This essay contains quite a bit of adult language, and by adult language, I mean the words “shit, fuck, and bullshit” fly throughout this piece.
I watched Oliver’s Story, the 1978 sequel to Love Story, a film often considered one of the most romantic movies of all time. For years, I put off the hour and a half of my time the film required; I avoided it for almost a decade.
In order to tell this story, I first must give another one to contextualize how and why I would steer clear of Oliver’s Story:
The year had to have been 2009. As we ran our weekend errands or made our daily stop to the Target next door to our apartment complex, my then-girlfriend, Timile rummaged through the bargain bin of DVD’s. She stopped thirty seconds into her activity and said “Love Story! I love this movie! We have to watch this today!” Unaware what was in store, I looked at the two young white people-Ryan O’Niel and Ali McGraw-and said “sure.” In my mind, it was another romantic movie to watch with my girlfriend.
We smiled and related through the first part of Love Story; Oliver Barrett IV, a student at all-male Harvard College met quick-witted Jennifer Cavilleri, who attended Radcliffe College, a women’s liber arts college—the “sister” school to Harvard. As Morehouse and Spelman College-two prestigious Historically Black Colleges which are all male and female, respectively-we knew the movie’s protagonists very well. The two of us felt the struggles Oliver and Jennifer faced as they began to make their way in the world, outside the confines of their institution; it was the very place Timile and I were in.
Then the movie took a turn…Jenny got sick, was diagnosed with cancer, died at the age of 25, and said one of the lines I still consider one of the biggest crocks of shit of all time: love means never having to say your sorry. Timile duped the fuck out of me and I did not appreciate it at all.
Timile boo-hooed through the credits and I attempted to lighten the mood with my honest take on Love Story. This is probably not a direct quote-but probable enough to be one-I said “This is one of the most fucked up movies of all time! Why the hell did you make me watch this bullshit?! I need a drink after this and you are no longer allowed to pick out movies to watch!” Timile laughed and we continued our day.
The joke was on me…
Given how much Love Story paralleled my story past the scenes in which my daughter’s mother and I giggled through, one could see how or why I would not watch Oliver’s Story, once I was aware a sequel existed. I also had no incentive to watch it because it was critically panned and a box office flop; so if I thought the first was shitty and the second was even shittier, why would I put myself through the emotional muck? Hell, I thought Oliver’s Story was bullshit based on its bullshit promotional tagline “It takes someone very special to help you forget someone special;” they have been batting 1.000 with the bullshit in my book. I had a change of heart the other day.
As I have toiled away with music and worked on an album appropriately titled There’s Always a Girl Story, the creative process has prompted healing which was long overdue. I am almost done with the lyrics, production, and recording. Drained from the decade of emotions I have re-confronted, rectified, and reconciled, I hit a wall on the tail end. So yesterday, February 7, 2021, I told myself “I know what will get me going and further overwhelm the fuck out of my feelings…I’ll watch Oliver’s Story.” I loved the fucking movie.
Granted, there are many holes in the plotline and Oliver’s Story is nowhere near as good as its predecessor; but I loved the movie. Dare I say I felt the way about the sequel as Timile did for Love Story (this might be the aha moment I’ll need to get to in a couple paragraphs). Every Oliver Barrett IV scene, I’ve been there…
Well, I never laid in the bed, sad and forlorn, and stared out the window with sadness as I glanced at a picture of my love who died. The funeral scene which started off Oliver’s Story stirred up a lot of emotions; I felt as if I finally attended the funeral for Timile I was never invited to, or the gravesite the groundskeepers refused to help me find when I drove to Virginia with my daughter—this evening evolved into a moment of rage in which I reminded my “in-laws” how “I was not allowed the fun of the funeral” when they proposed we go as a family the next time I’m in Virginia (I haven’t been back since this day in 2015). But I digress…
There have been many Thursday afternoons, between 3:45 and 4:45, where I have had word-for-word the same conversations as Oliver did with his therapist. On the second watch, I realized my Thursday conversations went a little different because I was not in the same emotional space as Oliver. Nonetheless, at one time or another, I have felt the sentiment behind the dialog, all the way down to as the therapy sessions progressed, it seemed as if more darkness crept into the room, and masked half of Oliver and the therapists’ faces.
I have had interactions like Oliver and a few Joanna Stones-women my friends have attempted to set me up with, which ended in her place with said young lady throwing herself at me, only for me to say “goodnight” and not close the deal (Note: the times I did not close said deal was not because of sadness, I foresaw the awkward, nothing-short-of-crazy conclusion which had played out the many times I did “close the deal;” because like the movie, it was always on night one). For years, I hovered around, a shell of happy-go-lucky self, with a dark cloud of despair over my head and flashed grins through sarcastic remarks when I peeked over my impenetrable wall. I spent years engulfed and obsessed with work because in many ways, it felt like all I had.
I experienced every argument and emotion displayed when Oliver and Marci Bonwit (played by Candice Bergen). More often than not, it was not me who pulled away. With nonchalance, I let the bullshit happen and let the women think whatever they wanted. In all honesty, on several occasions I have let a woman think I could not progress in a full-fledged relationship with them because they said “I don’t think you’re over your daughter’s mother.” If only you knew how many times I have heard the phrase, sentiment, or body language which conveyed “You don’t know what it’s like to compete with a dead woman.” I wanted to reply just as O’Neil did as he yelled “Then stop trying!” only to shrug it off and let whoever feel whatever way they wanted. I once told this to my friend, Jamilah, who replied “If that’s how women feel, you don’t need those insecure bitches. They lack confidence and weren’t right for you.” Jamilah spoke the words which played in my mind, every time the scene in Hong Kong happened. Now to bring this piece home…
In summation, I do feel the same way about Oliver’s Story as my daughter’s mother once felt about Love Story. How could I not? Both where eerily prophetic and has played out, almost line-for-line, in fraternal-not identical, which also makes sense because I have a twin sister-fashion. But in all honesty and bias aside, mine has a lot more entertainment and dramatic value. Granted, the argument with Marci may have been on the San Diego waterfront, on a cross-country road trip, or the Bronx. If I were to be completely transparent-for once-the way life has played out and those who have been privy to the inner-workings of my current journey, you too would agree and root for Chad’s Story.