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Excerpt: “Just One Year” by Gayle Forman

Here’s a bit of a companion piece to the excerpt I posted yesterday, told from Willem’s point of view.

Where Just One Day dwells on the couple’s meeting and Lulu’s time afterwards, Just One Year describes Willem’s year beginning with the day he and Lulu are separated.

From Just One Year by Gayle Forman, pages 174-175

“I think this whole falling in love business is a mistake,” Nawal continues. “I mean look at you.” He says it like an indictment.

“What about me?

“You are twenty-one and you are all alone.”

“I’m not all alone. I’m here with you.”

Nawal eyes me pitifully, reminding me that, pleasant as these days have been, he is here to sell something and I am here to buy something.

“You have no wife. And I’ll wager you have been in love. I’ll wager you have been in love many times like they always seem to be in Western films.”

“Actually, I have never been in love.” Nawal looks surprised at that, and I’m about to explain that while I haven’t been in love, I’ve fallen in love many times. That they’re separate entities entirely.

But then I stop. Because once again, I’m transported from the deserts of Rajasthan to that Paris café. I can almost hear the skepticism in Lulu’s voice when I’d told her: There’s a world of difference between falling in love and being in love. Then I’d dabbed the Nutella on her wrist, supposedly to demonstrate my point, but really because it had given me an excuse to see what she tasted like.

She’d laughed at me. She’d said the distinction between falling in love and being in love was bogus. It sounds like you just like to screw around. At least own that about yourself.

I smile at the memory of it, although Lulu, who had been right about me so much that day, was wrong about this. Yael had trained as a paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Forces, and she once described how it felt to jump out of a plane: hurtling through the air, the wind everywhere, the exhilaration, the speed, your stomach in your throat, the hard landing. It always seemed the exact right way to describe how things felt with girls– that wind and the exhilaration, the hurtling, the wanting, the freefall. And the abrupt end.

Oddly enough, though, that day with Lulu, it didn’t feel anything like falling. It felt like arriving.


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