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Archive for the ‘love’ Category

Ninety-one years. I’m sorry you didn’t get to celebrate today with those who love you most.

You are terribly missed and frequently thought of. The love you shared with me and all of your beloved family members will never be replaced, but I’ll always remember you for your kind words, thoughtfulness, huge heart and ability to make me forget about my troubles.

Because of you, I better appreciate the little things in life. A tasty meal that I cooked and shared…the smell of fresh-cut grass in the spring…a first snowfall. You taught me to pay attention to the things right in front of me and for that I’m eternally grateful. I’m a better man because of you.

So Happy Birthday, Mom. Know that you’re loved more than ever.

-end-

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My Dad marched to the beat of his own drum. He set his own standards, and while they changed through my childhood years, the bar and his expectations were always higher than I was tall.

rhg-wwiiDad was a product of a rough and tumble father and a mother who only knew how to love and care for others – no matter what. I guess his lack of emotion, his inability to truly display love, only became evident in hindsight – because as a kid, even when he failed to properly parent, I felt loved.

We didn’t spend a lot of time playing ball in the backyard, because Dad owned a small business and put in long hours. So instead, I often biked to Dad’s shop and swept or cleaned the work benches until he was ready to lock up – usually after Mom’s third or fourth phone call. On the way out of the shop door, he’d drop a dime in the pop machine and hand me an Orange Crush Soda for the short ride home.

My best Dad memories, though, involve the after-hours deliveries we’d make on warm summer evenings. Dad sold outdoor equipment and he would drive within a 100-mile radius to deliver a lawn tractor to a good customer. I’d help unload the equipment off the trailer and he would demo the machine, chatting up the new owner while I kicked at the stones eager to head back home.

We’d climb back into the red Dodge van he drove (purchased the year I was born) and he would steer us down Northwest Iowa county blacktops – back to Spencer. At five or six years old, I marveled at how many people knew my Dad as we made these trips together. I’d see a car or truck approaching us and nearly every single time, the driver in the oncoming car would wave – and Dad waved back.

“Who was that?” I’d ask him eagerly.

“I couldn’t quite make out the face,” Dad would say with a grin. Or, he’d say, “I think that was Jim from the hardware store,” or he would make up the names of other people he knew, completely BS-ing me.

Eventually, it dawned on me that we were out in the country and these other drivers were just being friendly, waving as they passed every car they met. But for a few years, at least, I believed Dad was the best-known man in the state of Iowa – or at least our corner of the state. He was my well-connected Dad and I was proud of him.

Dad died on Sunday and he’ll be buried back in my hometown today. We rarely spoke these past couple decades. Distance created distance and days lapsed into years.

But I’ll call upon the best memories I have of him. And if there’s a Heaven, I know my Dad has been greeted by the hundreds who waved at him on those summer evenings when it was just the two of us on the road.

-end-

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Hopeless Emptiness

Plenty of people are onto the emptiness, but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness.”Revolutionary Road

I paid for 30 minutes with my imaginary therapist, Monique, recently. The topic: Hope.  Here’s a partial transcript from my “session…”

Monique: Talk about your last relationship and how you’re feeling about its…demise.

Me: I’ve got this history of making something out of nothing. Nothing is what I  ended up with when she pulled out of the relationship. No “Thanks  for everything.” No parting shots or wisdom – just a kick in the stomach and there’s the exit: “don’t darken my doorstep,” she said, “because that makes me uncomfortable,” i.e., I’m fine if  I never see you again. I pursued a relationship built on sand rather than concrete. Live and learn people. Live and learn.

lucy_postMonique: That’s the story, but how do you feel (Editor’s Note: It’s always about feeling, isn’t it?).

Me: It’s like Yao Ming vs. Spud Webb. Rejected. I feel I did my best to accommodate her needs, make her feel beautiful, show her sincerity, and allay her fears. Now she’s gone and I’ve lost a friend and more. She told me she was disingenuous with her feelings – as if that makes it easier.  So it’s my turn to be the floormat.

Monique: You mean doormat.

Me: I don’t own a doormat, but whatever. See these high heel shoe prints embedded in my forehead?

Monique: So the lesson in all this?

Me: Date women wearing flats.

Monique: And…

Me: Don’t get lost in the hopeless emptiness.

Monique: Elaborate.

Me: Those who believe in love – an enduring, romantic, I-got-your-back-no-matter-what-kind of love – we place ourselves at constant risk of getting lost in emptiness. The one-sided relationship.  It’s torture. So why do we do it?

Monique: Because your degree of risk is more than most. Life without risk is a life of pablum and water. Sure you can fill up on it, but that’s not living. Many women and men get burned. Some let it happen two or three times before they close up shop permanently. And once the door is locked, they’ll cower in the basement with the lights off when life throws a curve. They only come up for air because the alternative is suffocation. They are only capable of surfacy relationships in life. Which person would you rather be?

So what’s next?

Me: That’s my question.

Monique: You pull yourself up. You stay open to risk. You don’t allow someone’s insecurities or weaknesses to jade you. You’re smart. You’ll get this right with someone who wants to get it right with you.

To flourish, relationships must be a priority for both people involved. And the real ones – the true friendships without the back stabbing, the moments shared without words that turn to knives as they’re spoken, the kind built on more forward progress than retreat – these are the ones that make life colorful. You don’t need drama to have color. There’s enough bullshit happening around us. It’s pointless to create it on your own.

Me: That sounds well and good. But the hopeless emptiness chasm is deep. The hope within made the bullshit acceptable. I’d still be in it with a goofy smile if she’d let it continue.

Monique: Wrong. No one can live on hope alone – it’s funky like that. Your brain knew your efforts weren’t turning the tide, so you held on with hope because you were down a path and wanted her to follow. Refocus the hope on someone worthwhile. Don’t waste it…repurpose it. And keep it linked to instincts and what you know to be true.

Me: Recycle. Reuse. Repurpose. Hope sounds like a rather green initiative.

Monique: It’s a renewable resource as well. No matter how much risk you take, hope will be there. Just stay awake to the circumstance. Don’t talk yourself into something that isn’t something.

Me: I think my time’s up for today.

Monique: You can leave your co-pay on the desk.

Me: You’re a bit hopeful for an imaginary shrink.

-end-

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I’ve experienced love.

There was the first love – a crash course in coping with feelings and emotions and discovery. It included moments of intense happiness, anger and jealousy and selfless giving as we both attempted to understand how humans think, act and react. It was as much a coming of age as any first love could have provided.

There was the need-based love. One in which I was young and afraid to be on my own in life. Loving someone who offered security and safety, and who paid attention to my needs, made perfect sense. It was a love glued together by the sheer need to survive each day, pay the bills, feed the kids, work hard for very little, and rise the next morning to do it all over again.

Then came the wanting love. The lust-filled, up all night, reckless, obsessive love. Founded on ill-conceived reasoning, we overlooked the clear and present differences among us, refused to talk about anything that may upset the carnival ride, and convinced ourselves we could conquer anything. This fire cracker, chemically imbalanced love was a house built on stilts facing a hurricane force wind at every turn.

No one has the mystery mastered. Only God knows why some couples make their love – as dysfunctional as it may seem to the observer – last for their lifetimes, while others cut and run at the first sign of marital unbliss.

So when love starts to re-emote from the heart, careful examination is the prudent response.  The gentle tugs, the loss of appetite, the chills, and time spent in thought appear suspect. But eventually, you embrace the seconds and minutes that play out in your head.

Our personal Book of Love serves as a guide of sorts. In its contents we’re reminded neither the naivete of first love, nor need-based or hot-lusting love alone sustains us. The love we want is one in which we know whomever we’re with not only accepts every ding and dent in the armor, but caresses these scars for the meaning in each one. It’s created on a whole-hearted desire to walk, run and ride with one another and watch each others’ backs in a way no one else will. And it features a click of happiness, passion and satedness that doesn’t dwindle when the waves get choppy.

Risk, rinse and repeat daily.

-end-

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It’s heeeeeeeeeere: 2009. Well almost here. It’ll be here when we’re all kissing our sweethearts on New Year’s Eve and falling into bed at 12:06 a.m.

I’m not a resolution guy.  Perhaps it’s because resolutions like, “I will exercise more,” only focus on the “do” in our lives and not on the “be.”  And the “do” we do is done for all the wrong reasons. We “do” something so we can “have” something so we can “be” something else. When we fail on the “do,” the wheels of the plan come off entirely.

So instead of resolving to do something, I’m focusing on being.  It starts with  finding the one area of life you want to positively change, then selecting a word to guide you through the year. Pick a word to remind you to live life on the “be” level.  Instead of “get fit” (do), perhaps you choose the word “health” and focus on making healthy choices the entire year.

My word? Bold.

Short back story: Through the past couple of decades, I got rutted in letting life happen to me. In that time many positive and wonderful things did happen. But I didn’t necessarily play a hand in carving the path with my own machete. No, the path was mostly pre-paved leading to a glass that was just three-quarters full when it should be brimming. My word “bold” will enable me to top off the glass each day – living life intentionally at work, in relationships, at home, in my desire to be fit and happy et al.  With this in the forefront, I’ll change behavior, live more purposefully and take myself out of life on the periphery.

I’ve already practiced using my word in recent weeks. It’s presented me with challenges and  anxious moments resulting in sleepless nights, like any shift in life presents. Being bold has risks, but it’s a step in a direction I must take. Plus, it’s exhilarating to hear my own voice when I say out loud the things that would have previously gone unsaid or take action on something I would have only thought (mightily) about.

I’ll kick bold into full throttle in January and post on my successes and failures during the year.

In the meantime, I’ve picked this John Mayer cover of “Bold as Love” by Jimi Hendrix as my theme song. We all need anthems in life.

Happy New Year. Make it a bold one.

Lyrics

Anger he smiles, towering in shiny metallic purple armour
Queen jealousy, envy waits behind him
Her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground

Blue are the life-giving waters taken for granted
They quietly understand
The once happy turquoise armies lay opposite, ready
But wonder why the fight is on

But they’re all, they’re bold as love, yeah
They’re all, they’re bold as love, love, love
They’re all, they’re bold as love
Just ask the axis

My red is so confident, he flashes trophies of war
And ribbons of euphoria
Orange is young, full of daring
But it, it’s very unsteady for the first go round

My yellow in this case is not so mellow
In fact I’m trying to say it’s frightened like me
And all these emotions of mine keep holding me from
Giving my life to a rainbow like you

But I’m, I’m bold, I’m bold as love, yeah
I’m bold, I’m bold as love, love, love
I’m bold, I’m bold as love
Just ask the axis

He knows, he knows, he knows
He knows everything

I’m, I’m bold, I’m bold as love, yeah
I’m bold, I’m bold as love, ohh
Been talkin’ to ya
I’m bold, I’m bold as love, yeah.

P.S.  Be sure to wait an extra second on New Year’s Eve before planting that first kiss. A leap second has been added to the clock by the U.S. Naval Observatory. This will be the 24th leap second added since 1972. Thanks U.S. Naval Observatory clock watchers.

-end-

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Lesson on Loving

Not long ago, a friend asked if I truly knew what love felt like.  Of course I do, I blurted. I have children – two beautiful children who I love with all of me and who I would do anything to please. It’s this unconditional love that so many of my generation seem to be incapable of when it comes to relationships of our own because most of us didn’t receive it in a meaningful way from our parents.

Oh sure, Moms and Dads, you loved us. You loved us when it was convenient…when we made you proud. You loved us when we played the perfect tune at the piano recital on those warm summer Sunday afternoons – when all the parents clapped and cooed and commented how much talent they thought we had. You loved us when all we wanted to do was ride in the van with you to work early each day throughout summer vacations and every Saturday so we could sit and stare at you in awe as you performed your job. So we could sweep the shop floor and enjoy an Orange Crush from the pop cooler when you finally locked up for the day. You loved us in your own way. But you missed loving our imperfections.

And now, as parents ourselves, we try to be better than you when it comes to loving our kids for who they are – down to their very last imperfection, which, when you examine it closely is one atom of one cell and barely exists at all. And it’s beautiful because it’s part of us. They’re our daughters and sons and we love them like nothing else.

And while we have this learned ability to love our children, we still hiccup when it comes to our own loving relationships with our girlfriends and spouses. There are two ends of the continuum we find ourselves attempting to balance in our own romantic lives. The first is the overcompensation in which we love completely and fully. The second is the skeptical side that tells us no matter what we do we aren’t worthy – thanks to years of trying to please and never getting the approval.

Finding the proper fulcrum, that balance where loving and being loved results in bliss is reserved for only the handful who strive hard and make the effort…who seek it and find someone who is also seeking (and willing) to risk falling down, getting up and trying again.

It’s one of those imperfections you may not have loved so much Mom and Dad – our awkwardness, our stumbles, our stutters – but it’s one we’re willing to employ so we can love our lives and ourselves and someone else more completely.

-end-

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Like many teenagers, I had a plan…to marry my high school sweetheart, get a college degree, land a high-paying job, live in the city, and have a happy life thereafter. Like many high-schoolers my age, no one told me to have a back-up plan. So when my high school sweetheart, my first real love, broke my heart in the second semester of my freshman year, I floundered. It was the first time that I no longer mattered to someone I cared about deeply. I was no longer an option for her.

We survive the most trying of times. Heartbreak is certainly nothing we hope for or want to go through repeatedly. We get stronger. We get smarter. Some become guardians of their own heart to their own detriment. Some become afraid to put it out there. But damn, if it’s not out there how will someone find it?

While it sucks being on the receiving end, it’s kinda the same when you find yourself breaking a heart. There’s no joy in that. I’ve been on the giving end and lemme tell ya’, I’d just as soon have mine stomped then stomp on someone.

So here I am. Ready to be that someone’s something – not just an option in a playbook. I’m ready to be the “it” guy to the right girl and vice versa. I’ve made my own weather. I’m where I am because of my choices and I sleep well at night…not counting last Wednesday.

What’s it take to be “it?”

Confidence. Care. Listening. Honesty. The ability to say, “I’m sorry.” Convictions. Strength. Hope. Vulnerability. That’s just for starters.

Laurie Kendrick posted a query this week in which one of the questions she asked was, “What Is Love?” Holy smokes. Hit the link and read some of the responses. It’s telling, I think, for those who chose to answer. From a form of desparation to the brightest possible life moment – love seems to defy description. Yet we each think we know when we are in it. Still, love confuses the masses and confounds the most educated of people. There’s no right answer, by the way.

More than wealth, fame, power, or glory, we all seem to want love in our life. That tells me that even in our darkest hours, we’re not a bad bunch (not counting skinhead Nazis, perhaps). We each want to be “it,” have “it,” give “it.”

And that, my friends, hasn’t really changed since we got up from all fours and became bi-peds.

-end-

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A few days off from writing and it feels like, “Where do I begin?” What’s more, I wonder, “What have I got to write about that hasn’t been written?” But, it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want. Doesn’t really matter if the wisdom or words of flotsam I pass on mean anything to anyone (but it always does).

Resurrecting an older post, here are a few random thoughts:

  • I sat alone on Christmas day, just me, the cat, a book, and the TV remote. Less than four miles away, in a house I once owned and shared, my two kids celebrated Christmas with their Mom and her side of the family. With snow in the air, the Christmas tree twinkling its red and white lights, and a little background noise from “The Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” (which I watched…twice), I felt a comfortable sense of peace. Through it all (and by it, I mean through the divorce process which kicked into high gear two years ago), we’ve emerged in better-than-expected condition. What seemed to be the world’s end for us has resulted in many beginnings, new starts and renewed optimism. Life is too short to live it sad and unfulfilled. Two years ago I was only saying it. But now I am really alive again and each day is better than the last.

It’s not just about living forever. It’s about living with yourself forever.” –Captain Teague (Keith Richards) from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

  • As elusive as love tends to make itself, most people I talk to agree that having it in your life is much better than not. We all have someone who loves us: Kids, family, secret admirers, stalkers. Those of us in search of the all-elusive romantic love…the kind that just fits and sits well with us, like a favorite pair of jeans, or shoes, or baseball cap, must keep our heads about ourselves. We can be dreamers as well as realists when it comes to love and being in love. And because we’ve been around the block a time or two, we can also be a little on the selective side. I’ve been waiting for the right moment to share this video from Ray LaMontagne and Damien Rice. Here they cover the Bee Gees, “To Love Somebody.”
Lyrics:
There’s a light
A certain kind of light
That never shone on me
I wanted my whole life to be
Lived with you
Lived with you
There is a way everybody say
To do each and every thing
Oh but what good does it bring
If I ain’t got you, if I ain’t got you?
Baby
You don’t know what it’s like, baby
You don’t know what it’s like
To love somebody
To love somebody
The way I love you
In my brain
I see your face again
I know my frame of mind
How you got to be so unkind
And I’m blind, have I gone blind?
But I’m a man, can’t you see what I am
I live and breathe for you
Oh but what good does it do
If I ain’t got you, ain’t got you?
Baby
You don’t know what it’s like, baby
You don’t know what it’s like
To love somebody
To love somebody
The way I love you
Baby,
You don’t know what it’s like, baby
You don’t know what it’s like
To love somebody
To love somebody
The way I love you
  • I’m reading profiles and background information on Democratic candidates who are running for President of the United States. Let’s face it, there’s no chance in hell a Republican wins the 2008 presidential election unless Bush pulls our military out of Iraq (which he won’t do because he’s incredibly stubborn when it comes to admitting mistakes). So, I’m thinking: Hillary. Obama. Hillary. Obama. Hillary. Obama. Hillary? Obama. Obama. Obama. Obama.
  • I continue to be a bit confused on how assumptive e-mail spammers are when it comes to my needs. For example, should I not be offended when a subject line from an e-mail spam reads, “Want a larger male organ?” And lately many spammers are hunching that they can match me with a “special buddy” in my city who is apparently a nymphomaniac. Of course if I choose to ignore these appeals, I can always “play craps online for free.” I wonder if they’re going to give me free money to lose in my crap-playing activity? And if I do lose and am unable to pay my debt, will a thug appear at my door and break my knee caps?

I think I’ll just continue to read, write and enjoy my day job instead of getting lost in all these intriguing e-mail offers. As long as I keep hitting the delete button I’m thinking I’ll save myself several trips to the emergency room.

-end-

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Aubergine – Part Two

Editor’s Note: Readers can find “Aubergine – Part One” here.

She hefted his bag and threw it out the door and down the front steps, watching it tumble to a stop on its side. Not a bad throw, she thought proudly as he brushed by her so closely she had to take a step back or lose her balance completely. And she wasn’t about to lose her balance in front of him. Her red cheeks and the evil glint from her eye struck him harder then the slap on the face – harder than the words she spewed. He was accustomed to her words of hate.

A repetitious history found each of them taking strides to go a little further, say a little more, introduce new flavors of venom whenever the relationship took a nose dive. There seemed a bottomless perdition that opened up its sharp-toothed jaws with an uneasy frequency these days.  His inability to commit coupled with her self-acknowledged obsessive tendencies to need and be needed served as their rusty wedge. A mutual but separate fear of being alone in the world kept them coming back for more torture.

But this was it, she told herself as she kicked his ass to the curb…again. The door slammed shut and he threw his house key at the steel. The key caromed off the door and bounced off the “Wipe Your Paws” welcome mat then took a final bounce into the bushes next to the steps.

“Happy hunting, bitch,” he mumbled.  The comment, with its double meaning, amused him. Then the porch light went dark.

He turned and trotted down the steps into the elements of a December night. The past five months juxtaposed both heaven and hell in rarest of forms.  Heaven when just a few months ago, all stars aligned as their lives merged like skis on fresh powder. For the first time in his life he allowed himself to really let go of his heart. It was a milestone for him to trust someone – especially someone he’d only known a short while. The hell unfolded in the past eight weeks. He felt himself slowly pulling back, closing off and shutting down. He couldn’t express exactly why but something was off when it came to the two of them as a couple.

The car self-navigated to his apartment downtown, where he drove in circles for 20 minutes searching for a open parking spot.  He’d come close to vacating the apartment in October, but kept it. She’d encouraged him to move in with her, even though they both knew the timing wasn’t quite right. Their first heated argument ensued and the breakdown began. This was the fourth time she’d threatened him to…to what?

Her frustration banged loudly through the dishes and pots and pans she put away. The noise was just loud enough to wake one of her two sleeping children who toddled his way into the kitchen and wrapped himself around her right leg. She shifted into mother gear and lifted him up off the floor. “Let’s get you back into bed.”

That’s where she found herself when she woke up…lying next to her three-year-old under a “Transformers” bedspread. It was still dark and something caused her to wake anxiously. Her adrenaline was amped a few notches too high. She stood up quickly and found herself dizzy but managed to quietly slip into the hallway. She paused and listened. Nothing.

“Probably the neighbor’s damn dog barking,” she told herself. Her neighborhood wasn’t the best, resting in a first-ring suburb. There was plenty of diversity and the occasional domestic dispute that drew city patrol cars with their lights flashing. But she always felt safe. Even more-so when he stayed overnight with her. Once he jumped into his jeans and dashed around the house with a ball bat after she woke up thinking she heard someone on the steps. She liked that. She missed him this morning.

Her LED clock said 4:00 a.m. Too early to be awake. Then she heard a creak from the wood floor in the living room, the kind of creak that only happens when someone walks on just the right floorboard. Her spit evaporated from her mouth as she forced herself to steal down the short hallway and peek into the living room.  Where was that ball bat? Why did I have to kick him out tonight? These thoughts flew through her mind.

“What’s wrong, mommy? Mommy wake up.”

Why was she sprawled on the hardwood floor?  Her cheek was sticking to the wood and as her vision cleared she saw the pool of blood, now a dark shade of aubergine, that had formed under her head. And holy shit! Her head ached like a son of bitch. She slowly remembered her mental lights going out just as she stepped into her living room a few hours earlier. Someone had done this. Someone had broken into her home. Someone had knocked her out cold.

“Baby bring me mommy’s cell phone.” She dialed his number and let it ring.

He opened one eye. Who the hell is calling at 7 a.m. on a Saturday? Fumbling for his phone he looked at the caller ID and saw her familiar phone number in the backlit window.

“Nope. Not this time. I’m not answering and I’m not going back. Not ever.”

 -end-

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Aubergine – Part One

The faded jeans and pink t-shirt hugged her small frame in an attractive, but unkempt, sort of way. He studied her closely as she walked toward him – trying to see through her too-big sunglasses. The smile on her face revealed nothing about her real situation.

The two had met once before and that first meeting was more than either had bargained for. She, with her blonde locks and freckled nose, and a heart and soul that she wanted to give; he with purely average looks, a good job, and a plan that seemed like light years from ever taking true form but that began unfolding that day on the park bench. In the warmth of the July sun, they spoke of their lives, their heartaches, and their wishes with an ease that flowed like the Chippewa, which ran just a few feet in front of them. She nervously talked the minutes away, shifting herself and changing positions…inching closer. It was small talk, but it wasn’t small at all.

In his head he said, “Just breathe,” but quickly forgetting his own advice, his mind wandered again to, “Will she let me kiss her? Could someone this alive and this much like me feel like I feel? God, just let me kiss her once and then I’ll know.” Glancing down, he noticed how neatly her toes were painted in aubergine and how the color both soaked up the sun and reflected the sky all at the same time.

“Take off your glasses,” he asked. “Let me see you.”

She smiled and slid the glasses from her appropriately sized nose that flared a bit when she laughed too hard.

“My eyes are nothing like yours,” she said. “But I am a really good kisser.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, your eyes…I get lost in your eyes. They’re blue and deep and unlike any I’ve ever seen. My color isn’t as pure as yours.”

He looked intently into the pale blueness of her eyes, seeing again for the first time a touch of insecurity that she tried hard to tuck away beneath her skin. He suddenly saw her. He saw past her beautifully tanned cheeks and the golden hair that framed her face in a way that he’d never ever seen before. As a cloud shaded the sun for a split second, he saw right through to her heart and beyond.

“Your eyes are just how they’re intended to be,” he said. Leaning into her ear, “You’re beautiful – all of you.”

She pulled back and turned away. “No I’m not,” she said, hopping up on the bench and placing her legs underneath her. She rocked back and forth slightly, but he noticed. “The sun must be giving you heat stroke. I define average. You have no idea.”

It was her perception of her own average-ness that connected him to her so fully. She was completely it for him and his heart went out to her easily. He gave it for her to hold in her hands and do with what she wanted because he knew this was it for him. She was it.

They kissed that July day and the days after. They pointed themselves down the path they were both born to be on and they held hands over the wall that separated them. But on that park bench and in the grass under trees when the sun became too warm, they made history, hatched plans, told stories, discussed successes and failures, lifted one another to extremes – and they kissed.

Time belonged to them.

-end-

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