A story about the fragility of falling in love and what you find at the bottom of it
Once upon a time, a boy met a girl and they fell in love. The boy was tall and thin. He had dark brown eyes and wore hoodies. Even though he was in his twenties he was balding a little bit (but it was very subtle). The girl was very young, too young to be falling in love, but the truth is that her little heart was not strong enough to escape it.
The boy pulled up on his bike outside of Starbucks. The girl didn’t notice him. Her sister, however, did notice him and whispered in the girl’s infant ears, “I’m gonna marry that guy.”
It didn’t take long for the sister’s infatuation to wear off. The boy on his bike quickly made new friends though he had been away for many years. He got a job at the Starbucks where the girl worked.
She saw his full name pop up on her screen for the first time as he gave her his partner numbers before his first shift started. “You have the coolest last name.” she told him. “There’s a band. You know the band, Copeland? Same as your name.” He smiled back. “Yup, I know about Copeland,” he said.
Time passed. The boy and the girl were sitting in his mother’s red mini-van. It was their first date.
The boy had borrowed his Catholic mother’s mini-van and drove to the girls house. He dressed up and everything. She wore a dress, just for goodness sake. The girl had never been asked out before.
First they went to Panera, the boy opened the car door for her. Then they went to the movies. It was a really stupid movie. Now they were sitting in the parking lot outside Hardee’s and the boy was telling the girl about his favorite band. “Sublime.”
The boy’s eyes lit up. “Can I take you somewhere, or do you have to get home?” “No, it’s fine, I don’t mind.” the girl said. “Okay, I’m gonna take you to one of my favorite spots. But I haven’t been there in a while.”
He put the key in the ignition and the boy drove the girl down River Road, to a part of the river she had never been to before. “This is where I’d come to smoke pot in high school.”
The girl and the boy both very naturally moved down the slope and on stones to the center of the river, since that has always seemed to be simply what you do when you approach a river. You venture in.
He helped her onto the rocks and they sat there amidst the rushing water. A couple of cranes came out and stood before them, tall and slender, with their white necks uplifted. They stayed there until the sun stretched over everything and made the water look like pink glass. Then the boy led the girl back onto dry land before the sun left the sky completely. They ended up in the backseat of the van, even though that’s not technically appropriate for a first date. They didn’t kiss, only spooned. Even so, the girl was like a baby in the arms of a grown man. “I think it’s too soon for me.” the girl said in the most sincere way she possibly could. And the boy didn’t hesitate to honor her wishes. He was in the driver’s seat in seconds and in half an hour the girl was lying in her bed at home, sweet seventeen.
The boy and the girl continued to work together. They smiled a lot around each other. They worked harder when they were working with the other. One day a fly flew in behind the bar and was buzzing around the drinks. The manager of the store handed the boy a fly swatter, but he shook his head. “I can’t kill it.” he said. He found a cup and using his hands he guided the fly into the cup and politely escorted the fly outside.
Life after high school hadn’t been very promising for the boy. He had no money or desire to go to college, so he joined the navy. They assigned him the important task of taking pictures, which he enjoyed and was good at it. Something else the girl learned about the boy was that his Catholic mother was not his biological mother. He had been given up for adoption as a toddler due to his birth mother’s drug habit and his father’s abandonment.
The boy had a hidden distress. His smile masked it so well, but the darkness shined out through his eyes sometimes.
The girl did begin to realize though that this boy, dark eyes and all, genuinely didn’t expect her to be anything more than she was. A song of self-contentment began to shout to parts of her heart that were yearning to hear that song. The boy helped the girl feel finally content with her body. “You’re perfect.” he declared to her. She therefore binged less, she purged less. The simple affection and pursuit from the boy was completely new to the girl. Her first lover hadn’t even known her name, they had merely been two drunks at a party.
The boy told the girl that she gave him wings. He told her to call him ‘baby.’ “Call me baby.” “Why would I call you a baby, baby?” she smiled. One day while they sat beside each other, propped up against the white bark of a dogwood tree he asked her questions about the things she thought would happen to her in life. “I’ll probably become an actress.” she said facetiously. “Well, you could if you wanted. Your beauty is really unique, you know? you don’t have to be, but you could. you could be one of those indie models, or you could be a writer.”
“So I wanted to tell you that I’m gonna go to welding school.” he told the girl. “it’s a trade skill but it would give me steady income.” she looked up into his dark brown eyes and then she kissed his lips and afterward he took his fedora off. His balding head shining in the sun and her younger eyes still gleaming from the sweetness of his words.
The boy introduced the girl to his family. They invited her over for dinner. There was a big camping tent the boy’s parents had bought for his little sister in the living room and sister giggled with delight. The girlfriend sat at the table and tried to chew politely while she answered questions from the boy’s parents. She made sure to compliment the mom’s cooking.
They went on the porch after dinner and swung on the hammock. The boy’s little sister was so excited to have a guest over. “We’re having brownies for dessert!” she exclaimed. The boy had told the girl about his mom’s brownies. “They are so good. Once when I was crashing after getting high I ate a whole pan, and she was like, Come, on, son, why’d you eat all the brownies…”
After that was when his parents made him get rid of all his weed.
The girl said goodnight to the boy’s parents. “We both hope he decides to marry you.” The Catholic mom told the girl, which made the girl quickly blush. “If she’ll let me, mom.” The boy winked at the girl.
Meanwhile, something was stirring in the little girl’s heart. She was growing older, she was almost an adult. But she also didn’t know what she believed about life. She wasn’t sure why she existed and for whom she existed.
IT was most likely that since she was stuck with herself, she might as well live for herself, and that was what she felt the most inside of her. She could pursue living a good life, as best as she knew how and somehow that could be a good enough existence maybe, even if she didn’t always feel good enough in herself. Pursuing a good life could work, however temporary it might end up being.
However, the little girl started experiencing a longing for more than what the boy could give her. While this was going on, the girl’s sister was going through a transformation of her own. Something wonderful that involved worship of the Creator. The sister had discovered something in her that led her to walk inside a little chapel and sing songs to God and hear a message from the Bible. And as amazing as it was to see her sister change for the better, the girl had a certain hardness that could not be dissolved towards this narrow religion of her sister’s.
She had researched about Jesus, because she was definitely curious. The girl read books and they described him as having a sour attitude and being 5 foot 5. Something of a mockery.
And though the girl wondered genuinely about her life, what it meant, what it was, why it was, she was still swept up in the things she tangibly had been given to appreciate on this earth. And there was certainly something undeniably beautiful about this human love—that undeniable beauty she held onto. The Something amazing about the river and Sublime and the hammock and the spooning she held onto.
She lay in the boy’s bed. Laundry lay strewn by his closet door, his pictures, his statues of Buddha, all his science fiction and philosophy books. His incense rods lay flat on his nightstand like a pile of pick up sticks. She lay behind him while he lay on his side facing his laptop. “Do you want to meet my mistresses?” He asked her. The girl shrugged. He pulled up images of his girls, pale girls with lots of tattoos. Scarlet lipstick. “I love your pale skin.” The boy told the girl as she looked at the white skin of his virtual mistresses.
She remembered the first time she had let the boy take her shirt off. When he saw her boobs for the first time, how utterly delighted he had been. How his eyes had gotten wider and he had looked up at her eyes again, “they’re perfect.”
And it started to hit her, “there’s something about me that is desirable to the boy, yet it cannot be fully me that he wants. he says that my body is perfect, and my boobs are perfect, yet i am still not perfect enough. i am not enough to give him joy that lasts forever, i am not enough.”
It started to make sense to her, “this boy is not enough to make me feel okay inside, his taste in music is not enough to fascinate me, his tattoos and his stories, his knowledge and his comfort, this boy cannot bring me joy that lasts forever, he is not enough.”
The girl remembered the night they went to the barracks to hang out with Jorie, the beautiful girl with the tattoos. . And the marines were all drinking beer and the boy played ping pong with Jorie. The girl sat with the marines and watched. Jorie said to the girl as they walked to the car to leave, “he said all you have to do is smile and he’s done for.”
The girl could’ve been very flattered to hear something like that, but this time she knew. She knew so well that this love wouldn’t last. She saw something in the boy that lay immobilized and something in her that used him to escape the fear of exposure. She began to recognize that this boy’s love for her was not worth dying for. His love couldn’t light her up forever, his love couldn’t deliver her from the torture of her own person that raged against her with evil desires and lusts. He couldn’t spring up inside her by his spirit and renew her, this boy couldn’t change her.
And her greatest need of the moment, to be transformed, the boy couldn’t give to her. He could offer her earthly love to last a lifetime, but he couldn’t transform her into someone she could be content living with inside her skin forever.
The girl didn’t say goodbye immediately, she couldn’t, yet. But she did come to a clearer understanding as the relationship went on of who she was and what it was that she really wanted to get out of this life. (clue: he was the mockery)