A Love Affair

by Aaron Hanscom ahanscom@hotmail.com

One of her very best friends lured me away. It was quite an easy process really, and a number of others could have done it just as well: the prior enemy she had needed to fight not too long ago before peace could be made, the snob she always seemed to help when times got tough, the primary confidant she considered the truest and who spoke her own language. They all offered up their enticements, but I was young then and searching for beauty. Hemingway had written that this friend was the most romantic, so I decided to visit her.

She pulled me in with such ease that I immediately forgot the one I had left behind. We danced flamenco, watched the bullfights, and stumbled to and from the fiestas together. The nights passed quickly and we only needed to lay down for a quick siesta before doing it all over again. I felt not an ounce of guilt. What for? My love was doing fine where I had left her. Besides, I'd be returning to her in a matter of weeks...or so I had planned. Her best friend had other intentions. She must have known that I was defenseless from the start. You see, she had talked with friends and professors at my university, dined with celebrities in Hollywood, and befriended many members of the media. They told her that my love was a big joke. That I was being naive and simplistic. Not only did they not approve, but they hoped I wouldn't be faithful. The best friend was confident that her whisperings would echo their words, and that this familiarity would eventually convince me of the truth.

One night, during an Adam Sandler movie (which she had dragged me to), she put her lips to my ear and told me that my love was uncouth. You can imagine my indignation and surprise. Well, what do you mean? How can you talk like that about your own friend? She silenced me, bringing her finger to those very same lips, and took me by the hand. We got into her car where she immediately blasted Eminem's latest CD. Then she stopped and treated me to a Big Mac and chocolate shake. I had to beg her to take me home when she threatened to go back to the cinema to see the latest Cameron Diaz flick. Fine, I admitted, so my love can do without some of these pleasures. But don't you like some of these very same things? And doesn't she have other more refined tastes? You seem to be only focusing on her vices. Her best friend shook her head and told me that my love was a seductress and a corrupter of souls. How could I argue with this kind of eloquence when I was still wiping crumbs from my face?

The next day she told me that my love was rich and pampered. Sure, I said confidently, but she works very hard and deserves to enjoy the fruits of her labor. Her friend reached for the remote to show me all the starving people around the world. I turned red and told her that my love felt just as horrible about this as I did. That she realized how lucky she was to be free. That she counted her blessings every day. The best friend rolled her eyes and told me that money should not determine success. I swear she made it sound so true that I didn't even ask her what should, although I had a feeling I knew what she thought. Her mission almost complete, she finally declared that my love had no sense of tradition or culture. I knew she was going to nail me so I responded timidly. Well, she is a lot younger than you, but she still does celebrate her values and ideas with her varied group of friends and family. Her best friend laughed and showed me with one sweep of her outstretched arm that racial and religious homogeneity was less complex and burdensome.

Needless to say, I decided to prolong my stay. I was able to do this because my parents were still supporting me at the time. Many others from my generation who had accompanied me on this journey had come to similar conclusions. We had all fallen head over heels and dreaded returning to a less idealistic place than where we had traveled. I continued in this dream world until the departure date finally crept up on me. It was a tearful goodbye to say the least. Her best friend assured me that she really did care for my love. She was only trying to help her friend in any way that she could. I thanked her for this and all that she had taught me. We kissed on the lips. I'd be back just as soon as I could.

Back home I was received with open arms, but I only gave her a quick peck on the cheek. My love immediately sensed something was wrong and offered up her unconditional support. Looking back now, she was probably too nice. She helped me find a place to work and live, allowed me to fail at any new endeavors I undertook, and steered me along a path of self-improvement. I accepted her assistance readily, but I was still resentful of the things her best friend had told me. I remember many times that I lashed out at her in anger. She was pained to be sure, but her self-reliance made her strong. She admitted to having faults, but remained steadfast in her belief that her values were correct and usually led her down the path of good. She wasn't about to change that. There was something attractive and comforting in this confident response, and before long I decided to stay with her. I became immersed in my new job, personal concerns, and simple distractions. I still took my love for granted though she always remained at my side. Life continued unchanged until...

One day I was awoken by her piercing scream. It was a sound I did not know she was capable of making. It took me completely by surprise. My love was being attacked and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was forced to watch as evil men hurt her over and over again. Fear gripped me and for a moment I thought that she was not going to survive.

Finally it stopped. The attack, not the cry. I approached her cautiously. When I saw her injuries- what they had done to her- I fell to my knees and sobbed. It was beyond my wildest nightmare. I pleaded for her to make it through. I told her how sorry I was for treating her so badly. I begged for her forgiveness. I had been selfish and cruel. I had taken her for granted. She was too hurt to speak, but she gently touched the top of my head. She understood.

When the shock died down, it became clear that she was going to survive after all. I did my best to help her recuperate. I sang to her, prayed for her, and tried to get to know her better. Seeing her so injured, those same professors, celebrities, and journalists also came to her side. They gave her money and told her that they had always loved her. She healed quicker than any of us had anticipated. Pretty soon she was stronger than ever. It was clear that her self-assurance and moral purpose were still intact. She realized that she couldn't just lay down and surrender. She had to fight back or else they would do this to her again. The professors, celebrities, and journalists felt uncomfortable seeing her get up so quickly after falling down. They told her that she should keep on resting indefinitely. There was plenty of time to figure out the proper response. My love would have none of that. There was simply no time, she asserted, and a rocket scientist was not needed to figure out what to do. Most of the people who had rallied to her side remained there. It was heartwarming to see that so many recognized her goodness and were willing to sacrifice so much to protect her.

The enemies were shocked at her response. They had imagined someone weaker and wavery. It seemed they had seen the same movies, read the same newspapers, and studied at the same universities as my love's best friend. Soon they saw the truth in the statement of my love's inarticulate but wise father: ¨You have awakened a mighty giant." A year passed quickly. The enemies had been hiding for months, but they still planned and hoped to hurt my love again. She now spent much of her time trying to convince acquaintances and friends of the worthiness of her cause. Some listened, others did not. The best friend I had met so long ago was one of those who did not want to hear what her best friend had to say. I decided to visit her again and see what I could do. She ran up to me at once expressing extreme sympathy for my love. She couldn't believe it when she had heard the news. How was she doing? Was she still frightened? What was she planning on doing next? I assured her that my love was better than ever and would not give up her fight until all her friends and family were safe. It was obvious that the best friend already knew this.

That night we went out like we had done so many years before. There was something different about it, though. I felt like I was being childish, yet I still had yearnings that tugged at my heart. I was aware, however, that I would only regret later whatever I chose to do then. I asked her friend if we could just sit down and talk. She agreed. I asked her first if she was scared that she might someday be attacked like my love had been. She said yes, but I could tell that she was lying to me. I knew she had talked behind my lover's back to her very own enemies, and that she felt this mutual understanding would protect her. She tried to kiss me, but I backed away. She seemed surprised and upset, and since I wasn't talking, she decided to speak. She asked me if I would tell my love to stop acting like a bully. She felt that my love always tried to resolve dilemmas by force, and that this was immature and barbaric. I allowed her to continue. She began to talk about how my love was dirtying the world with her selfish and unclean habits. That she was giving money to other bullies who didn't know how to resolve conflicts appropriately. That she was cruel in her support for putting murderers to death. That she was imagining more enemies than really existed in order to flex her muscles. It was becoming clear that my question about a common enemy had turned into an invitation to attack her best friend. It could have been envy, resentment, fear, ignorance, or immorality that caused her to act like this, but it was not hate. Whatever it was, I didn't want any more of it, so I politely got up and told her that I had to be going. I knew now with all my heart where I needed to be. Her jaw fell to the floor. When she regained her senses, she ran after me pleading for me to give her regards to my love. I said I would In fact, there was something else I had to say. I had never realized it before. On the plane ride home I wondered if my love had any idea that I felt this way about her. How could she? I had been a fair-weather friend in the past. That night I couldn't sit in my seat during Spiderman. I was so anxious to blurt it out right there in the theater, but I waited. Finally it ended. I walked out and shouted at top of my lungs: I love you.