I first had this concept about 12 years ago. Two years ago I wrote this first chapter and put it aside. Looking for something else to work on while waiting for editorial notes I came across it and am thinking about developing it. What do the folks in here think?
Title: "Crush Story."
I don’t believe in love.
Okay, let me qualify that. I don’t mean “I don’t believe in love” like you might say “I don’t believe in Santa Claus.” I mean it like “I don’t believe in war,” or “I don’t believe in bigotry,” or any of a thousand other things that make this world of ours just a little less than wonderful. I do know that love exists; unlike Santa Claus there’s plenty of irrefutable evidence that there is something in this universe that matches the definition of what most people call “love.” I’m just morally opposed to it, that’s all.
You see, love is passive. It happens to you, sort of like chicken pox. “I’m sorry, Mr. Sullivan, Jason can’t come to school this morning. He’s got a bad case of love, and we don’t want him to infect the other children.” And like lots of other childhood illnesses, if you get it past a certain age, it can prove fatal. If only they’d find a vaccine for it, but something tells me that the greeting card people and the florists are actively crushing any research into that area. When you make gazillions treating the symptom, why would you ever want a cure?
Now infatuation, that’s a different thing. You have to work hard at a good infatuation. It can take months to cultivate, because if it’s going to be any good it has to ripen on the vine. You can’t stop at a mere attraction to someone. If you’re going to seriously crush on a person, you have to use that attraction as a foundation to build upon. You allow the target of your infatuation to take over your thoughts. You do research, I’d even call it due diligence, to make sure that the crush can be everything you want it to be. And above all, you do it all from a distance. There’s a thin line between crushing and stalking, and the less skilled practitioner risks falling from flirtation into felony.
That’s the other beautiful thing about infatuation: it’s almost altruistic. If you love someone then you’re bound to expect something in return, some kind of reciprocity. If you tell someone you love them, they might feel obligated to tell you the same thing back. And if they don’t return your love then your feelings might get hurt. Then their feelings might get hurt because they hurt your feelings. Then this whole big love feedback loop builds up that could destroy you both. But with a crush, the object of your affectation will probably never even know how you feel, and you will never expect them to feel it back. There’s no pressure on either of you. It’s pure! Its beauty is in its simplicity!
That’s why I don’t believe in love. Give me infatuation any day. If the whole world would just stop all this love crap and concentrate on our crushes, we’d all end up being a lot happier.
Have you ever been in love? Complete, total, head-over-heels love? I have, and it is the greatest feeling a guy can ever have. It’s that certain something that makes you want to be a better person, to live up to what the person you love deserves and expects.
I’ve been in love before, but not that often. I’ve been with lots of girls, but only a few of them have ever come close to what I call love. To be honest, most of the girls I’ve really loved have not been the ones that I’ve done what comes naturally between a guy and a girl with. In fact, I’ve not done anything with most of them but love them quietly from a distance.
You see, I’ve never been that good with girls. Yeah, you’d think that a guy like me could get all the chicks I’d want, and yes I’ve chalked up more than my share of conquests. But those weren’t girls I loved. That was nothing more than some well applied friction in a game of bongo-bongo-bongo if you know what I mean. That’s not the way you treat a girl that you love. At least, that’s not how I treat them. And that’s my problem. Chicks dig guys like me; girls that are worth loving tend not to.
When I love a girl, I mean really love a girl, something just snaps in my brain. My mouth goes down for the count and my legs follow shortly after. My entire nervous system short circuits like someone stuffed a penny in its fuse box. It’s hard enough to think, and to actually put on a good enough act to make the girl I love maybe, just maybe, love me back is not something I tend to be capable of.
Fortunately, like I said, love is something that makes you want to be a better person. And that’s what I’m planning. I’m going to make myself a better person just for her. I’m going to make myself be someone who Emily can love back.
Now, Romance? That’s another story all together. Take the conversation I had with Emily this afternoon. She had met up with me at my locker, as she tends to do as school is letting out, and did something she has an annoying tendency to do: put all of the responsibility for our Friday night plans squarely on my shoulders.
“So, I was thinking about tonight. What would you say to a nice dinner? I'm thinking Orlando's....”
That’s key. Put an option before her that you can live with, but not your first preference. Odds are that the object of your attention will take advantage of the situation by steering things in the direction they want, which hopefully will be close to what you want. Take Orlando’s, for example. It’s almost a cliché among the kids at our school as “the romantic place” to eat. Not only is it dark with subtle mood music, but it helps that they have half decent pasta dishes at prices we can afford on the wages of our measly part-time jobs and occasional largesse from the folks. But when I’m getting burned out on fettuccine….
“Not Orlando's. I couldn't take Italian tonight.”
“Okay, we'll think of someplace else. Then, we'll take in a movie, something quiet and romantic that really makes us cry our eyes out. Then, we'll go back to my place. I have the place to myself for the weekend. We’ll curl up with a quart of Ben and Jerry's and watch Annie Hall again. Sound good to you?”
I’m not going to dissect that entire scenario for you and explain why it works or what is romantic about it. You should be able to figure it all out for yourself. Provided, of course, you have a soul.
“Oh, Jason, that's perfect! Absolutely perfect! You're so sweet. I love you!” As she said that, she leaned over and kissed me very demurely on the cheek, which caused a natural physiological reaction, against all of my use of will power to stop it, making me blush. She stared at my slightly-reddening face and paused for a few seconds.
“You sure you're gay?”
“Oh, well, can't blame a girl for trying.”
Again, we get back to the matter of pureness. Romance, like infatuation, is best when it’s done without expectation of compensation. That’s as pure and beautiful as it comes.
I’ll never understand how it comes so easily for some guys. Take that Jason kid. Emily’s always all over him and he’s about as gay as a… big gay thing.
Okay, so words aren’t always my strong point, either.
Anyway, why is it so simple for him and so hard for me? It’s not that he’s smarter than me, because I think that if you were to find some fair way to measure our intelligence levels side by side we’d be pretty evenly matched. I’m not stupid and he’s not Einstein. It’s not that he’s better looking than me; he’s as skinny as a… I don’t know… big skinny thing. No muscle tone at all. Not at all like me. Getting out there on the baseball diamond, working out in the weight room, jumping rope….
There we go: a jump-rope. He’s as skinny as a jump-rope. Knew I’d think of something if I thought hard enough. Anyway, I’ve built up a pretty impressive set of muscles, and should have a much easier time puling girls than a kid like Jason. So why is it so easy for him, especially when, as I think I mentioned earlier, he’s about as gay as an Easter Parade?
Did that make sentence sense to you? Because I don’t think it made sense to me now that I think about it. Chalk it up with Jason’s sex appeal as one more thing that doesn’t make sense in this world.
Now, raw sex appeal? That’s about as detached from romance as you can possibly get. Attraction is not about romance, it’s about chemistry and physics and boosts of certain compounds to particular receptors in your brain that are programmed to make you feel either good, or stupid, or both at the same time. There’s not much difference between the chemical compounds created by your body in response to sexual attraction and the stuff they pump you full of in a hospital to take away the pain that’s got you doubled up in a fetal position. Your body sees a broken heart and a broken arm as basically the same thing, and responds to treatment in a similar manner.
Sex appeal is another in the ever-growing list of things that are better with infatuation than with love. Take the current object of my ardor, for example. That’s him down on the field right now, coming up to bat. Everything about him seems perfectly designed to start the little nuclear chain reaction in my gland: from the width of his shoulders to the shape of his chin, to that cute way he rolls up the legs of his uniform pants to his knees the way the old-time baseball players did and as a result shows off those legs of his. I believe in giving my eyes a treat by letting them linger on something so easy to look at whenever possible, and when Sam comes up to bat he is the perfect present for my weary baby blues. But if I were to try to move that infatuation into something more substantial and love-related, I’ll bet that I’d need more of the broken arm chemicals than the broken heart ones. If there’s something I’ve learned over the years, it’s that straight boys and romance do not mix. Especially if your romance has ulterior motives, as mine would in the case of him.
So the more I thought about it, looking at Jason over there on the bleachers next to Emily, the less sense it all made. And the less sense it made, the more convinced I became that there must be some kind of secret involved. That kid knew something I don’t. And I was gonna find out what it was.
And that’s how it all began.
This is not a love story. Love is corrupt. Love is painful. Love has hidden agendas. True, this story has corruption and pain and more than a few hidden agendas, a couple of which were mine if you want to know the truth. But that’s not because of love. This story would have ended up the same way even if love as a concept didn’t exist and people literally didn’t believe in love.
No, this story is not a love story. This story is pure. This story is almost altruistic.
Call it what it really is.
This is a crush story.
* * *
I love the POV switch and the lead up has me wanting more. I worry it's too in their heads and not action on the page. Would this get more active and present?
It's a nice tension build hearing from each of them and them making it a broader issue than hormones. And I can see it'd be easy to like and identify with each character, they all have good voice already.
Without scenes of movement and active dialogue, it runs the risk of being preachy or monologue ish. I recognize this was a proposal sample of sorts and I'd say -go for it! Sounds like something I'd read and that YA would eat up as new and intriguing. Hopefully it would be a nice read for someone of any sexual persuasion. That is a huge draw for me, I like it to be accessible to all.
Thanks for sharing! ~M
If I continue it there will be considerably more action. This would probably be better labeled as a "prologue" since its purpose would be to introduce the situation overall and set the scene for the action that follows. I will also cut down on the number of POV shifts, generally shifting at the beginning of chapters except for one scene I have in mind that would have to have a very quick cut from one character's POV to the other's, then back. I'm also concerned about whether or not I'll be able to sustain two different character voices both in my head and on the page.
The basic plot would be along the lines of they agree to essentially make each other over: Jason helping Sam be more romantic and Sam offering to train Jason to be more athletic in return. Of course, Jason wouldn't care about becoming a jock, he'd just like spending time with Sam.
I have the beginnings of a plot and a happy (if not happy ever-after) ending in mind, so maybe if there's some merit in what I've got now I'll pursue it.
I think you're on the money with reducing the number of POV switches. I do like being in each character's head, but htis jumped around a bit too much to be easy to follow. Perhaps alternating chapters?
I do like the overall concept of them agreeing to help each other change, and then I assume some sort of a friendship blossoms between them. I also like this analysis and exploration of love -- there are so many types of love out there that it's obscene so many people strictly equate love with sexual relationships. I love my family, I love my friends, and I love my husband all very much, and in such very different ways.
I also cracked up at this line:
' You see, love is passive. It happens to you, sort of like chicken pox. “I’m sorry, Mr. Sullivan, Jason can’t come to school this morning. He’s got a bad case of love, and we don’t want him to infect the other children.” '
One of my highschool teachers used to say something very similar. She told us "When you say you've 'fallen in love', it makes it sound like you fell in a hole!"
If you need a CP or someone to bounce ideas off of, shoot me a message :)