Fragments: Mint and Pink Outfit + Patchwork Reflections


mint and pink outift
mint and pink outift
mint and pink outift
mint and pink outift
mint and pink outift
mint and pink outift
Blazer, Kohl's | Button down, thrifted Ralph Lauren | Skirt, thrifted Hollister | Boots, China

At Oxford, I'm studying French author Roland Barthes, who's known for his avant garde writing. His works are often fragmentary, achronological, sometimes incomprehensible--and oddly-resonant. I'm currently reading Fragments: un discours amoureux (A lover's discourse: Fragments), and I was inspired to write fragments of my own.

Bordeaux, France
December 2016

Pensez-vous qu’il vaut mieux être célibataire ? Do you think it’s better to be single?

In the midst of my government-administered French oral exam, I broke out laughing. For the new five minutes, I stumbled through the oddly-personal, somewhat-invasive prompt. I waxed stereotypical—on est plus libre quand on est célibataire! Singles have more freedom! I admitted that relationships had obvious upsides, but with serious complications. Take long distance: a fellow study abroad student and her two-year boyfriend had called it quits because the physical separation had been insupportable, unbearable.

I kept my story to myself.

I later wondered why—did the formality of the exam make me too timid? Did I feel unable to recount the tale in French? Did I now feel so removed from my US life that the story no longer felt like mine?

I tried to convince myself that it was the first reason. Official exams are no place to divulge personal histories—as relevant as they are, I reassured myself.

But it wasn’t the only time I’d remained reticent.

*                                                                *                                                             *

November 2016

We were carpooling to our orchestra concert, a fellow violinist and I. She was a sweet friend, having rescued me from the horrors of rush-hour public transport. Between complaints and strong exclamations about the city traffic, we chatted casually. I jumped at any chance to converse one-on-one in French—I was ebullient, rambling away.

But then:

T’as un copain là-bas ? Do you have a boyfriend at home?

Non, pas du tout. No, not at all.

I paused for a moment, debating my next words. For the past few months, I’d strained to bury this story, to leave behind the melancholy girl and her ephemeral romance. I wasn’t about to unearth it again—even if the opportunity was prime. I made my decision.

C’est un peu compliqué quand on étudie à l’étranger. It’s a bit complicated when you study abroad, I added tersely, and changed the subject.

My hesitation went unnoticed. After all, I was speaking a foreign language, and my dialogue was far from fluid.

It was night, the inky shadows dancing with the city lights, so my wry smile went unnoticed too.

*                                                                *                                                             *

Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
December 2015

It was an impossible love, un amour impossible—we knew it had to end from the beginning.

We were from different cultures and faiths. He was a year older—would be graduating next year, while I planned to study abroad.

We were bad idea—but a really good bad idea. Our scathing banter had quickly become something else.

It was a brisk winter dawn in New England, and we were huddled for warmth, waiting for the sunrise.

“Lily, do you want to go out?”

For a moment, I was stunned. I quickly recovered. “Yeah.”

“For only a semester?”

I was more confident this time. “Yeah.”

He looked pensive, so I added for good measure: “And who knows—if I can get a French-speaking internship this summer, I might decide not to go abroad for two semesters.”

And so our fate was sealed. We grinned stupidly at each other, bathed in the golden glow of the morning sun, high on the elusive euphoria of romance.

*                                                                *                                                             *

Hartford, Connecticut, USA
May 2016

That semester was short.

We were at the airport now, waiting for our flights home—to different sides of the country. I rested my head on his shoulder, sedated from lack of sleep and an unprecedented storm of sobs.

We didn’t know when we’d see each other again, or even if. I tried to convince myself that it’d be relatively soon. 

“Maybe I’ll be able to come visit campus during spring break—Oxford gives us a whole month-and-a-half. International flights are expensive, but the French department gave me a travel stipend for Bordeaux. So I’m better off than I expected.”

The moment he disappeared down the jet way was the moment our relationship ended. It was a tacit breakup, an understanding that had been established months before.

But my naïve hope persisted over the summer. I was too devastated to bid farewell to him and my close friends in his year. I downloaded multiple flight apps and tracked price changes for flights home—aka flights back to school.

I was elated when a March 2017 London-Boston roundtrip fell to under $400 in mid-July. But I was realistic—I knew I couldn’t accurately predict circumstances eight months ahead. So instead of buying the tickets, I dreamt of my return. That sliver of hope was sometimes enough to pierce though the dark cloud cover that persisted still months later.

*                                                                *                                                             *

London/Oxford, United Kingdom
January 2017

I decided not to wish him a happy birthday. I had decided, actually, weeks before.

On the day of, Facebook gratuitously notified me that it was indeed his 21st. When I remained taciturn, it reminded me to send him belated birthday wishes a day later. I was slightly irked—especially since last month, the selfie we took on that fated December morning popped up in my feed as a “memory.” How thoughtful of you, Facebook.

It felt both wrong and right to say nothing. Wrong because of the strong albeit ephemeral resonance we shared, wrong because I post birthday wishes to nearly everyone—minus the so-distant connections that feel more like strangers. It felt right for that very reason: we were like strangers now.

I’ll never know if it was me or simply la nature des choses—the nature of things. After all, I’d spent a semester in France, where I hadn’t kept regular contact with the friends I’d been so upset to leave. But I’d also spent that semester wrestling with a foreign language, thus forging a new identity. I am no longer the girl who I was.

I remembered walking home from my university commute in Bordeaux months earlier. My thoughts are restless as my feet wander, and they drifted that day to him, to us. I remembered, I reminisced, but for the first time, I didn’t long for that fleeting time and space. Instead, I cringed. I remembered, and wondered who that girl was, who was so taken by emotion, so unable to let go. C’est plus ma vie...That’s no longer my life.

I remembered the mesmerizing sunrise. I remembered the fluttering bliss. I remembered the monotonous everyday. I remembered that hazy morning in the airport and my naïve hope to be reunited.

I remembered, chuckled wryly, and bought a plane ticket back to France for spring break.

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