I’ve got a few excerpts I want to share with you all. These excerpts are really too long to be featured quotes in another article, so I’m going to make them their own posts.
I particularly loved this bit of the book. It’s a unique look on love versus… lust, perhaps, or maybe something entirely different. But it resonated with me, so I’d like to share it with you.
… “We just fell in love once.”
I take a gulp of my citron pressé— and choke on it. It turns out it’s not lemonade so much as lemon juice and water. Willem hands me a cube of sugar and a napkin.
“Once?” I say when I recover.
“It was a while ago.”
“We are good friends. As you saw.”
I’m not sure that’s exactly what I saw.
“So you’re not in love with her anymore?” I run my fingers along the rim of my glass.
Willem looks at me. “I never said I was in love with her.”
“You just said you fell in love with her once.”
“And I did.”
I stare at him, confused.
“There is a world of difference, Lulu, between falling in love and being in love.”
I feel my face go hot, and I’m not entirely sure why. “Isn’t it just sequential– A follows B?”
“You have to fall in love to be in love, but falling in love isn’t the same as being in love.” Willem peers at me from under his lashes. “Have you ever fallen in love?”
Evan and I broke up the day after he mailed in his college tuition deposit. It wasn’t unexpected. Not really. We had already agreed we would break up when we went to college if we didn’t wind up in the same geographical area. And he was going to school in St. Louis. I was going to school in Boston. The thing I hadn’t expected was the timing. Evan decided it made more sense to “rip the bandage off” and break up not in June, when we graduated, or in August, when we’d leave for school, but in April.
But the thing is, aside from being sort of humiliated by the rumor that I’d been dumped and disappointed about missing prom, I wasn’t actually sad about losing Evan. I was surprisingly neutral about breaking up with my first boyfriend. It was like he’d never even been there. I didn’t miss him, and Melanie quickly filled up whatever gaps he’d left in the schedule.
“No,” I reply. “I’ve never been in love.”
Just then the waitress arrives with our crêpes. Mine is golden brown, wafting with the sweet tartness of lemon and sugar. I concentrate on that, cutting off a slice and popping it in my mouth. It melts on the tip of my tongue like a warm, sweet snowdrop.
“That’s not what I asked,” Willem says. “I asked if you’ve ever fallen in love.”
The playfulness in his voice is like an itch I just can’t scratch. I look at him, wondering if he always parses semantics like this.
Willem puts down his fork and knife. “This is falling in love.” With his finger, he swipes a bit of the Nutella from inside his crêpe and puts a dollop on the inside of my wrist. It is hot and oozy and starts to melt against my sticky skin, but before it has a chance to slither away, Willem licks his thumb and wipes the smear of Nutella off and pops it into his mouth. It all happens fast, like a lizard zapping a fly. “This is being in love.” And here he takes my other wrist, the one with my watch on it, and moves the watchband around until he sees what he’s looking for. Once again, he licks his thumb. Only this time, he rubs it against my birthmark, hard, as if trying to scrub it off.
“Being in love is a birthmark?” I joke as I retract my arm. But my voice has a tremble in it, and the place where his wet thumbprint is drying against my skin burns somehow.
“It’s something that never comes off, no matter how much you might want it to.”
“You’re comparing love to a… stain?”
He leans so far back in his seat that the front legs of his chair scrape off the floor. He looks very satisfied, with the crêpe or with himself, I’m not sure. “Exactly.”
I think of the coffee stain on his jeans. I think of Lady Macbeth and her, “Out damned spot,” stain, another speech I had to memorize for English. “‘Stain‘ just seems like an ugly word to describe love,” I tell him.
Willem just shrugs. “Maybe just in English. In Dutch, it’s vlek. In French, it’s tache.” He shakes his head, laughs. “No, still ugly.”
“How many languages have you been stained in?”
He licks his thumb again and reaches across the table for my wrist, where he missed the tiniest smudge of Nutella. This time he wipes it–me– clean. “None. It always comes off.” He scoops the rest of the crêpe into his mouth, taking the dull edge of his knife to scrape the Nutella off the plate. Then he runs his finger around the rim, smearing the last of it away.
“Right,” I say. “And why get stained when getting dirty is so much more fun?” I taste lemons in my mouth again, and I wonder where all the sweetness went.
Willem doesn’t say anything, just sips his coffee.
If you haven’t read the rest of this book, I hope this inspires you to pick it up. It’s a true gem.