When love fails.
She was young. About 20 years old. A face so beautiful it could make you cry, it made me cry. But it was more than her looks, it was the way she carried herself, the way she smiled, the way she walked and the way she carried the cigarette on her lips. Everything about her said that ‘everything was okay’, that even as threatening men loomed over her, still ‘life was good’.
She was sitting there, outside the outtake building of the Santa Ana jail. How could something so beautiful come from such an un-beautiful place. Just seeing her brought out happiness in me, I had to know her story. I asked her how long she had been inside, she said ‘one week’. I asked her why she had been inside, without hesitation she said ‘prostitution’.
That feeling, when you know you haven’t been punched in the stomach, but almost wished you had, slips over me. The brief moment of extrovertedness falls off of me. I stood there speechless, and all of a sudden she became my sister. Hiding my emotion I slowly re-engage in conversation. She tells me of hotel rooms and craigs list web postings. In that moment I could give her anything she asks for, all she needs is my cell phone to make a call.
She needs cigarettes and wants to avoid the mix of “do-gooders” and “evil-doers” by the ‘Lights On‘ RV. I boyishly ask if its okay to walk with her towards the 7-11. She lets me.
She walks fast, too fast. I have so much to say but time isn’t on my side. Eventually the 7-11 will meet us, it will get in our way. Eventually this night will end. Eventually she will go back to where she came from, and I too will return.
I ask how it all began. I fell in love, she says. Proud of the sacrifices she has made for love, as if the sacrifice makes her in some way pure. The sadness in her eyes isn’t from the life she’s lived, but from the fact that she won’t see her lover for the next 3 months. It is a look of longing.
For the next 3 months he’ll be in jail. Society calls him by other names, but right now he is only “love”. She’s sad, that when the police found her in the hotel room, she wasn’t able to convince them that the man lurking outside wasn’t her ‘manager’. She’s sad, that he has to spend 3 months in jail, and that she has to spend 3 months without him. Love.
She says that people don’t understand. That love can make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. People on countless occasions have interjected that he doesn’t love her because he asks her to sleep with other men. Yet, she continues to have faith.
I also try to interject as much as I can in the short time I have. Speedily we walk, speedily I talk. Usually I talk about Love, this time Love has failed me. I speak about life and about journeys… and about failure. In life there is no training manual. None of us really know what we are supposed to be doing here. But we can somehow make the journey at least worthwhile. And maybe the one thing that can get in our way of living life to the fullest, is our own selves. Maybe sometimes we need to determine which of our emotions lead us to a path of greater good and which lead us to greater harm. … and just maybe we actually need to leave some emotions behind.
Sometimes its not about love, I tell her. Sometimes, it is about what is ‘right’. I recollect stories of when I have failed Love and when Love has failed me. When I have done wrong to those I have loved and when those that have loved me, have done me wrong.
She asks me if I have ever cheated on someone I loved. I say ‘yes’. She asks if I have ever hit someone I loved. I say ‘sort-of’. She tells me that her ‘love’ was the first guy who had ever hit her.
I tell her that maybe he does love her and that maybe she loves him, but that sometimes you have to put all that aside and still do what is best. That maybe sacrificing Love is a greater sacrifice. (Maybe it would be good for him too.) I try to convince her that she has a great life and a greater one ahead if she can navigate through the swamp of thoughts and emotions that we all live in.
I vow not to walk her all the way to the 7-11, as a way of sacrificing my own love. I stop short seconds before the 7-11 and turn towards her. I wrap my arms around her and then let go. Walking back, emotions of sadness and anger grip me. I cry and scream at the same time. Hold my head and grip my fists at the same time.
“Love fails only when we fail to love” – J. Franklin.