13 Touching Love Stories from our Readers and Writers
Love is in the air. These essays explore dating, heartbreak and chance encounters.
Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles. I have often remarked that John Hughes has a lot to answer for. Too many women of my generation have wasted time and made countless romantic mistakes because of Jake’s swoon-worthy eyes, awesome style, cool hair and crooked smile. But nothing had me picturing life as Mrs. Michael Schoeffling more than the fact that Jake, the character he played, broke things off with the most popular girl in school and chose the wallflower.
– Donna Rae Gibbs, Moncton, N.B.
Falling Head Over Heels (And Back Again)
In my early 20s, a certain hopefulness accompanied going out. There was grooming, hair products and, if I was particularly optimistic, a “going-out shirt.”
I was wearing my going-out shirt the evening of my first campus mixer at Concordia University in Montreal, which I attended with my friend Alex, an older-looking boy who wore a push-broom moustache that gave him the look of a sad walrus. It was in his sad walrus way that he introduced me to a girl from his film class.
Alex disappeared, and the girl and I found a place to sit. As the hours passed, it felt like we were building something, as comforting as a blanket fort. Though I no longer recall our conversation, I still remember her warm smile, how awkward and kind it was of her to God-bless-me when I coughed. I also remember how badly I needed to pee. Which, in a misguided attempt at bravado, I told her.
“But I’m afraid if I do,” I said, “when I come back to the table, it won’t be the same.”
“Let’s take that risk,” she said.
And, of course, it wasn’t the same. When I returned, there was Alex, a rum-and-Coke straw shoved under his moustache like a tusk. The girl and I parted without exchanging numbers. But even now, more than 20 years later, I can say with certainty that there’d been a spark at that table as real as any I’ve ever felt.
We’d like to believe there’s only one person out there for us. It’s scary to think there are many, and we might bump up against them only for a moment. Was her name Rachel? Rebecca? Perhaps it’s best to have forgotten. Otherwise, I might have at some point reached out to her on Facebook or, Lord help me, Linkedin. Sometimes the greatest romances are intended to last an instant.
– Jonathan Goldstein (@J_Goldstein), host of WireTap on CBC Radio
It was the first Valentine’s Day with my now-husband. I couldn’t wait to give him my gift: a handmade card filled with photos, song lyrics and other I-really-want-to-impress-my-boyfriend-by-demonstrating-that-I’m-both-creative-and-committed essentials (i.e., glitter and lipstick kisses); and a framed photo of us on our first date. He smiled and thanked me, uneasily handing over his present. I opened it. A staple remover. “You said you needed one…” was his only defence. We both burst out laughing.
– Alexandra Kelebay, Montreal
It was the winter of 2012, and I had just met a man who seemed promising. For our second date, I told him to meet me in the middle of the Peace Bridge, where I left an envelope labelled “Agent P.” Inside was a map to another location, where he would find his mission for the evening: a quest involving clues, text-message checkpoints and a walk up a very icy McHugh Bluff. I lined the path with candles and was waiting for him with a flask of tea and a starlit view of downtown. P is adamant that it is the nicest thing anyone has done for him, but I maintain that his gesture was even more romantic: saying yes to living in my imagination for an evening.
– Katie Brown, Calgary
It was Minnie Mouse; she gave me a cake for my fifth birthday at Walt Disney World, and I was smitten.
– Paul Starke, New York
I had only known him 24 hours. He had kind eyes and was funny and tall and handsome. He held an umbrella over my head during the storm bearing down on our baseball tournament. But I was wary-I so often chose the wrong men. Then it happened. He plucked a creased photo of a little boy from his wallet. I saw my future husband’s eyes light up as he talked about his son. I saw the joy he took in being a parent, and I knew he was the father I wanted for my children.
– Colleen Gauthier, Toronto
I found him at the craft table in Madame Sheila’s Grade 1 class. Perhaps because he was tall, and back then so was I-an imposing four feet each-I developed a fondness for a boy I knew as Airhead, Featherbutt and, when he wore his dark-green head-to-toe sweatsuit, Green Zucchini.
– Maya Pankalla, Vancouver
Craziest Move to Get Over Heartbreak
The most outrageous thing I ever did was step into a Brazilian jiu-jitsu gym. Part of me wanted to make myself more impressive to women, and part of me wanted to hurt and be hurt. It’s the only thing I’ve done immediately after a breakup that I’ve never regretted. It forced me to confront my limitations-there is no greater reminder that I’m nothing special than to be at someone’s mercy and the only choice is to either tap out or pass out.
– Rich Tseng, New York
He was the tallest and most handsome boy in Grade 7; we were boyfriend and girlfriend that year, but then his family moved 1,000 kilometres away. Five years later, my family serendipitously relocated to the same town. He said he’d often thought of me and knew we’d be together again. We’ve been married for over 11 years now. I still have a huge crush on him and am grateful for his love, strength and kindness every single day.
– Catherine Roscoe Barr, Vancouver
I was at a poetry reading when a young Greek scholar pointed out that every substantive point the poet had made during his 35-minute intro (to a 12-line translation) was completely wrong. The poet didn’t seem perturbed in the least, but I was so delighted I had to ask out the woman who set him straight. She translated some dirty Catullus for me on our first date.
– Michael Lista, Toronto
Seven months into my current relationship, I contracted mononucleosis and was ordered to bedrest. Fear of contagion didn’t stop my boyfriend from making the two-hour trek to visit me almost daily. We’d watch movies, and when my head hurt too much to stare at a screen or a book, he’d read to me. My birthday rolled around, and I still wasn’t allowed to leave the house. My boyfriend’s gift to me was a card detailing the plans he’d made for us to visit Ottawa’s Tulip Festival the following month-something I could look forward to.
– Jasmine Menassa, Laval, Que.
I met her when I was 12 and she followed me like a nightmare throughout high school. She had long blond hair and blue eyes and wanted no part in what I could give her. She was my dream, but she had dreams of her own. Every man should have a crush like that: the one that teaches him not to fall in love with a reflection of his own hopes.
– Benoît Lelièvre, Montreal
I was destined to fall in love at first sight. My grandmother had told my mother, who told my sister and me, that one day our husbands would show up to claim us-just as it had happened to her. So when I ran into a man at an ATM in New York, after meeting him for the first time the night before in Toronto, I knew my life was about to change. Within a couple of weeks, we were dating long-distance and flying back and forth for romantic weekends.
It didn’t work out. After a month or two, he let me know, through a series of diminishing phone calls and emails, that we had no future. I wish I could say I took it in stride. When I was still dealing with the aftermath a few years later, I consulted a palm reader, who simply said, “You’re supposed to be married already.”
Determination set in. Pining was unproductive. What had I wanted from that man? At the time, he was in his late 30s, the age I am now. He ran his own business and was creative, a combination that was unfathomable to me, a young writer. Since the only way to get over the experience seemed to be to redeem it, I set out to become the person I would have been if we’d ended up together.
Over the past decade, I’ve done things I probably wouldn’t have if we’d never met: learned Italian, worked in fashion, made a living as a writer. The world has also changed, and two people who haven’t spoken in years can follow each other’s movements on Twitter. It was a surprise the other day when he favourited one of my tweets. I realized how much it would have meant to my younger self to have that acknowledgement. It also felt like the story had taken a new turn: it had never been about getting the prince after all, but about becoming him.
– Jessica Johnson