© 2023 by Ben Stower

A Foolish Fall

There was once a boy, it’s kind of a cliché, but there was once a boy with a hand in his pocket where the ring once stood upon a time where love was still a possibility. And he fingered it from time to time, that ring which made his shoulder tight from the weight. Don’t quote me on this, but it seemed that if there was once a boy there was also once a girl, or perhaps another boy, we shall not discriminate when it comes to heartache. Because all the good stories end this way.

 

He found this ring down a narrow alleyway in a shop with no front and a squat man behind the counter who could count his wares within the hour. It wasn’t pretty or expensive, but to him it was perfect for her. It was perfect for them. And he bought this ring from the man behind the counter who smiled in that way because he knew it was for a woman, or a man, but ultimately for love. A squat man who had known love himself for a while in a way that was reciprocated by a woman he’d valued more than his store. And on that day she’d died he knew his love was eternal and he was damned for never loving another again. But still, in these moments, he found a semblance of his younger self within these infrequent customers.

 

And so the boy left that shop with his pocket a little heavier and his heart teetering on the edge of something it had never done before. Or so he thought. It seemed inevitable that day, the future he’d imagined, not that he’d ever admit it, since the first day they’d met. When he’d sat beside her on the plane going from home to a new disaster and she’d been the only reminder of what he was leaving behind. Before she could put her headphones in, he’d somehow mustered the courage, the sense, to start a conversation with at first a hello that led to some immersion in her life. It had seemed so foreign to him then, so exotic in that instant, when she talked of places he’d never been and spoke in the tongues of their forefathers. In her eyes he found familiarity. A look he’d received on few occasions, but every one a close memory he stacked together like letters in a box. Yet this time it was different. This time he knew, those eyes, that look of bridled desire was akin to waking after a night of terrors.

 

He hated that vulnerability, because for years power had been not caring. For years he’d built a fool-proof barrier to keep him safe from indecision and the inevitable deterioration of romance. Power was not caring. And he never was the fool. But now he felt foolish for holding onto the repercussions of loving gone wrong when he knew the past should not prevent the future and this girl was something more than anything he’d encountered. Or at least it seemed that way. And the problem with seeming is that it’s rarely truly being, but the seeming can take years to waste away.

 

He’d already decided the moment the flight landed was still too soon to end their conversation; this connection that had progressed from complimentary nuts to the rejection of in-flight movies for one more topic as they flowed from one into the other with effortless separation and equal determination to discover if they might in fact be perfect, if this life that had once seemed theirs only, was meant to be shared.

 

But we’re losing traction here, because all beginnings are so romantic, but all we care about is the end. Is there a sunset or the smashing of hearts upon the floor? Because as hard as we love, we tend to break things more when our lives are a mess and suddenly what felt like courage, what felt like a natural trust, becomes foolishness.