Something Like Dreams

This week in my English class we read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, Winter Dreams, which was originally published in the Metropolitan Magazine in December of 1922. Until this story, I don’t know if I’ve ever read a piece of literature in my entire experience of schooling that I have fallen in love with.

I know what it feels like to fall in love with words. Their sharp typography on a dusty, yellowed page, stiff but brave, their meaning never wavering even if clamped shut between covers in an attic. The s-sounds and f-sounds, waterfalls rolling off the lip of tongue, the clipped p’s and t’s.

I also know what it feels like to fall in love with idea of words. To look at someone and feel like you might choke on the words that might burst out if you don’t swallow hard enough, or to clench your fist in frustration when you hear or don’t hear the words that you want them to say.

But I could never confidently say that I’ve fallen in love with a piece of literature like I have with Winter Dreams. I was engulfed in the diction of light and color, and felt like I was swimming in a hazy world of passion and magic. When I read the last three sentences, (“…I cannot cry. I cannot care. That thing will come back to me no more.”) I felt breathless. I looked up from the reading packet that my teacher had given us and glanced anxiously around the fluorescent, cold classroom to see if anyone else seemed to be feeling anything remotely close to what I was. But it was silent and still. Heads were ducked, earbuds in, some folded in their arms catching up on sleep.

I felt dizzy and small. The world suddenly seemed too big and too cold. Dexter knew that Judy Jones could never belong to him, as much as he loved and pursued. He had hopelessly fallen in love with the idea of her. But the reality of it all — that Judy, the woman quite literally of his dreams, was an idea, a concept, that he could not conceivably attain — hit him at his desk in his office at thirty-two years old.

I felt a very similar reaction after watching Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land.” When Mia walked into Seb’s jazz club with her husband, I felt like I had swallowed a stone. The dreamy, giddiness of Mia and Seb being young and in love had vaporized into settlement, reality, and order. Life is beautiful, the movie snapped, in a harsh but firm tone, but love just doesn’t always work out.

These two magnificent pieces of art have such similar revelations. The whirling beauty of being passionately in love was captured so purely in both breathtaking cinematography and magically-woven printed sentences, that we as an audience are in a mini-state of shock when it is over. We’re dragged back into the mundaneness of our own lives, remembering that we are simply who we are and nothing more.

Love makes us feel alive. But it also outlines the sharpness of reality in a way that may seem disappointing, or even depressing.

And for now, I would say that I’ve reserved my love for art that depicts the harsh truth that we don’t always want to face.