Guo: I love you, too

by Clara Guo | 2/15/17 2:20am

 I’m sitting on my bed wearing a large flannel over a free t-shirt. My laptop is open. There is only one noun on my Word document: “Love…”

My friend walks into my room. She leans against the foot of my bed as we update each other about our Carnival weekend.

“September wedding?” I joke.

“Maybe. Either summer or fall.”

“As long as there’s an open bar.”

“Of course there will be an open bar. Who do you think I am??”

A few more minutes of hyperbole later, my roommate, Flora, walks in. She asks if I want to go on a belated Valentine’s Day date.

“Maybe not Tuesday,” she says. “I have a midterm Wednesday.”

“I’m leaving Friday for the weekend.”

“Thursday?” She pauses. “Nah. Thursdays aren’t good.”

We settle tentatively on Wednesday. Or Friday.

Two weeks ago, I asked my boyfriend how he usually spends Valentine’s Day.

“A nice date,” he responded. “How else?”

I didn’t have a fitting answer. The last Valentine’s Day I spent with a significant other was during my off term sophomore winter. We ate at a small restaurant in Manhattan with a preset seven-course meal. The lighting was dim, intimate, barely illuminating the extravagant food and relaxed faces of nearly a dozen other couples.

My current boyfriend is in Taiwan now and will be for the next month. We promised that we wouldn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day this year. No gifts. No nice dates. No pre-Valentine’s Day surprises.

A few days ago, on his last night visiting on the Thursday of Carnival, we ate dinner at Pine. I wore a red dress and heeled booties underneath Flora’s puffy fracket, ready for Champagne.

“I feel so underdressed compared to you,” he commented.

We sat next to, rather than opposite from, each other at a square table. We ordered a drink each, mine light and his heavy, holding hands while waiting for the rest of our dinner to be delivered. We shared the appetizer and our entrees, placing pieces of salmon or short rib on the other’s plate. I don’t remember what we talked about — our families? Traveling? Long distance? Probably all of the above.

It was the last time we would see each other for nearly two months. Dinner was infused with a tinge of sadness, the knowledge that we would soon be missing each other without the option of a relatively easy, relatively quick remedy of a drive to or from Boston.

We asked for the check. This time, he paid.

On Saturday, Dartmouth Figure Skating Club led the Occom Pond Party parade. We brought our green DFSC banner, and our coach’s 6-year-old son marched in front of us holding an American flag. Per the event organizer’s request, a few skaters performed “tricks” — spins and footwork — in the center of the pond.

After ending at the ice castle and ice slide, each member of DFSC was given a medal as a thank you. We wore them proudly and spent the next hour together dancing, singing, skating and pulling each other on sleds.

When “Shut Up and Dance” played on the loudspeakers, I Snapchatted the team dancing along to the chorus and sent the video to my boyfriend.

“Wish I could have been there with you,” he responded 16 hours later, after he landed in Taiwan.

My sister, Emma, a Dartmouth ’20, was supposed to join us at the parade. I stopped by her room before walking to Occom to check in on her and ask if she needed anything for her sore throat.

We had tentatively scheduled brunch that morning, but rescheduled due to the overwhelming need for sleep. In the fall, Saturday brunches were a Guo tradition. We treated ourselves to off-campus food with the occasional on-campus coffee. We debriefed about our preceding week, often punctuating our stories with much-needed complaints against humanity.

Like all older siblings, I worried about her; I still do. I worried that she wouldn’t discover the Dartmouth that I was lucky enough to stumble into. I worried that she wouldn’t discern the true friendships she could grow to love. I worried, of course, that she would value herself based on others’ judgments, that she would break because of boys pretending to be men.

We haven’t eaten many brunches together this term. I’ve been away most weekends, and we’ve been living more separate lives. I like to think that it’s a positive change, that her homesickness has waned and her comfort has grown. Soon, though, I hope to reinstate the Guo tradition. We’ve never been to Lou’s together.

I am now lying on my stomach in bed, having just finished the first draft of this column. I sit up and take a few minutes to be thankful beyond words that my life is infused with such different forms of love.

Flora walks over and plops her head on my leg.

“I love you the most.”

We hug. “I love you, too.”