Volume 3, Number 12
by Dean Shutt
"What did I do to deserve this?" asked my friend as we sat at the bar waiting for our next round. "Didn't I treat her well? What more could I have done?" All of these were good questions, all valid questions, all were questions without answers. My friend had been a wonderful husband. He had remembered birthdays and anniversaries. He had always called if he was going to be late. He had done everything possible to include her in his life and be a part of hers. Yet here he was, fresh from having his heart torn out and stomped like a bug.
As I sat there watching my friend get progressively more drunk, I thought of how lucky I had it. I had been hurt once by a woman it was true. However, since that day I had worked hard at never letting it happen again. I had to admit I was pretty successful at it. I had made it twenty years without becoming an emotional cripple like my comatose friend. Oh I had dated off and on, but I had never let it become serious enough to touch me. Whenever things had gotten too heavy I had made tracks.
Now I was sitting in a bar watching a friend drink himself stupid in order to forget the last ten years of his life. I remembered their wedding day. They were both so happy then, so full of love. Even I reconsidered my choice of lifestyle that day. Of course before the wedding I had done what I could to talk him out of it. I knew it would end in pain. These things usually do after all. Humans just aren't meant to live together for an entire life. They are far too annoying to put up with each other for that long. I figured this out a long time ago but some people just never learn. Well he was learning now. As he sat there crying in his beer trying to figure out how it had all gone so wrong. Soon enough he would realize that there wasn't anything to figure out. The relationship had simply collapsed under it's own weight. All those years of petty arguments and half remembered slights eventually build up. Suddenly that person who you fell in love with all those years ago is a different person altogether. Worse still, it's a person you can't stand. Perhaps worst of all, that person is thinking the exact same thing about you.
Of course this was his second time around the marriage block. I had hoped that he would have learned his lesson when his first wife dumped him. He had been an emotional wreck for months. I had almost gone bankrupt going out and drinking with him every night. He swore up and down that he would never go through that hell again. I told him that was probably for the best. I told him he should just become emotionally detached from the whole mating ritual. He agreed wholeheartedly with my assessment and assured me he was cured of the whole marriage thing. Then of course he met his second wife. I watched as he fell deeper and deeper in love with this woman. I could see him forgetting everything we had ever talked about as the months passed. By the time he announced they were going to be married it was really no great shock. He had jumped right back in with both feet.
And now again with the bars. Once again we would spend inordinate amounts of time together. Once again I would be getting drunk far more often than was wise for anyone. Once again he would make his declarations of independence from the female of the species. Once again he would swear he had learned his lesson. Once again he would sleep on my couch for months on end.
"You know what I'm going to do?" my drunken friend bellowed at me.
"I don't know," I replied "Never fall in love again, never trust another woman, never get married again for any reason?"
"No sir," my friend said, "I'm going to keep looking for her."
"Who?" I asked.
"Her...The One...My True Love...the woman I'm meant to be with for the rest of my life." he said.
"Are you insane!" I cried, "Haven't you had your heart ripped out and trampled on enough?"
"Naw man," he said, "I figure for every moment of pain and agony that women have caused me, I've gotten ten times as much joy. And I figure that if I got that much happiness out of the wrong women, can you imagine how happy the right one is going to make me?"
I was silent. I had no response because frankly I had never thought of that. Of all the angles to look at love from, that was one I hadn't ever considered. Love as debits and credits on a balance sheet. I thought of all the women I had known in my life. I thought of all the moments they had given me. I thought of all the memories they had given me. I realized something then, like you realize when a brick hits you in the forehead. All of those women put together had given me less joy than the one that had hurt me all those years ago.
While my friend was living the glorious technicolor ups and downs of life. I had been living in shades of grey. True, I had protected myself from the pain. Unfortunately, I had made myself afraid to feel joy as well. I sat there lost in my own thoughts as my friend babbled on about his problems. We sat there for a while longer. Talking and drinking and arguing about sports. Anything that would keep our minds off of what we were really thinking. Then the lights came up and the barkeep booted us out into the night. We walked towards home, each lost in his own thoughts. Suddenly my friend stopped short and stared at me through drunken eyes.
"You know what you need?" he slurred.
"Naw man, what do I need?" I slurred right back at him.
"You need to find yourself a woman to love you." he said.
"Yeah man, just like you huh?" I replied after a pause.
"You could do worse my friend," he said with a smile, "You could do worse..."
And with that he turned towards my home, and my couch and the rest of his life and marched proudly up the street. I followed along, wondering what it was going to be like, living in a full color world after all that time in black and white.