Los Angeles International

Words by kayleigh birch

art by emily fu

A Geography of love

The corner of Cypress and Imperial, second checkers table from the West, is where we watch the planes take off over the ocean. My seat is the one that faces the green lights of the airplane runway; his seat is the one where you can see the planes disappear into the sunset if you watch them long enough. We were sixteen when we discovered the spot, tucked away from LAX on the highest hill of El Segundo, California.

Nockett’s earth science classroom: even in the midst of our youthful awkwardness, there was a certain fluidity in our inflections, laughter, and a love for The Beatles that made me feel like a part of my humanity must have been made of the same fabric as his.

I first fell in love with David on a school bus home from a marching band competition during my junior year of high school. We listened to “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel and the lights on the 405 looked like stars that were exploding too quickly to remember. We always curved past LAX and he always reminded me through whispers to “wake up, we’re home now.”

Through the streets of El Segundo, during those midnight walks home, we would stand under the gazebo of Library Park and notice how low the stars hung above us and how high the streetlamps stood (as if they were respecting our distance) in the Southern California nighttime. Letting ourselves actualize how terrifying and beautiful a road I had not known existed could be.

The second time I fell in love with David is not as easy to pinpoint, for it occurred over a period of a year and a half. It turned into the sounds of running down small town streets at two in the morning, from Palm to Virginia Street, when the air was thick. It grew into the taste of peppermint mochas during the holidays, strolling through our small town’s “Candy Cane Lane.” Our love song, in its grandeur, turned into the carousel at Disneyland, watching the world spin in a technicolour dream, the light in his eyes flickering to the rhythm of the fireworks.

Dancing across the shore of the Pacific Ocean at sunset on Vista del Mar, wondering which paths and life choices had brought us together, I discovered what it felt like to be young and in love. Eternally, uncertainly, and unapologetically, falling in love was like speeding down the Pacific Coast Highway with my head out of the window, watching the sunlight creep behind the ocean while blasting Bruce Springsteen. I would smile from the passenger seat and tell him, “I’m never going to forget this.”

Our existence is not defined by each other,

and in my opinion, the beauty of

our love stems from our

autonomy

In May 2017, we both committed to the universities of our dreams, independently. I was going to my top choice, the University of Toronto: moving back to my birthplace for my big-city dreams, to pursue English and Cinema. David chose to join me in Canada for his archaeology degree at the University of Calgary. We knew the separation would be brutal, but no pain could compare to the feeling of being reunited. Our relationship was never in question: we both believe that a part of love is putting individual aspirations first.

In June, we graduated high school. We spent our summer nights speeding through the city, driving from Blue Butterfly Coffee on Main Street to the very top of the Griffith Observatory, where the sky was pink and blue like all those years before. I used the pauses between our laughter and ramblings about traveling to Paris and the planetarium scene in Manhattan to remind myself that I, in all of my teenage glory, was so lucky to have met someone like David at such a young age.

By the last week of August, we had planned our last adventure together until we would be reunited again. We walked back to the coffee shop on Sepulveda, where all those years ago, we sat and he listened to me read W.H. Auden while we drank lattes. We sat in the same spot on his living room floor as we did when we were first falling in love to The Catcher in the Rye, listening to Simon and Garfunkel albums after school. Things were simpler when I was not booking flights, finishing barista jobs, or leaving the love of my life on my front porch.

Although we knew it would be excruciating, nothing could have prepared me for the pain of being away from my family, my friends, and David. My mother described my reaction as that of someone grieving an immense loss: I couldn’t hear songs on the radio in stores without bursting into uncontrollable tears. I couldn’t look at the ring David had given me the night before I left without sobbing profusely. I could not eat, sleep, or walk. I experienced, in my first two weeks in Toronto, a heartache that broke down every mental fortress I had spent seven years constructing. A long-distance relationship, for me, was not surprise visits and constant letters in the mail—it was crying in front of a computer and cursing our independence, our distance, and the fork in the road that placed us other over three-thousand kilometres apart.

Although we may be far apart, David and I are both growing into who and what we want for ourselves as individuals. If love is love, it will be there tomorrow. Our existence is not defined by each other, and in my opinion, the beauty of our love stems from our autonomy: we are two coincidences, crossing over in a rare and ethereal existence. Just as I carry on loving, the skies in California carry on with their iridescent lightshow of pinks and blues, preparing for our arrival. The coastal highway will still withstand our speed, the beaches will host our fumbling dancing, and the peppermint mochas will still keep our hands warm in the middle of December.

Where I am now is the third time I’ve fallen in love with David, a process that is continuous, but has been some sort of combination of gut-wrenching and everything I have ever wanted.

In December, when his plane lands, my seat will still be the one that faces the green lights of the airplane runway, where David will land. I will be there, at Tom Bradley Terminal, like we always talk about during our late-night phone calls: loving, living, and materializing again.