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Charting the Love — and Betrayal — in Our Stars

Illustration by Helen Li

Cherise Morris | Longreads | October 2018 | 22 minutes (4,598 words)

 

“What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of ‘love’”? I asked you this question four months into our relationship, while writing an essay about love for a contest I never entered.

This was long before we exchanged the L-word, back when the winter’s cold gave us short days and long nights spent with no one but each other.

“Uh, can we come back to that one? Gimme some more options first.”

So, we did a quick word association activity. I stated words and you responded with the first thing each brought to mind.

I said, “water.”

You said, “me.”

“Tree.” “Life.”

“Windows.” “Light.”

“Ground.” “Floor.”

I said, “air.”

And you said, “love.”

Then, with the smile of a fox you replied, “Ah, I see what you did there.”

 

***

I was born in the image of my mother with broken teeth and a half-broken heart to match; air gave birth to air. My mother is an Aquarius, and I, a Libra — both “air signs” — and perhaps that’s why we’ve always gotten along.

I watched her, full-hearted and lonesome my entire childhood and adolescence, longing to be consumed by a certain kind of fairytale love. A love which never lies to you, never takes you for granted, never hurts or harms. But if I know anything to be true, it is that the perfection of fairytales is a grandiose illusion, which is why we love them so. Little girls are taught to long for the fairytale love stories of princesses far more than the bittersweet kind that grow us into goddesses.

According modern western astrology, Libra is the cardinal air sign of the zodiac, ruled by Venus, the planet named for the Roman goddess of love, which governs the ways Libras seek and build relationships. We value affirmation, aesthetics and the rosier side of justice above all else. At all costs we seek to avoid the topsy-turvy shakiness of conflict and anything less than perfect equilibrium, while often settling for pseudo-perfect if it will keep the boat from rocking for a while. Those living under the sign represented by the cosmic scales are obsessed with the romance of keeping up appearances, and thus, are predisposed to a sometimes-never-ending quest for alignment and acceptance through partnerships. They exalt a fabled euphoria, a dream of being made to feel weightless by the love of another. But if I know anything to be true, it is that love, despite its intangibility, is the weightiest of matters.

Although, one’s approach to love and relationships can’t be simply boiled down to the properties associated with one’s sun sign. Astrology is more complex than that. But back when I started to live this story, I did not yet have a nuanced understanding of the workings of the cosmos. I fell into the predictability of the Libran archetype, wanting to fall in love only to feel what it was like to be loved.

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