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Stay with me, baby stay with me,
Tonight don’t leave me alone.
Walk with me, come and walk with me,
To the edge of all we’ve ever known.

I can see you there with the city lights,
Fourteenth floor, pale blue eyes.
I can breathe you in.
Two shadows standing by the bedroom door,
No, I could not want you more than I did right then,
As our heads leaned in.

Well, I’m not sure what this is gonna be,
But with my eyes closed all I see
Is the skyline, through the window,
The moon above you and the streets below.
Hold my breath as you’re moving in,
Taste your lips and feel your skin.
When the time comes, baby don’t run, just kiss me slowly.

Stay with me, baby stay with me,
Tonight don’t leave me alone.
She shows me everything she used to know,
Picture frames and country roads,
When the days were long and the world was small.

She stood by as it fell apart,
Separate rooms and broken hearts,
But I won’t be the one to let you go.

Oh, I’m not sure what this is gonna be,
But with my eyes closed all I see
Is the skyline, through the window,
The moon above you and the streets below.

Hold my breath as you’re moving in,
Taste your lips and feel your skin.
When the time comes, baby don’t run, just kiss me slowly.

Don’t run away…
And it’s hard to love again,
When the only way it’s been,
When the only love you knew,
Just walked away…
If it’s something that you want,
Darling you don’t have to run,
You don’t have to go …

Just stay with me, baby stay with me,

Well, I’m not sure what this is gonna be,
But with my eyes closed all I see
Is the skyline, through the window,
The moon above you and the streets below. (Don’t let go)
Hold my breath as you’re moving in,
Taste your lips and feel your skin.
When the time comes, baby don’t run, just kiss me slowly.

Oh, I’m not sure where this is gonna go,
But in this moment all I know
Is the skyline, through the window,
The moon above you and the streets below. (Baby, don’t let go)
Hold my breath as you’re moving in,
Taste your lips and feel your skin.
When the time comes, baby don’t run, just kiss me slowly.

— Parachute, Kiss Me Slowly

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I feel like I’m contractually obligated to do something about this. But here’s the problem: Most people have pretty strong feelings about Valentine’s Day, one way or the other. Personally, my level of apathy regarding this commercialized saint’s day could not possibly be higher. I don’t hate February 14th with the burning indignation of the bitter, single twenty-something. Nor do I wake up in pink pajamas expecting some poor dude to make me breakfast in bed.

That being said, I hang out with a lot of theatre people who have pretty much all hooked up with each other at some point and we manage to make it a fun day without getting weird.

Long story short: I don’t like romance as a rule. If you want me to get invested in a love story, it had better be compelling and impeccably well-written or it’s just going to piss me off.

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There are a few things I’ve learned about love in the process of writing:

  1. You can’t avoid it. And it’s not in your best interest to. A romantic subplot will have readers tearing through pages like nothing else. Why? I have no idea.
  2. It’s easy to overdose. When writing ‘love scenes,’ for lack of a better term, it’s difficult to avoid the sappy and the cliché. It doesn’t matter how sincere you are. It will look ludicrous if you take it one word too far.
  3. It’s as unique as every other aspect of a story. Too often we think of love as this big, abstract concept that’s the same for everyone. You fall in love, and if it’s mutual you live happily ever after. But no two relationships are the same, and love comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes yes, it’s mushy and Disney and wonderful. And sometimes it’s dark and suffocating and destructive. Love is not a fragrant pink miasma that hangs over everything. It is something specific and powerful that exists between two people. At least, it should be.

And to finish: Love, much like violence, cannot be frivolous. It must be there for a reason. If you write a love scene that doesn’t alter the course of the story in any way, it shouldn’t be there. It’s gratuitous. So for a love story to work it’s got to have a little gravity. Consider the greats: Les Mis, Gone With the Wind, Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet. What do they all have in common? The stakes are high. Life or death. Financial ruin. Civil war. Love can’t be the only thing you stand to lose. People fall in and out of love every day. There must be something more than that.

At least, in my humble opinion.

Thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

And in the meantime, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes – unabashedly, powerfully romantic:

“I was at once content and stimulated with what I saw: I liked what I had seen, and wished to see more. Yet, for a long time, I treated you distantly, and sought your company rarely. I was an intellectual epicure, and wished to prolong the gratification of making this novel and piquant acquaintance: besides, I was for a while troubled with a haunting fear that if I handled the flower freely its bloom would fade – the sweet charm of freshness would leave it. I did not then know that it was no transitory blossom; but rather the radiant resemblance of one, cut in an indestructible gem.”

–Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

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Postmark: July 27, 1819

Sunday Night

My sweet Girl—I hope you did not blame me much for not obeying your request of a Letter on Saturday: we have had four in our small room playing at cards night and morning leaving me no undisturb’d opportunity to write. Now Rice and Martin are gone I am at liberty. Brown to my sorrow confirms the account you give of your ill health. You cannot conceive how I ache to be with you: how I would die for one hour—for what is in the world? I say you cannot conceive; it is impossible you should look with such eyes upon me as I have upon you: it cannot be.

Forgive me if I wander a little this evening, for I have been all day employ’d in a very abstract Poem and I am in deep love with you two things which must excuse me. I have, believe me, not been an age in letting you take possession of me; the very first week I knew you I wrote myself your vassal; but burnt the Letter as the very next time I saw you I thought you manifested some dislike to me. If you should ever feel for Man at the first sight what I did for you, I am lost. Yet I should not quarrel with you, but hate myself if such a thing were to happen—only I should burst if the thing were not as fine as a Man as you are as a Woman.

Perhaps I am too vehement, then fancy me on my knees, especially when I mention a part of your Letter which hurt me; you say speaking of Mr. Severn ‘but you must be satisfied in knowing that I admired you much more than your friend.’ My dear love, I cannot believe there ever was or ever could be any thing to admire in me especially as far as sight goes—I cannot be admired, I am not a thing to be admired. You are, I love you; all I can bring you is a swooning admiration of your Beauty. I hold that place among Men which snub-nos’d brunettes with meeting eyebrows do among women—they are trash to me—unless I should find one among them with a fire in her heart like the one that burns in mine.

You absorb me in spite of myself—you alone: for I look not forward with any pleasure to what is called being settled in the world; I tremble at domestic cares—yet for you I would meet them, though if it would leave you the happier I would rather die than do so.

I have two luxuries to brood over in my walks, your Loveliness and the hour of my death. O that I could have possession of them both in the same minute. I hate the world: it batters too much the wings of my self-will, and would I could take a sweet poison from your lips to send me out of it. From no others would I take it. I am indeed astonish’d to find myself so careless of all charms but yours—remembering as I do the time when even a bit of ribband was a matter of interest with me.

What softer words can I find for you after this—what it is I will not read. Nor will I say more here, but in a Postscript answer any thing else you may have mentioned in your Letter in so many words—for I am distracted with a thousand thoughts. I will imagine you Venus tonight and pray, pray, pray to your star like a Heathen.

Your’s ever, fair Star,

My seal is mark’d like a family table cloth with my Mother’s initial F for Fanny: put between my Father’s initials. You will soon hear from me again. My respectful Compliments to your Mother. Tell Margaret I’ll send her a reef of best rocks and tell Sam I will give him my light bay hunter if he will tie the Bishop hand and foot and pack him in a hamper and send him down for me to bathe him for his health with a Necklace of good snubby stones about his Neck.

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Ben Whishaw as John Keats and Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne in Jane Campion’s Bright Star, 2009
Postmark: Newport, July 3, 1819

My dearest Lady — I am glad I had not an opportunity of sending off a Letter which I wrote for you on Tuesday night—’twas too much like one out of Rousseau’s Heloise. I am more reasonable this morning. The morning is the only proper time for me to write to a beautiful Girl whom I love so much: for at night, when the lonely day has closed, and the lonely, silent, unmusical Chamber is waiting to receive me as into a Sepulchre, then believe me my passion gets entirely the sway, then I would not have you see those Rhapsodies which I once thought it impossible I should ever give way to, and which I have often laughed at in another, for fear you should [think me] either too unhappy or perhaps a little mad.

I am now at a very pleasant Cottage window, looking onto a beautiful hilly country, with a glimpse of the sea; the morning is very fine. I do not know how elastic my spirit might be, what pleasure I might have in living here and breathing and wandering as free as a stag about this beautiful Coast if the remembrance of you did not weigh so upon me I have never known any unalloy’d Happiness for many days together: the death or sickness of some one has always spoilt my hours—and now when none such troubles oppress me, it is you must confess very hard that another sort of pain should haunt me.

Ask yourself my love whether you are not very cruel to have so entrammelled me, so destroyed my freedom. Will you confess this in the Letter you must write immediately, and do all you can to console me in it—make it rich as a draught of poppies to intoxicate me—write the softest words and kiss them that I may at least touch my lips where yours have been. For myself I know not how to express my devotion to so fair a form: I want a brighter word than bright, a fairer word than fair. I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days—three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain. But however selfish I may feel, I am sure I could never act selfishly: as I told you a day or two before I left Hampstead, I will never return to London if my Fate does not turn up Pam or at least a Court-card. Though I could centre my Happiness in you, I cannot expect to engross your heart so entirely—indeed if I thought you felt as much for me as I do for you at this moment I do not think I could restrain myself from seeing you again tomorrow for the delight of one embrace.

But no—I must live upon hope and Chance. In case of the worst that can happen, I shall still love you—but what hatred shall I have for another!

Some lines I read the other day are continually ringing a peal in my ears:

To see those eyes I prize above mine own
Dart favors on another—
And those sweet lips (yielding immortal nectar)
Be gently press’d by any but myself—
Think, think Francesca, what a cursed thing
It were beyond expression!

J.

Do write immediately. There is no Post from this Place, so you must address Post Office, Newport, Isle of Wight. I know before night I shall curse myself for having sent you so cold a Letter; yet it is better to do it as much in my senses as possible. Be as kind as the distance will permit to your

Present my Compliments to your mother, my love to Margaret and best remembrances to your Brother—if you please so.

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