Mr. Sensitive

July 12, 2011

Love Story, Part 1.5

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 09:17

I want to say first of all that Love Story makes me think of the Taylor Swift song (pop remix, duh), and it makes Katie think of that movie from the ‘70s that she hasn’t even seen.  So I win.

It’s really cute how Katie says that there were some feelings between us after the VJAS trip, which was April or March of 1994.  I humbly suggest that this might have been an understatement.  Of course, she was, at the time, still pretending like she didn’t have any feelings about anything except Disney movies.  I was doing no such thing.  I got home after that trip, after Katie and I sat together not really reading—or breathing, or moving—for the entire bus ride from JMU to Pulaski, and I broke down in my kitchen.  My mother said something dismissive that she may have intended to be fortifying—maternal strike 70 or so, at that point—but it took me a while to pull myself together enough to talk to anyone.  It was ridiculous, and I was very aware of that, but I couldn’t stop crying anyway.  This wasn’t fair.  This was too much, finally, somehow, too much cut short and too much lost.  My Dad was gone, dead less than six months.  My Mom was gone, too, twisted by grief and desperation into a lost little girl trying to hide or, failing that, run.  When she ran, she took me, my brothers and my sister with her, because she was technically the head of our family—nice one, Dad.  A month after he died, Mom promised us that we would never lose our home, that she wouldn’t take that from us after what we’d already lost, no matter what.  A month after she said that she decided to move to Virginia Beach to be closer to her family.  She told me I could go to a new high school for my senior year, or I could stay with a friend’s family and finish high school in Pulaski.  I said hell no to option #1, and I didn’t believe Mom would follow through on option #2, so I came up with a third option: finish my junior year in the fall, get all my remaining senior year credits in the spring, and graduate from high school in three years.   It was a plan that I could execute myself and it wouldn’t stop Mom from running away from grief and responsibility, so it won her enthusiastic approval.  But I had to move quickly, to line up the credits I needed to graduate, to apply to colleges, to decide where to enroll in the fall; no time to hesitate, to think, to regret.  So goodbye Pulaski, goodbye 620 Prospect Ave., goodbye senior year, all in the name of speed and fear.  It sucked, but I was handling it.  By the time I met Katie the plan was in motion and it was working: I would graduate in June, we would move to Virginia Beach two weeks later, and I would be a freshman at Chapel Hill in August.  So why was I sitting on the floor of my kitchen sobbing over some girl I barely knew?  I’d lost both my parents, the house I grew up in, my childhood and all my opportunities for self-contained senior-year stupidity, not to mention all my goddamn Star Wars toys—why did this hurt so much?  I didn’t understand.  I don’t really know this girl, I thought.  Why is it killing me that I never will?

Katie was not unappreciated amongst the gentlemen of the magnet school we both attended for math and science.  My friend Brian was talking to me one day after the VJAS trip about how Katie was the hottest girl there but she wouldn’t go out with anyone, that no one could have her, and he didn’t know what it would take to get her.  I didn’t think of her that way.  I couldn’t deal with what I did think, but it wasn’t that.  I understood Championship, of course, and that’s what Brian was talking about.  I’m not sure why I said something, but I did.  “She would go out with me,” I said.  “How do you know?” he asked.  I didn’t say anything else immediately, and I didn’t want to have said what I said already, but that’s not a boast you just leave alone when your buddy makes it.  It wasn’t a boast at all, but Brian didn’t know that.  “So why don’t you ask her out?” he pressed.  “Because I can’t,” I said.  I didn’t go for some inflection in my voice to shut down that conversation, to make it clear he and I weren’t talking about the same thing.  But I wasn’t boasting, that would’ve been obvious.  I was hurting.  We didn’t talk about that again, although to be fair, the conversation had been an aberration from the beginning.  Usually we stuck to Beavis and Butt-head impressions and Doggystyle lyrics.

I was a coward.  I thought I was being noble, denying myself the chance to fall in love because I had to hold my family together, but that was garbage.  It was a false choice, framed the way my mother taught me to frame decisions.  If I couldn’t have unambiguous happiness handed to me on a plate, I wouldn’t have it at all.  I would run.  I might have regretted that cowardice forever, but it turned out to be just a few weeks after we moved that I got a letter from two of my friends and this other girl I still didn’t really know.  It was a slim chance, but Katie and I never needed any more than that, and this time I didn’t let it pass.  The longer-term twist was that not only did Katie help me to be stronger for my younger siblings and my mother than I could’ve been without her, but she almost certainly did more for them herself over the years than I did.  No one among her four children did more to help my mother, especially near the end of her life, than Katie did.

Our own children will have this to use against us one day.  “But I love Braydon!” Jenny will announce.  “I have to be with him!  It’s just like you and Mom!”  A little teenage moral leverage is a small price to pay, though.  Besides, I still have “You won’t do that because I’m your father I said you won’t.”  And don’t think for a moment I won’t use it.



  1. You’ve always had a lot of feelings. I thought I remembered you telling me you cried after that trip, but I didn’t put it in my version because I wasn’t sure.

    I don’t think anyone thought I was the hottest girl at Governor’s School.

    Our own children will use everything against us. But I’m also prepared to say, “Because I told you to,” about everything. Do you think either of the girls will start to call us Mom and Dad one day? I feel like that would be weird.

    Comment by euregirlsandboys — July 12, 2011 @ 09:38 | Reply

    • They will, and it will be weird.

      Comment by lbej — July 12, 2011 @ 11:14 | Reply

  2. […] Love Story, Part 1.5 « Mr. Sensitive. […]

    Pingback by Love Story, Part 1.5 « Mr. Sensitive | Your Girls and Boys — July 12, 2011 @ 09:40 | Reply

  3. This post is really sweet and I loved reading it.

    Comment by nicole — July 17, 2011 @ 02:40 | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: