Issue Forty-Two - Summer 2023

Acts of Love

By Winston Widjaja Lin


Anton: 22 years old at the start of the script. Ukrainian Jewish American.
A BA/MA student in Columbia University’s Russian, Eurasian, and Eastern
European Studies program. Boyfriend to Winston.

Winston: 23 years old at the start of the script. Taiwanese Indonesian American.
An interior designer in VOCI D’s Los Angeles location. Boyfriend to Anton.

Note from the script writer: Each quote at the beginning of every scene is from a poem in Carl Phillips’ poetry collection The Rest of Love.

SCENE 1: Italics

It is December 2018. Anton & Winston are on FaceTime.
Anton is holding The Rest of Love by Carl Phillips.

“Don’t blame me, if I am everything your heart has led to.”

from “Singing”

Anton: I bet this Carl Phillips guy hates communicating with his partner.

Winston: That’s a bold theory. How’d you come up with that?

Anton: There’s only, like, three poems in this book where he’s talking directly to the guy.

Winston: You’re assuming it’s an autobiographical book that’s relevant to his personal life.

Anton: Why’d you decide to read this book? And insist I read it too?

Winston: It’s beautifully written! I don’t think it’s hard to read, and it’s a nice introduction for someone unfamiliar with contemporary poetry.

Anton: There is a pleasant musical quality in these poems, but does there have to be so many fucking metaphors and abstractions? When he’s in an argument with his partner, does Carl suggest they make up by becoming two geese that count the drops of condensation on the Nymphaea in Brooklyn Botanic Garden?

(Anton drops the book from his hand.)

Winston: You’re a lyric poet already!

Anton: And what’s going on with that book cover? There’s a beige shadow of Cookie Monster on the bottom.

Winston: I should’ve sent a Mary Oliver book to you instead.

Anton: I miss you, Winston.

Winston: I miss you more, sayang.

(A moment of silence.)

Anton: You can for sure be transferred to VOCI D’s New York office by spring, right?

Winston: Oh, that. Uh, yeah.

Anton: Why the disrupted short answer?

(A moment of silence.)

Winston: I’ve been wondering if you could finish your program this academic year instead of in 2020, and then move to the West Coast.

Anton: You know I hate L.A.

Winston: I don’t necessarily mean to L.A. I could transfer to SF. The Bay Area’s more expensive than L.A. or New York, but I have faith we’d make our living situation work.

Anton: Last week you were talking about how much you miss it here, and you’ve liked remotely interacting with people in the New York office, and you’d love to spend more time with them in person. What changed your mind? Why are you so set on living in California?

Winston: All of that’s still true. But, I’d lived in New York my whole life and wanna experience new places. I know you wanna finish your program in two years so you’d have more time to figure out your career, but I think it’d be better if we were only apart for one year.

Anton: I’m not sure I want to leave the East Coast after I graduate.

(A moment of silence.)

Winston: My coworker’s holiday party is in a couple hours. I should get ready.

Anton: To brace the horrid traffic. The aggressive drivers. The smog.

Winston: If only I could be a goose so I can get to her front yard in 20 minutes instead of 40. I dream of drinking three cups of plum juice as I contemplate the dahlias.

SCENE 2: Em dashes—

It is June 2019. Anton is in Winston’s apartment in L.A.
They are ending their partnership. Anton is shuffling through items in his luggage.

“drift—like wind, like war—to the next”

from “Conduct”

Anton: Here’s your shirt back.

Winston: Cool.

(Anton continues shuffling through his luggage.)

Winston: How would you describe this shirt?

Anton: You’re really gonna have me work through some literary craft exercise near the end of our relationship.

Winston: It’s not the end of the relationship. It’s the end of the partnership.

Anton: Wow, I—

Winston: “Wow, I—” what?

Anton: I would’ve liked to finish the sentence.

Winston: I won’t stop—

Anton: You stopped me mid-sentence.

Winston: And now you won’t let me finish.

Anton: In case you forgot, the shirt was your graduation gift. I got it from a boutique in Atlanta when I was visiting my parents. I thought you’d like the super artsy design. But apparently not, considering you left it at my place when you moved here.

Winston: I remember you giving it to me two years ago. I may have neglected the shirt a bit, but I was set on retrieving it. I have loved this shirt. And still love it.

(Anton looks over at Winston, who turns away.)

Winston: I can’t believe you’re gonna be in grad school for one more year. Two years have passed since I’ve been in college and I’m still recovering.

Anton: Why are you looking into MFA in Creative Writing programs then?

Winston: I actually like writing. Working as an interior designer is so damn boring; the industry is archaic and problematic too. The poet I’ve been gushing to you about is the Chair for the MFA program in Antioch University Los Angeles. I’m gonna apply there.

Anton: Victoria Chang, right? The woman raised by immigrants from Taiwan?

Winston: Yes, the poet who taught the workshop retreat I did in Idyllwild.

Anton: I learned she’s close friends with Ilya Kaminsky! He mentioned her in the Acknowledgments page for Deaf Republic.

Winston: You read it?!

(Anton pulls out Deaf Republic and Dancing in Odessa from his luggage.)

Anton: It was the best birthday present you—actually, it’s the best present anyone’s ever given me. I love how someone like me wrote all this. I can’t wait to read his first book.

Winston: You’ll read Dancing in Odessa on the plane ride to Ukraine? It is more lyrical.

Anton: For sure. It’ll be a nice, new kind of read on the way to the homeland.

(Winston gushes at Anton.)

Anton: We’ve been partnered for nearly five years. Since I was in my 1st year in Columbia, and you in your 2nd year in Pratt. We’ve had an illustrious history since then.

Winston: Thanks for visiting me before you head off. Um, I’m gonna try to not—

Anton: Perhaps the—

SCENE 3: Ellipses…

It is March 19th, 2020.
Winston is waiting right outside Anton’s New York apartment.

“Then spring came: branches-in-a-wind…”

from “If a Wilderness”

Anton opens the door…

Anton: Hi, Winston.

Winston: Hey.

(Anton steps aside. Winston enters the apartment. They’re both silent for a bit.)

Winston: I like your home.

Anton: Thanks. Too bad I’m not sure I’ll be able to stay here after I graduate in May…

Winston: Happy Spring! How’s your break been?

Anton: Eh. I’m too afraid to go outside.

Winston: That makes sense…

Anton: How’re your parents?

Winston: They’re fine! Surviving.

Anton: Good!

Winston: And your parents?

Anton: The same. Fine too!

Winston: Great!

Anton: Can you remind me when the last time we saw each other was?

Winston: It wasn’t that long ago. It was in late November, right before my MFA residency.

Anton: Right! Ugh. I have a little brain fog, which is why I forgot. How was the residency?

Winston: Amazing. Ilya Kaminsky actually made an appearance there.

Anton: I’m so jealous. And how was Victoria?

Winston: Delightful. I’ve been learning so much about poetry from her, and what it means to have a literary life. She has a new poetry collection called Obit coming out next month.

Anton: Sounds dark.

Winston: It’s an eerily fitting mood for the coronavirus pandemic.

Anton: Yup.

Winston: I quit my job.

Anton: What?

Winston: I couldn’t stand it anymore. And they’re gonna furlough and lay off people anyway, so it felt right to leave.

Anton: How long will you be in New York?

Winston: Not sure…it seems like lots of people are moving back to their hometowns.

(A moment of silence…)

Anton: I won’t lie…I’ll be happy if you stayed. I’ve missed you and thought a lot about you.

Winston: I’ve missed you and thought a lot about you too, sayang.

Anton: It may be a weird time to rekindle a partnership, but I’m open to do so if you are.

Winston: I wouldn’t be afraid of being more direct with my love for you.

(They kiss and embrace before the scene slowly fades to black.)

Copyright 2023 Lin