everything i know about love, sexual obsession + small aircraft disasters*

*i learned from watching soap operas when i was a kid

a flash fiction

Before I knew anything about anything, I wanted to be a district attorney when I grew up. Then I realized that what I should really be …

…was a beautiful woman on a soap opera.

They didn’t sit. They lounged.

They didn’t walk. They slunk around.

Sally Tapwell on the show ‘Santa Darla’: how she suffered from the men who suffered for her!

There was her boyfriend Rick, who helped her escape from a bunch of wild gunmen. I don’t remember the details, just that amnesia of course was involved

and then Rick’s younger brother Damon came to town. He was never the same after he and Sally accidentally ended up sleeping together. Damon took her flying in his little private plane and he was all:

How do you like me flying this private plane

and she was all:

Dude, you just totally crashed it, here we are amid the wreckage in the wilderness.

They had sex in that life-affirming way people sometimes have sex after they have stared into the eyes of death and not died. (Also champagne.) Sally was once seen holding a copy of The Bell Jar to let us the audience know that she was serious and deep, so you know she got all:

I tasted the ash of my own mortality and I went dead inside, and now fifteen minutes have passed, maybe twenty, and I want to feel alive again, plus you’re almost as hot as I am — and I am seriously hot, as you know — and when people of equal hotness end up stranded alone together, it’s like a sign from the writers that they should have sex. But we really shouldn’t have sex, Damon, because it is wrong, it is wrong, I am in love with your brother, as you know. Take off your pants.

Then she felt guilty and told him they would never have the intercourse again, never EVER

and then Damon robbed an offshore casino so he would be rich enough for Sally to run off with him and adopt some adorable war orphans. Sally was unmoved by this romantic gesture

and Damon fell out of a window, to a death that was sadly premature. This sent Sally over the edge (I am using a metaphor, she did not literally fall out of anything) because when she was a little girl nobody warned her about the burden of being beautiful, the power and the responsibility, the cross that you must carry until you can let a man carry it for you. Her family, which was wealthy, sent her off to a mental hospital

and, see, there was this character who had been on ‘Santa Darla’ for maybe six months by then, passing himself off to the other characters as this salty blue collar sailor type even though when he was alone he would wear a velvet smoking jacket and watch Masterpiece Theatre so we the audience would know that he was not what he seemed. He faked being crazy to get into the mental hospital so he could rescue Sally from the evil psychiatrist, who was busy telling all the other evil psychiatrists to

go find your own delicately deranged blonde from a prominent and wealthy family, this one is mine

and so of course hijinks ensued. The sailor-who-wasn’t-really-a-sailor, and wasn’t as crazy as he was pretending to be even though he did seem to be a bit crazy in the times when he wasn’t pretending, fell in love with Sally — the girl can’t help it —

but she ended up with Rafe, the handsome blonde British guy. Rafe worked at an ad agency, or at least he did until the writers told him,

Dude, we’re paralyzing you and putting you in a wheelchair. Sorry.

And he said,

But why are you doing this to me?

And they said,

Because we can.

He was still very attractive. He lost the use of his legs, it wasn’t like he lost his British accent or anything. But he wasn’t fun anymore, he was all:

It sucks to be me.

This was around the time that Sally’s sister Paradise got raped by Paradise’s handsome gynecologist Logan (although it would still be another month or so before people learned that Logan — as in

Logan! Yes, Logan! Our friendly neighborhood gynecologist!

— was the masked rapist prowling the woods and terrorizing the attractive denizens of Santa Darla)

and Paradise’s ongoing recovery from this traumatic event became another reason why she couldn’t live happily ever after with her hunky Latino sheriff boyfriend Pablo. Also, someone threw her in a tank of sharks. She got out of that okay. But then she ended up in a wheelchair because the writers were repeating themselves and you just know she wasn’t keeping up with her gratitude journal, she was all

Leave me alone to brood attractively in the light of the dying sun!…Also, get me a latte from Starbucks. (Soy not dairy. For I am lactose intolerant.)

and lots of people, including doctors, kept saying she would never walk again, but then one morning she woke up and said to Pablo,

Hey, guess what

and he said,


and she said,

Look what I can do

and she got up out of the wheelchair because all this time she had been secretly teaching herself to walk again, you can do anything you set your mind to if only you have enough passion. This is America. By the way, I don’t remember how she got injured

only that it happened after she got away from the handsome lawyer who seemed like such a nice guy when he first came to the idyllic seaside town of Santa Darla

see, I am such a nice and handsome guy, also I am a lawyer, so don’t you want to date me Paradise even though you’re in love with Pablo, what do you mean you’re still in love with Pablo, I have asked you out five different times now and you WILL be mine, Paradise, you WILL be mine

and someone blackmailed her into marrying the lawyer instead of Pablo, and after the lawyer became her husband he turned to her and said,

See, I told you.

It turned out that he had been obsessed with her for years and had come to Santa Darla specifically to marry her, because he wasn’t afraid of commitment

but then he went psycho and died. I don’t remember how or why he died, maybe because the actor’s contract was up — or maybe the sharks, although that seems an overly convenient plot device — and then all of us watching the show were thinking, Well, now Paradise will finally get back together with Pablo! and they will be happy! Except Pablo accidentally married someone else because, you know, hallucinogenics.

(Don’t do drugs.)

Also, there was this smarmy district attorney guy. He was never the same after he went on a walk with Paradise, even though she only invited him along to distract him from something happening in another storyline that did not interest me. They reached the end of their walk and he said,

You know, Paradise, you are a very charming woman

and boom, he was obsessed, you could tell. That’s how romantic obsession happens, like a piano toppling out of a window at the wrong exact moment. It fell on the district attorney, but only because he was standing underneath it and did not get out of the way. It’s not like anybody told him

Dude, there’s this piano falling on your head, you might want to step back a bit.

It was just dumb luck. A falling piano can be like that

which is why it seems more sensible, when you grow up, and no doubt a whole lot safer, not to be the district attorney. You should be the beautiful woman.

Justine Musk writes fiction and nonfiction and is a 3x TEDx speaker on creativity, identity and self-esteem. Find her at www.justinemusk.com.