leave me alone!

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