Learning to Cry Again with Florence
Author: Jason Mirah
In 2016 my fiancé left me. It came to me as a shock as I believed we were going to spend the rest of our lives together. Looking back with hindsight, I can see that it was for the best. But when it happened, I was distraught. I was in so much pain. I cried. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. And then, I stopped crying.
I said to myself, I need to be strong, move on and that I can’t cry anymore. I can’t show any signs of weakness, and that I needed to be strong. So in the years that followed, I didn’t cry. Sure, I experienced emotions but was never able to bring myself to cry.
Then one day in 2018, whilst listening to a Kinda Funny Podcast, I hear the hosts talking about a mobile game. A small indie mobile game that made you use the touch screen in really interesting ways. Being an Australian developer was a plus! So I went onto the App store, and downloaded Florence.
I went into Florence like I do with my movies. I don’t watch any trailers and the less I know about it, the better. For those of you who haven’t played Florence, the game lets you play from the perspective of the titular character as it takes you through the life of a relationship. Without knowing that, I jumped right in.
Florence was an emotional roller-coaster. I was met with clever game design, gorgeous art direction and beautiful music. Playing through Florence and Krish’s relationship was fun. Simple things like cleaning up the apartment, to rearranging your shelf to fit Krish’s things on there by moving them with your finger or how you have to help Florence to piece together a conversation using puzzle pieces for speech bubbles, made me feel more immersed in the story and look back at my past relationship fondly. The nervous chatting, first dates, introducing your partner to the things you like. All of the “honeymoon period” tropes you can expect.
The game’s story then takes a turn. Florence and Krish’s relationship starts to fall apart, and they make the difficult decision to break up. As Florence, you’re left with packing Krish’s belongings into a box. This meant removing the items which you placed there in the first place. That part of the game took me back to 2016. While I was at work, my now ex-fiancé had spent the day at home packing all of her belongings. So, after a day at work, I returned home to find it empty. She had taken nearly everything, including our bed. Walking through my apartment, was like walking through a stranger’s home. No photos of us together. Nowhere warm for me to sleep. I was lost. I was broken.
Back in 2018, I was weeping. I remember I was sitting on the couch, my phone had fallen to my lap and I was holding my head in my hands with tears running down my face. All of my repressed emotions suddenly busted out into the open. It had been 2 years since I last cried, and I couldn’t believe what was happening. I paused and gathered myself. I then picked up my phone again to continue playing through Florence.
Ultimately, Florence realises she needs to let go of the past and move on. It doesn’t come easy, but in the last panel of the game, Florence’s apartment is full of colour and she’s looking out the window, cup of tea in hand, with a smile on her face.
When the credits rolled, I took a few minutes to reflect on the past. On how nice it was to wake up next to her each day. To have her smile at me with a look that says, “Everything will be ok.” But it’s now in the past. Now, I’ve moved to a new city, new career, new friends and paving my own path. Ever since playing Florence, I’ve come to think that maybe I didn’t want to cry because I didn’t want to let anything hurt me again. In reality, we all deal with pain in one way or another. Being able to cry just shows that I am willing to accept my emotions. I realised that I gave into the stereotype of “Men should be hard and stoic” which made it difficult for me to come to terms with my emotions. I took a look and myself and said “I can’t do this alone”. The fact is; everyone cries, and it’s ok to cry.
Occasionally, I’ll find something that reminds me of her. An old photo, a trinket, or a place. And I take a moment to think fondly on our memories together. Then I smile and move on. Because if I keep looking back, I’ll never see what’s ahead of me. And that’s something to look forward to.