All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
What is Love?
“I’ll see you in a few weeks, once I get settled in, okay Jarrod?” my dad says as he hugs me.
“Sure.” I reply in a hollow voice.
“You know that I love you.” He says sincerely, trying to prompt some emotion out of me about this whole ordeal. But I won’t break, not now when it hurts so much, not in front of my family. I know what he wants me to say, but I’m not going to say something that I don’t mean; not like him.
I stare at him, not bothering to hide the anger that I know is showing in my eyes. A look of hurt clouds his features for a moment and suddenly I get the feeling of something like triumph.
He climbs into the open door of his car and slowly backs out of the driveway. The rest of my family goes inside, but I stay where I am, standing in the front yard. Before he drives down the street, I see him wave at me through the window but I don’t wave back, instead I just cross my arms over my chest.
I stand like that for a long time after his car disappears, staring down the street as if daring him to come back and mess up my family even more.
I knew that my parents where getting a divorce long before they even told us, not being oblivious to the frequent fights that broke out between them when they thought everyone was asleep. Yet somehow I’d always seem to convince myself that they would work through their problems. I never truly believed that love could change so much over time, but I guess there’s an exception for my parents.
I feel like I’m lost at sea, the waves sweeping me out farther and farther from the shore into its vast blue waters without a life preserver. I used to look up to their love. They’d raised me to never give up on love and now they’re calling it quits, and just like that, I’ve lost my life preserver. Now I don’t know what love is anymore… all I know is that years of their lives are now being thrown away. How do you admit that for years you’ve been living a lie? How do you start your life over once it has begun?
Suddenly, I feel uncomfortable in my own skin and I don’t think that I can go back inside the house now so, I start walking down the sidewalk just to get away from this situation.
In a few minutes, I find myself at the park with, luckily, no one here. I walk over to the rusted swing set and sit down, letting my bare feet brush over the wood chips as the sun sets over the horizon and a warm breezes messes with my hair. I try to remind myself that even though my parents seemed to have given up love I can’t do the same or else I may end up just like them, but how do you believe in something when you don’t even know what it is anymore?
I don’t know how long I sit on that swing, all I know is that the sun has set and I’m enveloped in the darkness of night. Finally, I decide to walk home to try to get some sleep before the first day of school even if I know that it’s hopeless.
The next day of school passes in a daze (as do the following days). I don’t listen in any of my classes, but instead I try to keep my mind blank and void of feeling any type of emotion. I walk robotically from class to class sometimes not even going at all because
I just don’t care anymore. I’ve never liked school anyway because they try to teach you a certain way to think. And now I have a fool proof excuse for “acting out” because I’m now seen as the poor kid whose parents spilt.
These days turn into weeks and before I know it, it’s nearing the end of September. I slowly trudge into English class and find a seat in the back corner of the classroom. I have come to find that the teacher never seems to look back there which means that I don’t have to answer any questions. I’m pretty sure that she’s forgotten that I’m even in this class, so you could imagine my surprise when I heard the teacher call my name standing near the first row of desks. I look at her with slightly unfocused eyes.
“… you’re partners with Corrie Anderson,” Mrs. Schloss reads from a sheet of paper. “Robert Parker, you’re partners with Mason Colt. Sarah Powers, you’re partners with…”
At this point, I tune her out again and start looking at my partner, Corrie Anderson. I know who she is; she’s one of those people who work super hard, always turning stuff in early and doing extra credit even if they don’t need it. I mean she’s not a nerd or anything she’s just crazy smart and I’m guessing that the reason she works so hard is because she wants to go to a college far away from here. In a small town like this no one has a lot of money so scholarships are pretty much your only way out of here.
She turns around to look at me, her blonde hair flying behind her as she twists around in her seat. Her gray eyes stare at me for a few seconds like she’s trying to figure out if I’ll cost her a good grade. I start to feel uncomfortable with her just staring at me like that, so I give a slight nod and look down at my desk.
A couple of days later, Corrie approaches me in the hall. “So I was thinking that maybe we should start on the project.”
“Already?” I ask as I continue to walk towards my locker. I avoid looking into her gray eyes because whenever she looks at me her gaze becomes so intense, like I’m a puzzle that she’s trying to figure out. Instead I look straight ahead at the row of dark green lockers.
“Well, I mean it’s a pretty big project with only three weeks to get it done.” She says almost impatiently as her pace matches mine.
“Okay, we can start on it if you want. It’s not a big deal.” I say causally as I spin the combination for my locker. I decided that this was the best way to handle her apparent annoyance. I didn’t want to fight with anyone any more; I’d had enough of that at home.
“So do you want to meet up at my place tomorrow at five?”
“Sure, do I need to bring anything?”
“No, I mean we’re just supposed to learn about each others beliefs and put a presentation together.” She answers somewhat briskly, like she’s afraid that I’ll decide not to come, like I’ve chosen to do for school most of this month.
“Okay, I’ll see you then.” Throwing my books in my locker, I glance at her out of the corner of my eye and I let a small half smile appear because I thought it was kind of funny that she was so panicked that I might not show up.
I think my smile threw her a little bit when she replies, “Um… okay, fine. I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
Looking slightly confused, she turns around to walk in the opposite direction down the hallway.
I can hardly remember the last time that I’d smiled and it felt good, even though it hadn’t lasted but a second.
“Oh, don’t you just love the first day of school?” my best friend Elise asks, breathing in deeply as if hoping to remember the smell of dingy socks, tanning lotion, and aloe Vera.
“Of course I do, but we love it for very different reasons.” I say as we walk to our first class of the day: math. I actually really like math because there’s an exact answer for everything. It’s structured and defined. In math, the solution to your problem is there right in your head, you just have to think about it for a second.
“Yes I know, you’re all about the academics stuff,” she says rolling her eyes dramatically, “and I’m all about the guys.” She answers while her brown eyes scan the room, scoping out the ones who’ve gotten considerably cuter over the summer and ones who’ve gone a little down hill.
“Look over there at Robert Parker,” Elise says excitedly as we enter Mr. Ferris’s classroom. “God he looks cute with those glasses on…” she finishes dreamily, tucking a piece of dark brown curly hair behind her ear. Elise is kind of into the cute nerdy type, but what really gets her are wired rimmed glasses (don’t ask me why).
Looking over, I see Robert talking avidly to his best friend Beth Ingle. It was pretty obvious to everyone that they might turn into something more. When I point this out to Elise she waves her hand in a distracted sort of way having already moved on to another guy.
When Mrs. Schloss announces that we’re being assigned partners for a project, I groan silently in my head. I really hate working with partners because somehow I always end up doing all of the work and I’m already swamped as it is.
This project has to do with our philosophy unit. We’re supposed to learn about our partner’s beliefs and try to figure out why they would believe that by learning about their past.
See, this is exactly why I like math. Math is very precise and you don’t really have to over think things like you have to do for English.
“Alright,” she says “Jacob Avery, your partners with Mallory Smith. Lindsey Black, your partners with Elise Richardson. Jared Rockwell, you’re partners with Corrie Anderson. Robert Parker, you’re…”
I stop breathing, trying to convince myself that I’d just heard the names wrong, but I know I didn’t. I mean he’s not a bad guy, but his parents just got divorced and he’s pretty messed up right now. Jared hardly ever comes to class anymore so there’s no way that he knows what this project is about.
I turn around in my seat, trying to see if he’s here today. Suddenly, I spot him. His deep brown eyes lock onto mine for a second and he gives a slight nod before he looks down at his desk. For that one second I had hope that if I gave a little bit of space then maybe he’d come around.
So, I gave him a couple of days and then I decided to make the first move, trying to make this as easy and simple as possible. I found him walking towards his locker and I quickly fastened my pace to bring me next to him.
“So I was thinking that maybe we should start on the project.”
“Already?” he asks, sounding surprised.
This response kind of annoyed me because he wasn’t even making eye contact with me. How do you have a conversation with someone when they’re not even looking at you?
“Well, I mean it’s a pretty big project with only three weeks to get it done.” I add a slight edge to my voice in hopes that he would get the hint and look at me.
“Okay, we can start on it if you want. It’s not a big deal.” He says causally while spinning the lock on his locker. For some reason this aggravated me even more, I’d been trying to get some kind of reaction out of him. Why is he so calm? Does he not understand that this project, like any other project is a big deal?
“So do you want to meet up at my place tomorrow at five?” I ask.
“Sure, do I need to bring anything?”
“No, I mean we’re just supposed to learn about each others beliefs and put a presentation together.” I say quickly, trying to make this easy so that he’ll come and do his share of the work.
“Okay, I’ll see you then.” He says tossing his books in his locker. And then he did the strangest thing, he looked at me for the first time during this entire conversation and he let a small half smile lift up the left corner of his mouth, revealing a dimple on his cheek. I was so caught off guard that I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks.
“Um… okay, fine. I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
Returning his smile somewhat timidly, I turned around and walked away from him before he could see me blush.
It wasn’t until I turned around a corner of the hallway that I realized that my next class was in the opposite direction.
After school, I decided to straighten up my book shelf to avoid doing homework for a few more minutes. I grabbed the wooden chair from my desk to reach the top shelf. Carefully lifting up three books, a picture falls out from behind the pile.
Michael Adams. The intense, soul searching gaze of his blue eyes captured perfectly, brown hair sweeping across his forehead, an easy smile spread along his face, just like how I always wish I could remember him…
I place the books on the floor of my room and pick up the picture. I hold it close to my face, trying to remember all of the good times that we had shared, but my mind is blocked by the ending.
I pull it away, suddenly disgusted with myself, and tear the picture in half. Now I see him as I should have seen him all along, two faced with a torn, jagged smile.
“Hey, Jarrod, over here!” James yells from a few cars away in the parking lot by his blue, dust encrusted Honda, waving his arms to get my attention. I slowly put my keys back in my pocket and walk toward him.
“Dude, I haven’t talked to you in forever! How are you?” He says when I stop in front of him.
“Fine,” I answer, but I know that things couldn’t be farther from it.
“Good. So listen, Mason and I are going over to his place to play some video games, you coming?”
“No man, maybe next time okay?”
“Alright,” He says in a disappointed voice. He pauses for a second before continuing, “If you just forget all about this divorce crap, even for a little while, it will do you some good. I mean, it’s your parents deal.” He claps me on the shoulder, climbs into his car, and drives out of the school parking lot at break neck speed.
This is exactly the reason why I can’t really talk to James or Mason about the divorce. They just think that it’s my parents problem not mine.
“Mom, you home?” I called, slamming the front door behind me.
“In here!” I sensed a false cheerfulness in her voice but decided not to elaborate on it.
I threw my keys on the coffee table on my way to the kitchen. I found my Mom sitting at the kitchen table, bills scattered across it. She looked tired, a look that didn’t seem to fit with her young features.
I felt bad for her and despite the fact that money was a little tighter these days, she wouldn’t let me get a part-time job in an effort to help out.
“Jarrod, would you mind picking up Lily at five-thirty today after her tennis practice? I just have to pay all of these bills by the end of the day and I only got home from work an hour ago.”
“Sure thing Mom,” I answer in a low voice. Even with child support checks coming in every month, money has become a sore spot in our family.
I sling my book bag across the back of a chair and grabbed an apple from the fruit basket set on the counter, “I’ll see you later okay?”
“Yeah honey, see you later. Don’t be late for dinner.” She said picking up yet another piece of paper and staring at it intently.
“Don’t worry, I won’t be.” I said leaving the kitchen. After I passed the door frame, I peered back around the corner and saw her put her head in her hands and sigh tiredly.
“Hey Lily, how was tennis practice?” I ask, trying to feign a good mood in front of her. I want her feel like our family isn’t crumbling to the ground and that everything will work itself out in the end. I feel like I should be able to protect her from this…
“It was fine I guess,” she said opening the trunk and throwing in her tennis bag.
“Tryouts are in a week.” She says sliding into the passenger seat of my car.
“Wow, that awesome! Are you excited?”
“Um…yeah.” She answers slowly. She looks down at her white, scuffed up tennis shoes, absorbed in her own thoughts.
We drive along for a few minutes in heavy silence. Suddenly, her head snaps up and turns towards me, “Dad called yesterday.” She had said it so quickly that at first I wasn’t even sure that I had heard her correctly.
“What? Dad called yesterday?” How come no one had told me? “What did he want?” I ask hesitantly.
“He just wanted to let us know that he has completely moved into his apartment and was wondering if maybe we could come over tomorrow and visit him or something.” Lily had gone back to staring intently at her shoes.
I could that she really wanted to go and see him. I also knew that she hadn’t told me he had called until now because I had made it pretty obvious that I blamed him. Luckily, I do have a good excuse for bailing, I’m supposed to go over the Corrie’s house at five tomorrow.
“Sorry Lily, but I have to work on a school project tomorrow.” Her eyes narrow and I can tell that she doesn’t believe me, so I add “No, seriously. It’s not just an excuse.” I say the truth as sincerely as I can because I don’t want her to think that I’m lying to her.
“Hey, maybe David can take you. I’m sure he hasn’t seen Dad in a while.”
“No, I called him yesterday to see if he wanted to come and he said that he was too busy with college.” Her tone is full of disappointment.
“Well then why doesn’t he just come and pick you up? He won’t even have to come inside.” At this point I’m starting to run out of ideas for alternate transportation.
“He made it pretty clear that he won’t drive over here…”
Of course he wouldn’t drive over to our house because heaven forbid that he might have to talk to mom.
“Tell you what; next Saturday I’ll take you over there.” I truly feel bad for not being able take her tomorrow, not because I want to see my Dad, but because I want her to feel like nothing has changed.
I pull into our driveway and park the car. “Okay that sounds good,” she says cheerful again. “I’ll just go call Dad and tell him about the change in plans.” She hops out of my car while I pop the trunk for her to grab her tennis bag.
I close my eyes, rest my head on the steering wheel, and sigh, while hearing the slam of the front door. You could say that I’m a little less than excited to see my confrontation avoiding, undependable father next week. But at least I’ve made one out of two people happy about the ending of this conversation.
It’s five o’clock and Jarrod isn’t here yet. I don’t know what to do if he doesn’t show up. I start to pace back and forth by the front door, wringing my hands as I do so.
Do I pretend like I forgot about him coming over or do I confront him about it? I really don’t feel like playing 20 questions with this guy on Monday. What if he thinks I’m being too pushy about this project and decides not to do it all? He may not care about his grades but I do. This could bring down my GPA. Every grade counts now, it’s the kind of thing that colleges look-
My thoughts are suddenly interrupted a shrill ringing that resonates throughout the house, it’s the door bell. “Thank God,” I whisper under my breath in relief. I open up the front to find Jarrod standing there; the golden rays of the setting sun accentuate his blonde hair.
“You can come in.” I open up the door a bit wider.
“Thanks.” He steps inside and I lead him over to the couch. We sit there for a few awkward moments. Finally, I reach over to the glass coffee table, grab the blue notebook and pencil placed there and hand it to him.
“To take notes.” I say in answer to his questioning look. “You’ll need it for future reference when we create our own separate presentations.”
“Oh, okay then. But first you need to give me information that I’ll need to remember for future reference when we create our own separate presentations,” he replies with a half smile. I don’t appreciate the mockery, but that little smile at the end kind of makes up for it because I never see him smile when he talks to anyone else at school.
“Is that your family?” he asks standing up and walking over to a framed picture hanging on the wall.
“Most of them,” I say as I join him.
“Most of them?” he sounds shocked. “You’ve got a huge family. How do you keep them all straight?”
“I don’t.” I answer, shrugging my shoulders. “Whenever we have big family gatherings, which isn’t often, my mom will tell me who someone is if they’re about to start talking to me.”
“So I take it you’re not really close to anyone besides your immediate family?”
“No, a lot of them live far away in places like New York and California which makes me wonder how we ended up in a town like this. I am so sick of this place. I wish I could just get out, you know find an escape...” I can’t believe I just told him that. I’m not one to complain about my life, at least not out loud.
“Yeah, I know exactly how you feel.” He responds with a knowing look. Then he gets this look on his face like he just thought of a great idea. “Come on,” he says grabbing my hand and pulling me towards the door.
“What about the project?” I ask frantically, looking back at the living room.
“We can still work on it where we’re going.” He answers calmly. He opens up the front door still dragging me along behind him.
“But all of the photo albums are here!” I say shrilly. I’m freaking out and I know that I don’t need too, it’s not the end of the world, but this is an unplanned detour. I had a schedule planned out and we are deviating from it, I have never not followed a schedule before.
“Relax, Corrie, we’ll get it done. You can’t learn about a person just from photographs and videos.” He opens the door on the passenger side of his car waiting for me to get in, so reluctantly I do.
After a few minutes of silence I finally ask the most obvious question that, none the less, needs to be asked. “Where are we going?”
What a typical response. I knew, even before I asked, that he wasn’t going to give me a straight answer.
I look out of the window and see that we’re on the edge of town. “You know kidnapping is illegal.”
“But you got in the car by yourself which means that you did it by choice, so unless you’re admitting to impossibly abducting yourself then it’s not kidnapping.” He’s doing that thing again where he won’t look at me while he’s talking to me. I understand that he’s driving and he needs to keep his eyes on the road but just an occasional glance in my direction would help.
I start to look around his car. It’s messy that’s for sure, he especially has a bunch of Snickers bar wrappers scattered across the floor boards; I guess it doesn’t really satisfy your hunger. In the backseat there is a black guitar case. I start to ask about it because I’m suddenly curious, but then he says “We’re here.”
I look out the window as he parks the car. I take in the small, empty park (actually it’s more like a playground) before me; the swing set is old and rusting, the slide is a dirty yellowish color, and the grass outside of the black plastic wall surrounding the wood chips is brown because it has gone dormant for the coming winter. This place is amazing.
Jarrod gets out of the car and starts walking towards the swing set; I follow him. “What do you think?” he asks sitting down on one of swings.
I sit down next to him and say, “I love it. It has a lot of character. How did you find this place?”
“I needed a separation from this town, an escape if you will,” he says looking directly at me and smiling slightly. “One day I was driving and I decided to go to the edge of town to see what I would find,” he shrugs his shoulders. “And this is what I found.”
“Is that why you brought me here, you wanted to give me an escape?” This is incredibly sweet, but I don’t want to take his only place of refuge.
“I mean you can come here when you need to get away and think that’s what I do at least. I’ve never actually told anyone about this place, let alone shown them, but you seem like you need place like this as much as I do.” When he says this, he’s staring right into my eyes, right into my soul. It seems like he can see everything that’s hidden behind my perfect reputation and the smile forever plastered on my face. I turn my head to the side so that way I’m staring back in the direction that we had come. This is exactly how Michael used to stare at me, but that had all been a lie. How do I know that this will be any different?
“It’s getting dark. We should leave, my parents might wonder where I am,” I said quickly, already standing up and walking over to the car.
“Alright, if that’s what you want.” He says surprised and unsure.
I want to tell him that it’s not what I want, but that it’s what I feel I need to do to protect myself from getting hurt again. I don’t tell him though. In fact I stay silent the entire time, keeping my lips pressed together, so that my voice doesn’t betray me. I don’t look at him during the drive back to my house, not even when he say goodbye to me and I just mumble back an inaudible response. I know this isn’t fair to him, he didn’t do anything wrong and I feel bad for treating him like this, I really do, I just don’t know what else to do…
But I mean we’re not really friends, we only got stuck doing a project together. Once this whole thing is over I probably won’t ever talk to him again. The only thing I need to accomplish is an A. I need to remind myself of that.
I’m starting to get pissed off at Corrie. She’s been avoiding me for two days now. Every time I’ve tried to talk to her about the other night she just blows me off. It seems like she’s mad me, but I didn’t do anything.
I took a big step in showing her that place, I’ve never even told anyone about it because it’s my place, it’s something that is (or was) all my own. And when I had brought her, I felt like we were connecting. I can tell that she has more problems in her life then she lets on. Her life is nowhere near perfect, I can tell you that much.
But I’m tired of playing this game with her. She can do whatever the hell she wants to. If she wants to pretend like nothing is bothering her then all power to her.
Maybe I was doing the wrong thing by trying to be her friend. We were only paired together due to rotten luck to work on this stupid project.