By the beginning of last semester, I had been with Melvin for a few months. It wasn’t anything serious. He was just a friend of a friend, but I guess that’s all it really takes when you’re bored, in college and easily enamored by men in Tevas.
After we had returned from winter break, I was especially excited to see him. We hadn’t seen each other in more than a month, so I ran from Clark Kerr to Unit 2 to meet up and go on a “date” — a first real date, per se.
Before we left for break, he told me that one of his favorite book was “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera. He had raved about it, saying that the book described love in such a raw and truthful way — a way that, you know, really spoke to him. So naturally, as any literature fan and enamored young girl would have done, I picked up a copy of the book at Moe’s before I left Berkeley for the month.
Long story short, I despised the book. I understand that it’s a classic. I understand that people think this novel is revolutionary. I admit, I did enjoy parts here and there, but in my humble opinion, it was a well-written manic pixie dream girl scheme. And when I had gotten back to Berkeley — fueled by how offended I was that he had the audacity to recommend this book — I was ready to have a literary smack down.
And we did. The night I came back to Berkeley, we went out to dinner. We wandered up and down Shattuck Avenue, from Chez Panisse to La Note, arguing about the literary value of a book that I could feel burning a hole into my bookshelf. We ended up eating Brazilian food in the awkward silence that I had draped over the night with my stubbornness. I begrudgingly drank a cup of coffee as I wondered what else to say. I didn’t want to hear about how he couldn’t find the glaring problems in this love story.
When we were back in his dorm, I sat at his desk and looked at the board above his bed where he had tacked up posters, dried flowers and little mementos of his life. In the top corner, I saw a new addition to his wall. It was the poster for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibit “Picasso and Rivera: Conversations Across Time.”
Intrigued, I asked him about it. I had recently gone to the exhibit myself, drawn to it by my combined veneration for Frida Kahlo and the love I had for a Latin American art history course I had taken the previous semester.
He looked over to the poster, shrugged dismissively, and said, “yeah, it was pretty cool” — and turned back to his work.
So now, I was seething.
I had considered this exhibit one of the most masterfully curated exhibits I had been to. There was a room of projected murals done by both of the artists. There were ancient Latin American artifacts from their native countries. There were even cases of the correspondences between the two men that showed the evolution, and demise, of the contemporaries’ relationship. In my eyes, it was flawless.
And all I got from Melvin, who I had let take me to Brazil Cafe, was a “pretty cool.”
As I sat in his room, frantically tearing away at some receipt, I wanted to start lecturing him on the cultural significance of the work we had both seen, but I realized it was useless. I was already exhausted from arguing about his shitty taste in literature.
And then I laughed. After years of studying writing, being raised by a mother who was a designer and having my core group of friends be a bunch of ragtag artists, I couldn’t seem to let this boy have what I deemed to be wrong opinions.
Sitting in his bed at one in the morning, my mind kept turning on how disappointed I was about his taste in books and art exhibitions. I already knew my hamartia was my propensity to over think meaningless things, but these little discussions through the night had really irked me, and I couldn’t let them go.
That’s when I realized that I couldn’t be with someone who didn’t understand my taste in art.
For me, literature and art aren’t just about aesthetics or some pretty words here and there. They’re about tapping into who I am. They are manifestations of who I was or who I want to be. It’s not that I want to be with someone who agrees with every single one of my likings. It’s more that art has always been something deeply personal to me, and if someone isn’t able to see why I hold these aversions or find comfort in my proclivities, then they can’t really understand Annalise, a lover of art.