‘What is Love and Where Does it Come From?’ by Kathryn Malone

Sarah bit her lip, not out of pleasure but out of the need to steady herself so she did not dart for the door. She was a willing participant and dutiful wife now, but everything felt empty and forced. It was more like a slow-motion attack rather than a celebration of love. She felt like she should be making eye contact, but it seemed like it would make the situation real and somehow even worse. She breathed a slight sound of acceptance. If it became any louder, she feared he would know that she was a prisoner of this marriage and now her own body. She peered up out of the corner of her eye and saw, not a man but a frightened animal, panting and glaring, not at her but at some nearing enemy that knew his form and his secrets.

Michael paced the room, stared at the open window as if it were the window to another world where he was the norm and his parents were the freaks. He was feeling everything and nothing all at once. He looked like the 1950s sculpture of a man, but he felt like a scared kid at a sleepover who was the only one who could hear the monster in the closet, and knew it was biding its time before it announced itself in the flesh. Just then there was a knock at the door.  Not an entrance, but a knock, someone was on the other side also biding its time. Michael cleared his throat and walked to the door. He opened it with sweaty palms, and the door floated open. There, there was the monster and the most beautiful sight imaginable. Michael started to breathe heavily and looked down at the monster’s shoes. “Michael,” spoke the monster, “I think you need to let me in.” He began to cry and shake. “Steven, you need to leave.” Steven walked through the door and closed it behind him. He didn’t wait for Michael to look up, he put his face in his hands and gave him a kiss with such gentle passion that you would swear you could hear a movie overture filling the room, defining a moment that was years in the making. Michael had no more fight in him. He let himself be ignited with a fire that felt so natural and exquisite that he wondered how it could be possible in a world as fake as the one he existed in.

Sarah smiled a natural smile and took Seth’s hand as she stepped over the uneven rocks covered by the darkness of the night sky. The moon was hiding itself and not showing anyone the way home this night. Sarah did not mind at all. The world’s greatest pleasures hid themselves under the disguise of a starless, moonless night. Seth never let her hand go even when the rocks were smooth and flat. Sarah felt her heartbeat in a way that was unfamiliar, and she felt warm, in fact, warmer by the minute which did not make sense in light of the chilly wind coming off the water. Her stomach was a-flutter and her hand became sweaty in the palm of Seth’s hand. It was the strangest thing. It felt almost as if the two were connected. Her heartfelt so vulnerable from the cool feel of Seth’s skin and the rhythm of his pulse. The ground became grass and dirt as she saw a small cottage coming into view. Seth shone the flashlight on to the porch. “There it is.” He looked right into her eyes and smiled.  Sarah smiled back, a seductive smile. She didn’t know she had one. Nonetheless, it just kept creeping onto her face.

Michael sat unimpressed and bored at the rehearsal dinner. He could barely pull off his fake smile as the corny jokes circled the table. He looked over at Sarah, poor simple Sarah who didn’t know the difference between life and obligation. They hadn’t spoken a word to each other all evening. Well, other than a casual greeting and, of course, brief introductions of each other’s distant family at the beginning of the meal. It should bother him, but it actually struck him as perfect. She had Seth, her best friend, and soul mate whether either of them knew it, and he had Steven, his long- time football rival and best friend. As long as both of them were distracted, neither would feel the need to mention that the marriage was a sham. That seemed to go for the rest of the wedding party as well. Michael cackled to himself. My God! What a bunch of fucking idiots!

Sarah could not stop staring at Seth. It was as if she had never really looked at him before.

Maybe, it was really because she had never been allowed to look at him that thoroughly before. Other than him being a poor educator of limited means (according to her parents), there was also the matter of his wife, Marianna, she had been at so many gatherings with them, but not this one and the party was definitely much better without her. There is nothing really wrong with Marianna, but there is nothing really right. Perhaps her mother should be ill more often. Seth smiled at her and tapped her hand. Sarah’s heart skipped a beat. God, she thought, I wish he would hold it.

Michael lay content on the football field, breathless and sweaty. Steven looked down at him laughing. Everything in life could be solved with a good game between friends. Steven calmed himself and looked off into the distance. Michael, all of a sudden felt lonely. He craved warmth in the chilly night air. Steven remarked on the fact that it was a moonless night and said something about a story where monsters roam during such times. Michael felt an ache in his body: it was in his heart this time. He caught Steven’s eye. It wasn’t just physical anymore. Steven looked back at him breathing heavily. They couldn’t hide from it. Michael opened his mouth to speak and Steven softly spoke, “I love you, Michael.”

Sarah was on the verge of tears. Seth shut the door behind him. “I love you, Seth.” Seth turned around. Now they were face to face, no more hiding, no more denying. Sarah burst into tears, “I have loved you, my whole of my life. Even before I knew you, and now especially now because I do.” Seth was shaking. He was white as a ghost. Sarah was so scared. “I know I am not a good person. I know that your wife is and that what I am saying is adding more destruction into a flawed world. Seth, if I continue to lie, and pretend that you are just my good friend and that I don’t lay awake at night wondering what it would be like if you looked at me, the way you looked at her, then I won’t be a person anymore. My last truth, my last connection to the human race is the way I love you and the way I am willing to leave you if you don’t feel the same.”

Michael started to get up but Steven got down on his knees so they could be face to face, without any distance or way to escape. The way they looked at each at that very moment, you could have sworn it was possible to hold another person without touching.

Sarah couldn’t stand the sound of the desperate silence and bolted so hard at the door she could have gone through it. She was stopped. Seth stopped her with his body. She could have passed out. She had never been this close to him before. His hand brushed her cheek then circled the edges of her lips. She ran her tongue along his finger, as his other hand brushed her thigh and went on to outline her entire body. She felt her body blush and she shivered with the anticipation of how it would feel when their lips finally touched.

Sarah and Michael stared at each other and repeated words in a stale sophisticated fashion.  This was no theatrical event, but the rows of shallow boring onlookers didn’t notice. You have to care about something other than yourself to notice when two incompatible souls come together and promise to be miserable for all eternity. This had all the passion of a nineteenth-century royal wedding, for you see as long as there will be an heir, and the evidence of a brief connection, no one will ask any questions. Their parents were elite members of society for the 1950s and they were excellent business people. Things had to seem perfect for them, the type of perfection society could admire.

The day continued in a blur for Sarah and Michael, because nothing really mattered. They had both experienced a full life. They had both known friendship and passion that turned into love and now the next chapter was about to begin, a chapter of duty and family. For the loves of their lives had families of their own and not the courage to choose a better path.

“Michael, STOP!” Sarah rolled out of his grasp. Michael froze then started crying. Sarah started crying too. They looked at each other and saw the other for who they really were. “Michael, I am very sorry this happened to you. I am sorry you don’t get to spend your wedding night with the love of your life.” Michael looked away, he kept crying. He was trying to be reasonable, but he couldn’t find a reasonable thought. Sarah took a deep breath and began to put her clothes on. Michael continued to cry. Sarah went one step further and began to pack. Michael took notice and found his voice, “Sarah, I am sorry, and we can work something out.” Sarah silently packed up her clothes, then her shoes, and then everything else until anything that had her essence was neatly contained. She looked over at her wedding dress hanging in the closet. Sarah cleared her throat, “That would look really nice on my sister if she doesn’t mind second hand.  See that my parents get it, it was very expensive.” Michael looked shocked. He stood up so quickly he almost fell. “Sarah, it’s not ideal, I know . . .

“You are right, it’s not and it’s supposed to be, so I will be the hussy. I will be the disloyal whore that runs off into the night and you will be the sympathetic saint who didn’t know what hit him.” Sarah, with a suitcase in hand, walks over to Michael. She kisses his cheek and whispers in his ear, “Don’t let a group of shallow idiots decide who will be the love of your life and where your life will lead.” Michael, still too shaken to smile, gives a nod. He steps out of the way so Sarah can leave through the door. Sarah enters the hallway and stops just as she is about to shut the door. She smirks and says “Knock ‘em dead.” Michael manages a smile, “Same to you.”  And the door glides to a close.

 


KATHRYN MALONE is a playwright and actress who lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick.  She has a BA in English and a Concentration in Drama from St. Thomas University.

Copyright © 2020 by Kathryn Malone. All rights reserved.