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This Isn't A Love Story

ARS illustration by Jacquelyn Klein 1 f7300


The same night I met her, I sent a screenshot of Hayley Kiyoko’s “Girls Like Girls” video to my best friend. “This will never be me,” I said.

I was in Snowdonia, a mountainous region in rural Wales, on an “adventure weekend” retreat for my study abroad program. I’d spent the day in a slate mine that had been converted to the world’s largest cavern trampoline. The only thing to do that night was a dance party in the hotel basement.

I was ignoring a couple people from apps I’d gone on dates with in London, and the prospects of finding the girl of my dreams at a glorified school dance seemed slim to none.

I decided to give up on love for the foreseeable future and dressed accordingly. I wore leggings, dusty from the mine, and a striped t-shirt I bought because I overheard the cutest out girl at my college say she loved a girl in stripes.

I spotted her after a painful round of pub trivia at the party. I hadn’t seen her before—we were in different dorms and studied at a large school. She was dancing with a professor’s young daughter. I thought that was sweet. She was wearing a long-sleeved, black lace-up bodysuit with high-waisted jeans. It was 2015, so this was cool. She had a lob.

“Is she…?” I asked my friends. It was impossible to tell. I find stereotypes of what a queer person looks like to only be true when applied retroactively. This was all to say that she didn’t look particularly queer to me, but I really hoped she was.

The only solution was to dance with her until I figured it out, so I requested Cassie’s “Me & U” from the DJ and walked toward her with purpose. A couple songs in, I was still uncertain. “Are you queer or very friendly?” I asked, over the music.

She looked confused. “I’m queer and very friendly,” I had to shout. “I know my hair is long right now, but…”

I am queer and very friendly,” she said, smiling.

I was wrong about being the only queer girl in Snowdonia, but we were the only queer girls in that room. It was evident what was happening. People were staring at us.

We went outside.

The grounds of the Royal Victoria Hotel were prettier than the inside. We were lying on a hill behind a cluster of well-manicured trees.

“Are you single?” she asked me. “Yes,” I said. “Are you?”

“I have a boyfriend, but he’s in New York,” she said. “Want to make out?”

The following morning, I spent seven hours on a bus staring at the back of her lob while 50 First Dates played on a tiny television above it. She’d said she’d find me on Facebook when she left my room the previous night, but I hadn’t received any messages.

“Are you queer or very friendly?” I asked over the music.

Last night, we’d giggled over whether our encounter was more like a Disney Channel Movie or porn, but the radio silence the day after dissolved either fantasy. When we got off the bus, I saw that she had waited for me, and she asked me how my day was. I realized we didn’t know each other’s last names, and that was why she had not messaged me. A certain Carrie Underwood song came to mind.

We had the same first name. Her boyfriend in New York also had a dog with the same name as us, but I would learn this much later.

In a span of a couple of weeks, we sent each other over 20,000 Facebook messages.

On Halloween, I happened to pull her out of the way of a cab that showed no sign of slowing down. We went to a Mitski concert and frequented a fantastic Turkish restaurant. I was in Paris during the terror attacks, and when I returned to London, she brought me chocolate in the library while I caught up on work.

Our similarities heightened my attraction to her. We compared our under eye circles and enabled each other's insomnia by talking for hours while everyone else slept and the world felt quieter. We were only children used to the company of adults. As an homage to London and the danger we occasionally found ourselves in, we signed off with "good night, and good luck." She didn't mind when I wrote about her.

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We never turned into a relationship. She didn’t want to date two people.

We talked about this, but my infatuation made it difficult to be honest with myself.

I told myself this was the right involvement at the right time. We went to similar schools in the US, but traveling back and forth to see one another would take about as long as return trip to London. A long-distance relationship would be too painful with someone I liked this much. I longed to know what we would be like if she didn’t have a boyfriend, but maybe this version of us was prettier in my imagination.

She hinted at her lack of availability during our time together, but I ignored it. “I’m sorry if I crossed boundaries of intimacy with you without being actually available,” she admitted during one conversation, when I was complaining to her about a different girl who had done the same.

The New York boyfriend visited the same week my parents did. We ran into them on a day I was caught in a downpour without an umbrella, wearing more eyeliner than usual. I let my makeup run with the rain; I did not stop to say hello. I did not want her to be able to compare us in person. I did not know how much he knew. I did not want to shake his hand.

Eventually, we each returned to the States separately, but maintained constant contact. Our Instagram group chat has not experienced a silent day for almost three years.

How do you get over the person who becomes the relationship you use to illustrate your sexuality, your potential for love, the first person you need share something beautiful or funny with? 

Our friendship endured throughout the period of time when I was saddest about her, and we talked frankly about our involvement. The insight this provided felt like a gift, but made it almost impossible to get over her. The understanding we shared was addictive.

I had to stop sharing six different versions of a picture of myself with her before anyone else, and made a habit of talking to other nocturnal friends, even though she was still my favorite.

“I know I never reciprocated the intensity of your feelings but I thoroughly enjoyed all the time we spent together and who you are as a person; I just want to make it clear that I was exactly as charmed and interested as I came off,” she told me.

“Being sad about you paired so beautifully with my other angst, and now we know each other better than almost anyone even though we almost never see each other,” I responded.

“Ghostlike but gorgeous,” I thought. She agreed.

How do you get over the person who becomes the relationship you use to illustrate your sexuality, your potential for love, the first person you need share something beautiful or funny with?

“There’s definitely something Romantic with a capital R about our relationship that is unlike any other I’ve had and it’s one of my favorite life stories so far,” she texted me once. I swooned a little.

I was recently asked if I’ve had my heart broken. There was a boy who had broken it, and I told him this a year after he did, a couple months after she maybe did, a few days after I cried listening to the band Wet imagining how happy I’d be if she reciprocated with the same breadth. 

I said this to him because it was true, but also because I had to say it to someone and mean it. He’d broken a piece, and she’d taken a part.

I could never tell her this—I offered it to her like a last bite I wished she’d turn down and split into two miniatures for the sake of sharing.

I think we could've loved each other if she'd been completely available when our infatuation was at its peak. I remember how this felt, but I don't feel capable of the same hope and desire she inspired anymore. The girls we were two years ago consumed each other when combined. We're different now, and we helped each other accomplish this by seeing each other with the sort of clarity we'd previously reserved for ourselves.

I see her from time to time. But she doesn’t have the same glow she did while we were involved. I doubt I do, either.

Written by Anya Schulman
Illustrated by Jacquelyn Klein

Anya Schulman is a freelance writer and artist living in New York. She is currently on the Social Media Team at Marc Jacobs. DM her secrets and Avril Lavigne lyrics @anyaschulman.

Jacquelyn Klein is a visual artist studying at Columbia University. She sits on the editorial board of multiple independent publications, including Constellation Magazine which features women and non-binary creatives. Jacquelyn will be interning in the design department at Ralph Lauren this summer. See more of her art+shenanigans @jackiearielle. 

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It's Not Personal is an inclusive dating collective and growing anthology. INP creates opportunities for women/womxn to share their dating experiences in safe spaces, empowers them to find comfort in their relationship statuses, and inspires them to have a healthy relationship with themselves through the tools of art and writing. INP does workshops, events and has a monthly column with BUST Magazine Online, as well as works to raise money for RAINN.  For more information, be sure to follow It's Not Personal on Instagram join the Facebook group, and send art and writing submissions to itsnotpersonalnyc@gmail.com.

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