It wasn’t intentional that my first two novels both revolve around the theme of unrequited love. I just wrote what came naturally to me, and somehow that’s what came out. It was only later that I recognized the pattern.
No Cure for the Broken Hearted, my first novel, has to do with young love gone awry through circumstance. The two main characters, Katherine and Nick, fall in love in their teens before they are separated for twelve long years, the heartache left to simmer but never really fade.
My second book, Sweet Ophelia and the Tinseltown Blues, looks at heartache from a different perspective. This time around there were reasons for the couple, Warren and Ophelia, to split. As is sometimes the case, those reasons become less apparent over time. Thinking back, one tends to remember the good times and forget about the bad.
It is only now after finishing my second book that I find myself contemplating the personal importance of this theme in my own life. Why did I choose to write about it, twice? I think that everyone has some doubts and regrets on some level regarding relationships from their past, and I’m definitely no exception. There are always questions in the back of one’s mind about how things might have turned out if only they’d said something else, or done something else. We have to move past these to get along in the world, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still there, lingering.
In this day and age, those questions are closer than ever before. In previous generations, it was simply harder to stay in touch with people. Today, with e-mail and Facebook, all of your past loves are really only a few clicks away.
When I was in high school, there was one girl in particular that I had a huge crush on. After months of trying to get up the nerve, I finally called her up and asked her on a date at the end of my junior year. She wanted to go, she said, but she had family commitments. The next day I left town for the summer. Sadly I never tried again. More than ten years later I got an e-mail from the girl. “I’m happily married now, with two young boys,” she wrote, “but I just wanted to tell you that I’ve never stopped wondering ‘what if.’ I think that everyone has a ‘what if’ person in their life, and I wanted to let you know that you were mine.”
I was floored. I wrote back and we exchanged a few more e-mails to fill in some of the blanks in our lives and explained what we had been thinking all those years before. And then we wished each other well and that was it. I feel grateful that she reached out to me in this way. It was cathartic somehow, to put some of these ghosts to rest; to let her know I’d cared, and to hear the same in return.
Obviously this experience goes a long way toward explaining why this theme of unrequited love appeared in my first two books. To me it is personal, yet at the same time universal. This is one of the strongest emotions there is, full of longing and poignancy, and tinged with the faintest of hope. Sometimes it can lead to great beauty, and sometimes only pain, but in the end there is perhaps no other emotion that better describes what it is to be human.