A story about two teenage cancer patients battling questions of life and death in their own different ways and then they fall in love. I know it sounds like a soppy drama with the cheesiest of lines- the kinds of movies that make PMSing women cry into their handkerchiefs on the couch on a Saturday evening.
But it’s not.
So I had been avoiding the idea of this book (or movie) for a while now. Because I just don’t do sentimental-cry-all-night movies. It’s just not me anymore.
But some amount of moody bitterness kicked in yesterday and I thought, hey. Why not do something crazy?
Crazy for me, apparently, is now reduced to watching self-proclaimed love stories as movies, breaking the book-lovers book-before-the-movies-always rule, and after-hours at that.
But but but.
This wasn’t just a love story. It wasn’t about jittery, heart-fluttering, unattainable demi-Greek-God-like men with chiseled chests and dreamy eyes and gorgeous, chic women with hour-glass figures.
This was simply about two kids who are dealt a bad hand and they don’t know what to do with it. Except that perhaps they do.
While he struggles with an amputated leg and goes around looking for something heroic to achieve, with an unlit cigarette between his lips to show the world how he is playing with death but not giving death the chance to ever play with him, she carries around and rereads the same book about what dying would feel like and believes that everything is probably pointless and the only meaning we derive from life is temporary.
“I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
What strikes me is how, when I have been pondering over the same questions, this movie provided a different way of looking at something I’ve known. Yes, we’re given to mortality and it hangs like a doom over our heads. Yes, it won’t be long before we are dust. But in the meantime, we cannot suspend the little things we do. We do them because we do them. And we have to keep doing them because to stop would mean the same now as it would when our bodies naturally collapse- either way, it makes no difference. So perhaps the only thing to look for is that elusive bitch- happiness and to feel everything we ever can, while we can.
“There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”
There is nothing else to be said. Watch or read this story because it will touch you. And we need more things to do that.
Of course, it helps that the movie includes a trip to the Anne Frank Memorial.