Written By Sarah Griffin - Sarah is a NorCal-born, Denver-bred writer and astrologer. She focuses on what it's like navigating the rocky waters of mid-thirties dating and the struggle to balance emotional security with personal freedom, hobbies with work, and wine with pizza. She's an eldest child Libra and would live in the bathtub with a stack of books if she could. Twitter: @rockfacesarah_8 Instagram: @bofffquafff
There is a girl. A blonde-headed girl, who sometimes wears glasses and sometimes gets sad but mostly she’s happy. When the boy met this girl her she was a little bit tipsy, and a little bit blue. She felt this way because life wasn’t quite working out to plan, and she was starting to get defeated. It made her very, very tired. So she went out with a friend and pushed her face into a smile, and then, when she wasn’t looking, then she saw this boy. She looked up from the ground and he filled up her eyes. This brown-haired boy, wearing shorts and a smile and a mischievous glint looked at her and all of a sudden her heart clicked its heels and did a little twirl and whispered to her lips “talk to him”.
So she talked to him. He smiled and he answered. Of course, neither of them knew, that first sentence that spilled from her lips was the moment everything changed.
He was different. He had a light. She didn’t just want to kiss him, even though she wanted to kiss him all the time. She wanted his ideas. She wanted to see him laugh. She wanted to know what made his thoughts fall into place. Were they like dominoes cascading, one feeding the next? Were they like legos snapping together, starting out small and building to a masterpiece? Or were they like hers, or a whirling mass musical fragments and poetry snippets and smells and tastes and light fragments that never fully come together but nonetheless make her heart bubble up in her throat she couldn’t tell where logic started and emotion ended. But one thing was certain- she wanted to talk to him, and he wanted to talk to her. All they did was talk. They couldn’t get the words out fast enough, because there was so much to say.
And what of the boy? He saw her too. Being a boy, his thoughts didn’t swirl in a soft sunlit mass like hers did. Even still- he saw, and he felt, and he knew- and there was a light. Unlike the girl however, this light scared him. So after three weeks of learning the taste of each other’s mouths, how to coax a smile from the other, the shy touches that lead to the fevered upturn of throats and open lips, the careful acquaintanceship of friends and pets, and just starting to learn the scent of each other’s skin and rhythms of each other’s bodies, the boy did something silly. He said things to this girl that stomped on her heart, but not because he wanted to hurt her, but because he was scared. See, this boy had been in love before, and this girl had not. So he knew what it was to feel something like magic and then have it taken away. So he tried to kill the light between them before either could be hurt. And there were tears and there was anger and there was passion and there were shouts and there were whispers and eventually there was nothing because he left in the early hours of the dawn. This girl was so disappointed, she knew deep in the recesses of her marshmallow heart this was different, but this boy was stubborn and independent like most boys, so she sat on her bed and she cried till she was mad, and then she told the boy off.
A week went by. There was another boy, a younger boy, who’d been pestering this girl for a date for a whole year. In her weakness and disappointment, this girl acquiesced. She convinced herself that since she and the boy with the light had only known each other a month it was silly to be sad, so get over it, and move on.
It didn’t work though. This younger boy, this stupid boy, said and did everything right, but from the beginning, she’d known he was wrong, which was why she’d put him off. He tried to impress this blonde-headed girl, with compliments and door-holding and all the right words. It was empty though. The whole night, the night she should have been looking at what was in front of her, her mind went back to the boy with the light. So she ended the date and went home, and in between working and friends and playing with her dogs and the infinite mundane of laundry and dishes and going to the store, she spent the in-between time of her days thinking about what to do, and what the price of pride was.
It only took a week for her to swallow her pride and ask him to be her friend. He’d been thinking of her too, because he answered right away, like he’d been waiting for her call.
So she knocked on his door and it was different than before. He’d shown her his hesitation and pigheadedness, and she’d shown her softness, bad timing and impatience. They’d both shown their stubbornness. But being around him was better than not, and that night she slept in his bed, but not in his arms, because she was afraid of getting too close too fast. And when she woke up, in the early hours of dawn to creep home, to give him space he was so vocal about needed and think about the choice she was making, he woke up too, and pulled her down on the bed, and asked in a thick voice if she was mad, and didn’t she sometimes get scared too? And she said yes, of course she got scared, and no, she wasn’t mad. Just because a person has to go doesn’t mean they’re mad.
Then it was her birthday, and he took her out to dinner, and for the first time, she felt like he really wanted to know her. He asked her about herself, books and music and the rest. But because it was her birthday, and because her friends were calling, and maybe because her heart was still a little bruised, she left again. She never wanted to leave; but for reasons beyond herself sometimes she needed to leave. But he never wandered far from her mind.
Then this boy, the boy with the light, who liked to fly on his bike, flew a little too fast and broke his foot. And this boy, who was so independent and so good by himself, needed a hand. And the blonde-headed girl had two hands, and time on those hands. So she extended her hands, and after some hesitation, this boy with the light, he placed his hands in hers.
This is when the fall starts. Now is when she starts to fall. Now is when the world focuses and blurs around the edges and everything goes dappled.
There was a time, when the girl thought she would have to go away. Work was hard to come by and her money was running out. She was alone in the place she lived, without family. This broke her heart in two pieces, because she loved where she lived but she also loved the people-her family, her roots- in the go-away place. She wanted her heart whole, not cracked.
There was a third piece of her heart that was broken off, an essential piece, a small secret piece that she kept tucked in a place so secret, she doesn’t dare tell anyone for fear it will be discovered. This part of her heart, the secret, shiny part, shaped like a star and sparkling like sunlight on water, it held the name of the boy, the boy with the light. The girl, wise in her years but green in matters of the heart, she was ashamed and embarrassed that she was feeling such things for this boy with the light, so she kept it a secret, and tried to stop it from growing. She thought that if she kept this part of her heart n the dark, maybe the boy’s light couldn’t reach it.
Oh though, oh no. She was so naïve. What she didn’t know was that this little star would find the light, it could find the light in a windowless room. The little star doesn’t care if it’s convenient or not. The little start doesn’t care about timing. The little star knows what it needs. So the little star began to grow.
It grew for lots of reasons, but mainly it started to grow at an alarming rate because this boy, this boy who never stopped moving, was suddenly still. A broken foot is sedentary. The blonde-headed girl was suddenly spending time with this boy, sitting still with this boy, learning the way this boy looked in the morning, with his brown hair in peaks and his eyes bleary with sleep and flashing with ideas. She was learning the way this boy felt in the evening, the way her turned to her in the pocket of his bed, gathering her pieces and scattered parts and holding them close in the soft velvet dark of the long November nights.
So much time they spent in small spaces. Car rides to work, car rides from work, cooking dinner and doctors’ appointments and movies and football games, plans for holidays and sharing the white blanket on the couch. Little words of encouragement that she’d find work soon, little words of encouragement that he’d heal his foot. Little walks up and down the block, he takes one dog, she takes the other, shy looks and slow smiles. The beginning of the endearments. Each one put her heart in her mouth.
Each of these moments put another niche on that secret star she kept stashed away, but now it was growing bigger, and it’s light was starting to make her tingle all the time. This feeling was new- it wasn’t sweeping, or dizzying, it wasn’t a hot wind blowing through her, it wasn’t a panicked, out-of-control feeling of falling. It was persistent and safe. Every day, every endearment, every touch of his hand, every soft sleepy murmur, every joke, every time he kissed her when she was almost-but-not-quite asleep, every time she moved under him or over him so she could be filled with that light, that sweetness- well, sometimes it almost too much to bear. She was scared to breathe and her head was in the clouds but her feet were stuck in the daily mud of life and uncertainty. She was elated by the euphoria she felt and inexplicably angry at him for making her feel this way. She felt angry the way a child gets angry- she didn’t know why, but she wanted to kick and pout and then curl in his lap like a kitten and have him scratch her back until she fell asleep, temporarily soothed by wholly cared for. It was heady and confusing, intoxicating and calming, but ultimately it was so fucking exquisite she kept seeking it out.
The beautiful boy with the light is Jewish, and the blonde-headed girl has always wanted to be Jewish. She has read books on Judaism and takes pride in her name with its Jewish roots and is thrilled when she helps this boy put up his menorah. They stand outside in the December cold and look at the menorah that is sitting in the window and she can’t keep from smiling. She’s smiling because she has already started to fall in love with so many little things about him, but right now she’s falling in love with the fact that this is the first menorah he’s put up in years, and he’s putting it up at her urging, and she can’t explain why, but it makes everything in her bubble and swirl.
She’s noticed lately she never really stops smiling around this boy, this brown headed boy, the boy with the light, the light that’s making her little star grow. She smiles when she sees him, she smiles when she’s standing in the kitchen spooning our chicken or rice and she’s bringing his plate, she smiles when he calls, but most of all, she smiles at night. At night after they’ve breathed each other’s breath and sweated each other’s sweat, when they’re lying in a tangle of hair and limbs and lips swollen with kisses, she curls into his back and smiles into the safe secret spot between his shoulders. He lies on his left and she lies on her left and she slips her arm around his waist and he hold her right hand up next to his heart and she drifts into dreams with her head tucked into his back like a nesting bird.
Sometimes she gets scared. She’ll drink too much and pick an argument, or cross her arms and let sarcastic words slither out of her mouth. She’ll drive around aimlessly, afraid of how badly she wants this to be real, letting him worry, letting him wonder where she is. She knows if she gives over to this exquisite sweetness she’s giving him the power to crush her heart like a butterfly wing. This makes her even angrier. But eventually, she has to give in. She has no choice. Her heart is aching and there’s only one way to fix it.
She’s fully frightened, and feels fully out of her head. She finds reasons to be angry. She gets upset over nothing. She creates scenarios and fantasies in which she leaves in a huff. She wishes and prays he’ll do something awful, horrendous, she that she can have good reason to leave, so that she can end this before she falls deeper. She’s so in love with this boy with the light that she feels powerless and paralyzed and like a wild animal. She tries to talk herself out of how she feels. She talks to her friends, they tell her she’s in love, she says “absolutely not”. She thinks about leaving 5 times a day. She melts when she sees him with children and animals. She goes weak when he touches her, goes soft when she hears his voice. She was drunk on his light, and finally she couldn’t hold it in any longer.
On a night in late January, after a fight, and a dinner, and time spent with friends, they laid down on her bed, and for the first time she had the courage to put her mouth to his ear and whispered that she loved him and it was like cool water in her mouth.
She held her breath, so small and so exposed, so raw and quaking, her body curled tightly around her heart, waiting for the silence, and waiting for the excuse.
Instead, a miracle happened. The boy with the turned to her, and he cupped her face. This beautiful boy, with the brown hair, said, without hesitation, that he loved her back. He loved her but hadn’t known how to say it, he’d been wanting to say it, but she’d saved him the trouble by saying it first. So he said it, over and over and over again.
I love you, I love you, I love you.
Each time he said it the star inside her pulsed and glowed and shone so hard and so fiercely it forced all that light to come flowing from her eyes and to rain kisses on his mouth. When it was over, and her heart was so full it looked like someone had taken a needle and pricked it from the inside and it was shooting little beams of light all over her one-room apartment, she curled her body around the boy and felt their skins melt into each other. Of all the thousands of days she’d been alive, of all the millions of minutes she’d taken breath, this day was the best day she’d been alive, and these were the sweetest breaths she’d ever drawn.
This is the best part.
There wasn’t much to say. The beautiful boy’s foot was getting better. The blonde-headed girl found work. The beautiful boy left for a week for his work and she was happy for him because he was doing so well and she missed him like fire. When he came back she felt shy and unsure, it was the longest they’d been parted since the very beginning, and she wondered if when he came back he’d still like her and love her. She felt this way until they got to the pocket of his bed and his hands reminded her who he was and his mouth reminded her of what she loved and everything was as it should be and the world was as they’d left it.
Then it was Valentine’s Day and even though she felt silly, she hoped he would surprise her. He did not disappoint. He took her where it was romantic and silly and fun and her face hurt from smiling. She gave him presents you’d give a child- coloring books and crayons and silly clothes- but it was ok because he took her somewhere children have their birthday parties. It was perfect because together, they were not grownups. Together they were as lighthearted and joyful as children.
Sometimes, because she felt like a child with him, it made her think about children of her own. This was something the blonde-headed girl had never thought about. She realized, looking at the beautiful boy with the brown hair and his light filling up her star, that she wanted children of her own- of their own. So for the second time in a month, she screwed up her courage and told him. She did it clumsily, and tearfully, late at night and apropos of nothing, as was the blonde-headed girl’s way. She did this was so accustomed to having her wants pushed aside that she was frightened of her own desires- but the beautiful boy did what he did best. He told her he was surprised, but glad. He told her he wanted them too, not tomorrow, but sometime, and he was happy to know that the blonde-headed girl had the same thoughts and wants as him. The star inside her shone so brightly again that she thought she might float off the bed and into the sky. But it was better to stay on earth with the boy, so she wrapped her arms around him and wondered how she got so lucky.
It was so good. It was a time of riding bikes around their neighborhoods and his hometown, fancy dinners out, concerts and friends, her cooking and them staying in, movies in the city, making love in the morning and the evening and sometimes in the afternoon, coffee on his couch on Sundays and playing with dogs on Saturdays. Her heart was so full, but so light. Sometimes they argued, but never without resolution, and more than anything, they simply loved each other. She stopped holding her breath. It was more than enough.
March was split in two pieces.
She started her job. He had a key to her place now, otherwise how could she leave for work on time and let him sleep and walk the dogs if not for a key? He had a toothbrush at her house. She had a toothbrush and a phone charger and about 17 mismatched socks at his. She didn’t wait for him to call anymore- he’d helped her find her voice and she knew how to speak up, to say what she wanted. She’d learned his need for solitude, and he’d learned her need for contact. He loosened his routine and did things she wanted to do. He went with her to dinner parties and parades, she went with him to shows by bands she didn’t know and sports teams she was unfamiliar with. Sometimes they’d look at the moon. Sometimes she’d fall asleep with her head in his lap. Sometimes he’d fall asleep while she rubbed his almost-healed foot. He had a new nickname for her dogs every week. The dogs preferred him to her. She knew his favorite foods, he knew how to make her laugh. She felt like she was home.
The truth of the world is nothing gold can stay.
It was a routine Tuesday, when all was smooth in her little world. She’d been marveling at her luck at living in a place she loved, in a sweet little apartment, with wonderful friends and a job that kept her stimulated and satisfied, with her happy little dogs and the beautiful boy, the one with the light, she was falling more in love with every day. It wasn’t very much, but it made her awfully happy.
Part of the boys light was the passion he had for his work. That work was suddenly taking him to the far away. Far away from the city they lived in, far from the dogs and the friends and the places to ride their bikes and the bars they had their drinks in and the places they ate slices of pizza in and the beds they cocooned in and the couch they fell asleep on and everything that was home. The blonde-headed girl felt her world shake, center and blur. She felt sickness in her stomach and was certain her head was being pulled from her body. The boy with the light didn’t know what to say, he was sorry, could she understand? She dropped him at his house, and his declarations of love sounded like they were coming from the bottom of a very deep well from the center of the universe. She knew they were true, but they weren’t enough to hold him.
Then there was a flood. A flood of anger, of bargaining, of sadness, of more tears than she thought she knew how to cry. There were shouts and there were screams and there were words that were said that maybe should have been left unsaid. There were nights alone she bent from the waist with her mouth in a silent “O”, salting the ground around her feet, wondering why she’d been given something so sweet to only have it yanked away so soon. And throughout this the beautiful boy, who right now wasn’t so beautiful because he was taking his light away, remained dry-eyed and determined.
Or at least that’s how it seemed.
Finally, when there was nothing left to do, and nothing left to say, she made a choice. She could be angry, and bitter, she could hurl nasty words at him, she could deny herself the time she had left. She could be mean and make him suffer and feel bad, and make him never want to see her again.
Or she could love him while she had him. It was one of the things in this life she did best.
Oh- it was sweet. Each day was sweeter but sadder than the last. She still wept, because now, with him leaving, she finally let herself fully open up, and she felt a love that she didn’t know she was capable of. She didn’t know that she could look at someone and feel it wash over her, feel her head go light and her body light on fire. It seemed ridiculous to deny that, even for a moment.
The love washed over him too. Finally, the walls had crumbled down. He held her more freely, told her he loved her more openly, was softer than she’d known he could be. Still though, the boy with the light remained stoic and dry eyed. She accepted that she simply loved him more than he loved her, and that she would see him off to the far-away place with dry eyes and severed communication. She vowed, once her heart was healed, that she would never love another like him again.
Till that one night, in early spring. He’d been to a wedding and she’d picked him up from the airport. The boy with the light had always been a romantic, even if only in his head. This was the night he looked upon her, when she was drifting in a half sleep on his couch, and he said she looked like a sleeping blonde princess with her little white dog in her arms and her little brown dog at her feet, and she smiled and let the warmth of his gaze and the sweetness of her words carry her off to sleep. She didn’t sleep long though, before she was jolted awake by a fierce flood of tears.
This time though, they weren’t her tears. They were his. And they turned his face and eyes red and contorted his body and even though it broke her heart all over again, it made a little piece of her whole, because she knew she wasn’t alone. She knew he didn’t want to leave her, she knew he’d been biting back his pain. She knew he loved her more than anything. She knew he had to do what was right for him, just like she had to do what was right for herself. So she crawled back into his lap and placed her head on his stomach and listened to his heart beat and let her light, her star, fill him up.
The weeks that followed were the best of her life. Each day was a gift. Each night she wept, usually in secret so that the boy with the light wouldn’t feel worse than he already did, but sometimes she couldn’t help it and she wept in the morning when she woke in the shelter of his embrace. One night, right before he left, when they were walking her dogs, she grew weak and started to cry and begged him not to forget her. He looked at her under the yellow light of the streetlamp and started to say that he’d never forget her, but they both knew to forget the other was impossible, and they words fell from his lips and onto the dewy street, and he kissed her instead.
He kissed her all the time now, like each kiss was the last- he kissed her in the rain, and he kissed her in the snow. He kissed her at bars and in restaurants and in alleys and on his couch and on their beds. He kissed her lips, he kissed her forehead. He kissed her back and neck when they made love. She cherished each one, savored the way each kiss burned her skin with the sweetest fire.
Finally, on a cold, sleeting morning, on the last day of April, he kissed her for the last time. He cupped her face in his hand-it was one of the things he did best- and he whispered that he loved her, that he’d love her forever, that she’d changed him, she’d helped him grow, and she whispered he’d done the same to her. These last kisses they shared were salty from their tears, but sweet from their love. When it was over, and there was nothing more to say, he climbed into his little red truck and she gathered all the pieces of her heart, save for the starry shaped part with the light-that belonged to the boy now- and she waved and waved till she couldn’t see him anymore.
We all know when you love something, you have to let it go. Sometimes, even if that thing loves you back, it can’t come back. So now she simply sits still, lucky to have loved and been loved the way she was, and he was. The blonde-headed girl knows she is lucky to have known the beautiful boy with the brown hair, who showed her the light, who took her the starry part of her heart.
She sits and waits to see what happens next.