Once upon a time, there was a girl.
She wasn’t a remarkable girl, a quite ordinary girl, really. She grew up doing ordinary things, with ordinary people, having ordinary experiences.
She watched movies. A lot of them were about love.
It looked nice. She had no idea how to go about making it happen to her, though.
There were hesitant, and ultimately false, starts.
One day (it was November, and cold, and beautiful), she fell in love. At least, she was pretty sure it was love. She had no basis for comparison. So she ran it against a de facto checklist that movies and tv and friends and Harlequin Romance novels had formed, and lo and be-damned-hold, she was in love.
And then she wasn’t.
It had gone sideways and off the rails, and it was so damned gradual. When she finally figured that out, she couldn’t believe she’d ever bothered in the first place. Because this hurt almost too much to bear.
The first thought that formed was an ugly one. She told it to shut up, to fuck off. But it persisted.
“It’s you. You’re the problem. You aren’t worthy of love. It doesn’t apply to you. You can’t make someone feel that. And you never will.”
As much as she’d taught pieces of herself not to breathe, she still couldn’t live with that.
She settled, instead, for believing that love was a construct for the weak. Something suckers waxed ecstatic about and companies exploited for profit.
She was above it. She was out of the game. She was safe.
And then she wasn’t.
One day she had to face up to some real, honest to goodness, raw, can’t look away ugliness.
Nothing was what she thought it had been. Everything she thought she knew, she didn’t. And she definitely wasn’t safe.
And as she lay very still, let her mind go blank, because really, she had no other choice, all circuits were overloaded, she had a thought:
“If everything I believed about my life was false, if my marriage, hell, most of my relationships weren’t at all what I thought they were, what else was I wrong about?”
The answer whispered, then yelled, then screamed its way into her brain.
She started to listen to friends. And instead of picking out the stories, the evidence that supported her former case, she listened under the surface. To stories of people who gave to each other without keeping track and counting and playing defensively and being careful. The examples of people respecting and valuing and being absolutely cuckoo fucking bananas over each other.
She stopped sneering. Stopped avoiding the friends who had found these beautiful and flawed and love-filled lives.
And stopped counting herself out.