Facing reality when it hurts.
| There is a reality that each of us must face. We become aware of who we are a bit at a time. Much like when it rains. At first,it takes a few rain drops to realize it’s raining. Sometimes, only when we are soaked from the torrent do we know it’s raining. Sam had no idea that it was about to rain. He sat on a wooden plank opposite of Tiffany, who sat on her own wooden plank. Their bare legs dangled in the wading pool below them. The pool had been constructed of corrugated steel, and was nearly filled to its three-foot height. The boards were hard, old pine one-by’s that had been gathered from a decaying barn and set over the small pool. Even though the water felt warm it provided some relief from the hot summer air.
“God,” Sam said. “I can’t get over how bright the stars are out here.” He looked at the sky. “I just can’t get over how many of them there are.”
Tiffany began to swing her legs, “That’s one thing I’ll miss.” She looked down into the soft, warm water. Her reddish hair was lit by the stars. She seemed restless. “I want to get out of here so bad.” She looked like she was being forced to sit. Her body quivered with resistance.
“You’ll miss it.” Sam said, their brown eyes met. “I’ll miss you.” Tiffany did not say anything for a few moments, then, she looked down. Sam began to swing his legs in and out, slowly. “I can’t believe you’re going there. You don’t even have a car, and you don’t know anyone.” His legs continued to swing back and forth. “You have a lot of guts,” he added.
“It’ll be fun.” Tiffany said smiling. She threw back her hair and rolled her delicate head in a circle. Her soft skin shone brightly even at night. “There will be all kinds of work for me, and I’ll meet different people, and see things.” She sat in content with her arms reaching out to her knees. She leaned over very slowly. “Why would anyone want to stay here? This is the armpit of the universe.” Tiffany moved her feet apart, and, then, together in a swaying pattern. The water swished underneath her. “Why do you want to live in a small town? There’s nothing to do.”
“Yeah,” Sam began, “There’s also no drive-by-shootings, rapes, robberies, gangs, and you can hear yourself think.” Tiffany looked away from Sam angrily. She was preparing to refute his remarks, but Sam quickly added, “Besides, the traffic is horrible. They drive like kamikaze pilots in those big cities.” Sam ran his hand though his thick brown hair.
“I do not want to spend my whole life in this little town and be a useless nobody,” Tiffany replied. “This place is good for either growing corn, or dying.” Tiffany looked very soberly at Sam, “I’m going to leave here and make something out of myself,” she paused, then added, “I’m going to have a life. Okay?”
“Good.” Sam said. “You can do it. You can do anything.” Sam’s sudden reassurance startled her. Tiffany had expected him to argue against her. Sam swung his legs harder. The water splashed under him. His legs swung between Tiffany’s. “I always believed that you would get out of here and make something of yourself.” He looked up again. “I just hate the noise and all that traffic.”
For a time, the two sat quietly in front of each other. The air was filled with crickets
chirping, and Sam swung his feet out between Tiffany’s as she kicked her feet apart. A rhythm formed that lasted a good while. They splashed the water violently, and smiled. Sam and Tiffany had spent the day on a shopping trip in Iowa City. They talked for the entire ride. Later, they had returned to Tiffany’s farm house that sat on the city limits of a very small town. She had prepared supper for them, and Sam helped clean the dishes. The two had always held lively discussions in college, and deeply loved each other’s company. Sometimes, Sam would make the 30-mile drive just to sit and play chess with her. But today had been different. Today, they actually had something to do. They had made a 100-mile round trip to the mall in order to purchase clothes for Tiffany’s new job.
The blackness of the water beneath them seemed to turn lighter as their legs kicked it up in the air. Suddenly, Sam stopped. Light-colored waves rippled in the inky black water. There was a deadening silence that was painful to endure; and the reality set in. There would be no more chess matches, lengthy debates, or study sessions. There would be no more hugs that melded the two, or the smell of her. He could not stand up for her when others hurt her, and hold her when she cried. Sam felt empty, and the pain drained his life from him. Tiffany was his “one,” and he would never stop dreaming about her.
“What’s wrong?” Tiffany reached out to hold his hand. Sam put his fingers between hers, and did the same with her other hand. He looked up and smiled. “I just can’t believe how bright the stars are.”