Canteen #2

CAP: So when does it open?

LENA: Saturday. It all went…really fast.

CAP: That’s so exciting!

LENA: Yeah, I can’t wait for people to hear it. Everyone sounds incredible.

CAP: How’s the plot go?

LENA: You mean, is it good?

CAP: I mean what happens?

LENA: It’s an opera. Everything happens.

CAP: Come on.

LENA: No, really. It’s pretty much all there.

CAP: Dancing, duels, arguments, unrequited love—

LENA: Okay, no duels this time. But all the rest of it.

CAP: No duels?

LENA: Don’t worry, there’s pretty much a murder.

CAP: Pretty much?

LENA: And some very operatic suicides. It’s a tragedy. It’s a very tragic tragedy. (Pause.) Why do you suppose that is?

CAP: What?

LENA: Why’s it have to be a tragedy? Why do we keep telling tragic love stories? I mean, would it kill us to let Romeo and Juliet wake up next to each other at the end?

CAP: I saw a version like that once. It was…really good, actually.

LENA: Yes! It can be! If the story’s good, there’s no need to twist it around to make you cry at the end. You can be afraid for someone and have them survive. It doesn’t make the fear any less real.

CAP: No. It doesn’t.

LENA: And you can have something that’s sad without making it a tragedy. My brother is both dead and alive, depending on which version you read, but neither one is a tragedy in the classic sense.

CAP: Yeah. And it’s not melodramatic, either. It’s something that happens that hurts.

LENA: Exactly. But it’s still not a tragedy. I mean I know a tragedy is more than sad, with the arc of fate and whatnot, but that’s still what the plot points boil down to. Something sad happens at the end, even if the rest of the story had its ups and downs.

CAP: But there are good stories that are tragedies and worth telling.

LENA: Sure. I love The Queen of Spades. I love hearing it every night. I’m just suddenly wondering what it is with tragedies.

CAP: People say happy endings are for kids.

LENA: Why?

CAP: I guess because they make the stories easier.

LENA: But they…don’t, so much of the time. A happy ending—or a joyous ending, anyway; I don’t feel like there’s any such thing as a happy ending—a joyous ending doesn’t change the horrible things that happened beforehand. I should know. Half the time, for me, Christmas comes, and against all odds most of the family is alive, and we’ve had time to grieve and now there’s love in the air. But my brother is still dead.

CAP: …Yeah.

LENA: And anyway, it’s not as if bad things don’t happen to both kids and adults. Why not let people see the fictional people they love get something good now and then, even if the real people can’t have it?

CAP: Why do you suppose we care so much about endings?

LENA: Why wouldn’t we?

CAP: Well…because like you said, they don’t change what happened beforehand. And presumably they don’t change what happens after.

LENA: True.

CAP: But I’ve still written like three separate posts already that mostly have to do with how a story ends. Why is that?

LENA: Lack of imagination on your part?

CAP: Thank you so much.

LENA: We have to stop a story somewhere. And the ending is the last thing we remember.

CAP: So if the ending leaves us feeling sad, or hopeful, or both…

LENA: That’s how we’ll frame the rest of the story.

CAP: So we tell tragedies because—hmm.

LENA: Because…because they feel true. Because they make you feel like you’re close to something big and real.

CAP: So happy endings are for kids because we don’t think they can handle something too big or too real?

LENA: Yeah, but maybe we’re oversimplifying. Like if it’s all about wherever you end a story, then