This is the story I’m going to talk about: http://www.apex-magazine.com/karina-who-kissed-spacetime/
I read this beautiful story today. Honestly, I don’t even know why I think it’s beautiful. But the fact is, once I had finished reading it, I was crying and feeling very quiet inside. Perhaps the realization that a work of prose is capable of reducing me to this state made it so beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not neurotic. Really. I am sensitive and emotional, but because of several school experiences, I’ve learned to suppress those instincts till I’m in a space where I can be myself. So, I am far more comfortable with emotions than my cyberpunk-obsessed-robot-building-geeky-tomboy-dubstep-persona will have you believe. Perhaps that would be one of the reasons we could become friends; if you could see past that for who I truly am and understand that I am inconstant as I evolve.
The story is very simply about a young Indian student falling in love with a Russian senior at a university in Pennsylvania. Already there are several reasons why this resonates with me. I too am an international student in the United States. Through the narrator’s emotional experiences, it appears that space-time appears to rupture and the protagonist is in some sort of visionary limbo, where he can sense the present and know that the future is to come. They fall in love, or rather the protagonist does and he can even foresee the failure of their relationship and how much it will hurt him, but he will not let go for fear of not having tried.
The English is charming. Literally, there were so many themes and experiences that I have felt that were so sensitively portrayed that I was rather moved. The imagery is profound. The metaphors are deep. But these reasons are not why the story made me cry. I have been suppressing some very important questions about myself and my relationships for quite a while and this story seemed to dig up something that I had been ignoring. I don’t know if it was for better or for worse.
Perhaps one of the things that struck me was that the protagonist was male. It seems massively surprising that human males (especially adolescents) are capable of expressing this depth of emotion. In part this stems from the extremely unjust social stereotype that men have to have their emotions bottled up somewhere in order to earn respect. But all said and done, it is a social stereotype that has taken me a very long time to digest. I have spent years of my adolescence coloring my limited knowledge of the male psyche with my bias, and only now that I am no longer as angst-ridden do I realize it was unfair. It was unfair of me to think that guys/boys/men do not feel anything, or that they do not share the same intensity and passion as girls do.
I was somewhat moved because this male protagonist proved to me that emotions, especially of love and security, transcend gender boundaries. As do many of the stereotypes in our life. But this was one that I was guilty of giving in to and to have this one simple story shatter it made me feel oddly humbled and sympathetic. Some part of my brain breaks the sudden deafening silence by saying that this is obviously a work of fiction and therefore whatever earth-shattering revelation I may or may not have had can be attributed largely to creative genius.
This is not to say that I never believed guys could have emotions or would have emotions. I mean, I understand as human beings we all share certain emotions and that for most guys, or at least most of whom I know, they tend to possess hearts under that cold/stand-offish exterior. Maybe I am being horribly hypocritical here when I say that they don’t exactly make these cores very easy to access. Personally, I have always been attributed with being warm and open. This is a behavioral trait that developed in school shortly after I discovered that my own recycled secrets were being used to spin stories about me. I promised myself that I would never ever abuse someone else’s confidence in me and I’ve been very good with that promise. This has led to me being the confidante of several people in my friend network. But somehow, very few guys if at all, approach me emotionally.
I used to think it was my fault. Perhaps I was too loud, too non-conservative in my views, too forthright in my communication? Perhaps I was <insert adjective of choice from immense list of descriptors>? After failing in several attempts to modify my own persona to make myself understand the male psyche, I arrived at the rather lazy and immature conclusion that the only reason they were not confiding in me is because they probably had nothing to confide in me.
Several things happened that have changed that remarkably, and even though I fundamentally know that this postulate is wrong, I get surprised every time something happens to disprove it. A brilliant isolated classmate whom nobody would have thought had a life beyond homework and coding secretly confided in me of his artistic endeavors. And he actually made a joke. To me. Which was truly, appreciably funny. At some level I am hugely pleased with him for opening up to me but at another level I’m disappointed as to why I had assumed something otherwise. A distant acquaintance has now become one of my closest friends, and actually bothers to check in on me more frequently than my own room-mate does. Another friend shared with me that the biggest reason for his depression this semester was the demise of a close friend in a car accident.
These people have shared in me, which means it is high time I abolish the archaic gender-based stereotype I (unconsciously, mind you) was propagating. Perhaps people will share their emotions with me when they’re ready to do so and if they don’t it’s not for any specific “fault” of my own. Again, kudos to a great story for supporting my decision to clear out what I knew was wrong.