HOW TO TELL A LOVE STORY by Wendy BooydeGraaff

  1. Setting serves as the introduction to the story. The sky, gray and looming with thunder and sideways rain, withholds for this moment, this moment when…
  2. The characters meet in a bus stop kiosk, the glass kind with the light blue and yellow logo of the sponsoring superstore smeared at eye level. The store gives free bus passes for the public to access the store on the outskirts of the city. These two are not young, not rom-com blow-dried and fresh. One of them has an eye with a filmy sheath over the iris, and the eye also wanders, preventing the long lovers’ gaze. The other has a permanent limp, requiring a three-pronged cane and a metal hip that was put in after the incident wherein she was sitting too close to the window in her own living room. The shooter had the wrong address.
  3. The tone is quirky, but soft and building towards what should be unexpected yet is concurrently a satisfying fulfillment of the reader’s anticipation. Serendipity. There is a rosy glow beyond the gray.
  4. Inciting action requires only the thin plastic of the carrying bag to break, spilling oranges, tampons, anti-itch cream, and foot fungus spray onto the cement block. An orange rolls off into the street. 
  5. Tension rises via incremental plot points: The one with the filmy eye bends (crass referring to him in this way—he is so much more than an eye, but it is the characteristic that stands out in our ableist society, and it is the one thing that has kept him from love all this time (Backstory)) to pick up the items, his hand clutching the box of tampons then looking up at her, not quite meeting her gaze. She has a hard time bending on account of her metal hip and there’s nowhere to put the items. Another person in the bus kiosk, a savior sitting on the bench, produces a canvas bag, and the three hands meet in a diverse mosaic of unity as the oranges and sundry items go into the bag.
    1. The bus arrives, squashing the orange in the street neatly under one tire. Pulpy juice squirts clear across the street, marking the passing sports car with orange entrails. (Comedic Relief as the entitled jerk with the nice car gets spewed on.)
    2. The bus is crowded. No one wants to be caught in the rain. (Reminder: clouds low and looming. A far away rumble vibes of impending downpour.) The three riders disperse throughout the bus and it seems as if the story is over.
    3. The one with the filmy eye exits the bus at the next stop. He looks up at the tinted windows as he walks down the sidewalk but doesn’t see her with the metal hip. (She is on the left side of the bus.) 
  6. Thwarted moment before the end: She struggles to rise and pull the chain. The bus stops at the next corner. She exits with her canvas bag. (Eco influence: She will now always use reusable, environmentally friendly bags because they don’t break.) She pulls a collapsible umbrella from her deep pockets. She doesn’t see which way the one with the filmy eye went. 
  7. Dénouement ending: Wherein the one with the filmy eye turns and runs in the direction the bus had gone, falsely thinking he can catch it. He runs past her. The sky opens, soaking both of them as well as the canvas bag, which holds up, though the cardboard boxes encasing the tampons and anti-itch cream do not. They see each other through the haze of slanted rain. Their embrace is awkward because they do not really know each other, not yet, but they shuffle through the puddles to her apartment where we know she will hand him a fluffy towel. All foreshadowing ensures they will be soul mates forever. But the story ends here, on the sidewalk, at the moment before the real relationship begins. Because this is a love story and anticipation is everything.

Wendy BooydeGraaff's fiction and essays have been included in The Ilanot Review, The Brooklyn Review, Porter House Review, Miracle Monocle, NOON, and elsewhere. Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, she now lives in Michigan, United States.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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