From that day I loved from behind the veil of friendship. There was my own Golden Boy, then The Old Professor, then The Focused Genius, my relationships with them all variations on a theme: close, but platonic. Adoring, but distant. I never took the leap. Did not dare to. Why would I, and risk losing a friendship, even if said friendship was born upon the hopes of love?
Courage agreed and we drew up a plan like two fat girls embarking on a newfangled diet. Yes, yes, everything in moderation. We would use time, gestures and looks as measuring cups and parse out our affections and affectations – what can be said and when. Too soon? Fall back, retreat. Plot. Design. Scheme. Yet a year and a half after meeting The Golden Boy, Courage forgot the rules and fell off the wagon. She had a taste of some treat – a smile, a whisper, a tantalizing hint of some greater feeling waiting to be peeled back and inflated – and released the archetype she had always embodied, even before she was Courage: ladies and gentlemen, I give to you The Romantic Idealist. And to make matters worse, at her core, the Romantic Idealist’s is also, unbelievably, Truth. What, you disagree? What is truthful about projecting your ideals upon some unsuspecting other? Is it not another form of lying to yourself? But stop. Stop and think: what are we if not our hopes and dreams? Are we not the most honest with ourselves when we finally hunker down and admit what it is we truly want for ourselves, no matter how improbable or out of reach it may be? This is what I want. Whether I want it after I get it, let me decide when the time comes.
|Eleven A.M. 1926 Edward Hopper, Oil on canvas|
“At length the truth will out.”
Two school terms, a summer, and another school term pass. They get along swimmingly. A few days ago she told The Golden Boy she loved him. Or rather, he coaxed it out of her; not to be unkind, but to feed the human need to be loved more than we are worth. I was not there, I do not know what they were discussing, only that the discussion led to this:
“Courage,” he asked, “Are you falling in love with me?”
In her weakest and most beautiful moment she answered him, “I am, I am.”
“Ah.” he said, “I was afraid of that.”
The Golden Boy did not feel the same way. He liked her as a friend. He loved the Golden Girl, and he hoped that he and Courage could remain friends.
She nodded, feeling neither surprised nor hurt, only the strange feeling of the world dropping out from beneath her feet.
We spoke on the phone a few days later, our voices hushed almost as though we were discussing a death in the family.
“I knew as soon as I said it,” her voice was strong, though tinged with resignation, “I could feel it drain from me, all the power I had when I loved him but never expressed it. I showed him all my cards, and now I have nothing.”
I disagree, Courage. You will always have the words, because you have always known them.
My mother came into my room shortly after and asked me what I was thinking.
I was debating, marveling, admiring. Here was a woman who feared spiders and germs and dark alleys, but who, when asked a question that would have sent anyone else bumbling and stuttering and lying down a million different paths, spoke the truth in much the same vein as my high school crush (so thank you, High School Crush, for at least being direct). The Golden Boy did not react as Courage had hoped; in fact she had known his answer long before he said it. But to hear it was akin to having it carved upon her heart. But she never stopped hoping – and while to some this may seem pitiful or obtuse or masochistic, it is this openness that will allow another to wander in and find himself at home.
But at the time I could not put it into words until my mother surprised me with her reaction, her eyes tearing up and her voice cracking.
“How brave!” she said, “How brave of Courage to admit something like that. And how wonderful of her to share it with you so that you might learn something too.”
“It is a brave and stupid thing, a beautiful thing, to waste one’s life for love.”
— Andrew Sean Greer, The Confessions of Max Tivoli
“When old age shall this generation waste,
Though shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”