Emily, like you, I often have trouble determining who is talking, especially when I start reading too quickly, but then once I take a step back and think about what they are saying, it seems so very obvious. On rereading this, the differences between Jessica’s and Marcus’s motives in the conversation become quite clear. Jessica is trying to hold herself together and to keep Marcus out. Marcus is trying to not open up and let Jessica in wholly and completely. He edits stories when he’s worried that she’ll realize too much and become freaked out — these realizations often have to do with her. Jessica edits stories when she worries that Marcus will learn too much. She’s not thinking about how her life affects his; she’s thinking about herself and the way that he always affects her. She doesn’t want to let him in because she knows what can happen when she does. He, remembering the power of this, too, exercises similar restraint. Their conversations is full of false starts. I always remember this part as an awkward beginning before a strong and easy connection, but that’s not the way it happens.
I was also thinking about what you had mentioned about high school — Marcus doesn’t remember what Jessica does, suggesting that maybe she had reread her journals. But Jessica doesn’t understand why she should guess Marcus’s major when he is so great at guessing her job. In accordance with their different motives, Jessica has kept Marcus in her past, dwelling on what was. Marcus imagines Jessica in the present, thinking about what is now. Jessica guards herself because she so clearly remembers the pain. So, maybe, like Marcus, we can forgive her for her terrible fake cramps? Maybe.
If you liked that, try this:
If you enjoy difficult yet rewarding conversations between two people who loved each but then had to leave each other, maybe to be together again, maybe to not be, then you absolutely must watch The Way We Were. Robert Redford is a handsome, carefree man for whom things come easily. Barbra Streisand is a fierce socialist who takes things too seriously. They fall in love, but keep being pulled apart. Guaranteed to make you cry and constantly imagine the situation when you could so confidently and elegantly swipe hair off of your ex’s face and say, just, “Your girl is lovely, Hubbel,” before walking away forever.