What is Love?
Corrie AndersonIt’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.