I left my house at 2:00 AM. I headed out on a road that I had followed many times before. Out past all the lights and people. Out into the country where farmland comes at you from every direction. You were more likely to pass an Amish buggy than a car on roads like these. Nice winding roads, curving off into the blackness. You had to pay attention to follow them, at least if you had not driven in this part of the county before. My attention, however, was not on the roads during this particular trip. I was more focused on the passenger riding with me, inside my own head.
I met M______ my junior year of high school. She was a year younger than me and the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She was tall, with long brown hair and dark brown eyes. I liked her immediately. We talked a lot. She told me what she liked. She loved art. She took every art class available. She made her own prints and sketches and one day wanted to decorate her own house with all her work. She was just starting to like theatre and speech. She loved the creativity of it all, but her concern was the atmosphere. She did not like the people. She thought they were fake, which was perfect, because I was one of them. I was a theatre person. The people she hated were some of my best friends. So much for a relationship with this girl, or so I thought.
M______ and I continued to talk, mostly after school. I would drive her home, and we would sit in her driveway long after we had arrived. She tried turning me on to art, but this was a lost cause. I had never understood art properly and had long abandoned any aspirations of my own to become an artist. I told M______ how my first dream, a long time ago, was to be an artist working for Disney World. She laughed. That dream was quickly abandoned, I told her, when my middle school teacher told me, "Jason, I believe you think you can draw. You can’t." So much for that. She laughed again and resolved to give up the art talk. Now it was my turn. I told her about theatre and speech. She was taking drama classes in school and had just joined the school’s speech team. She confessed that she enjoyed getting her feet wet but was still reluctant to jump in. We talked a few minutes more, and I managed to convince her to at least try out for the spring musical. Auditions were next week. She agreed, most reluctantly, to try out. Not join or consent herself to be a part of the cast, but simply to try out.
All this time, I started to like M______ more and more. She did not know it, but she was constantly on my mind. I would drive home after dropping her off, and I would replay all of our conversations in my head. The way she said a certain word. The look on her face as she described a certain incident at school. The joy on her face when she laughed. Her smile when something I did or said made her laugh. It amazed me that I could be the cause of such a beautiful smile. To me, she was perfect. Even her imperfections somehow enhanced the adoration I felt for her. She never knew this of course. I never told her.
We went to the audition. I was nervous for both her and me. I was focused on performing well, given what I had to work with. My song was a rendition of the original Spiderman theme song. My memorized monologue was the preamble to the Constitution. Everyone went through their auditions and, to my surprise, often poking fun at me in their improvisation sketches. My mouth was open in utter amazement as a girl I did not even know took the stage to make fun of my hair and eyebrows (I have too much of the former and not enough of the latter). M______ burst out laughing and grabbed my arm. She smiled at me with tears in her eyes as she put her head on my shoulder. I did not mind the humor at all.
When it was all over, late that night, I drove her home. We parked in her driveway and talked. She did not know if she wanted a role. She was self-conscious about her audition and decided she was not cut out for acting. I told her it was her decision, but that she might want to reconsider. After all, if she made it and accepted, we would get to see each other every night at rehearsal. She was still not sure. She did not think she would have the time for it. She was not sure if she loved it. She was not sure if she would be any good. She was not sure if she was able to give up her inhibitions and just jump in. She did not know if that was what she wanted. She began to tear up at this point. She put her head on my shoulder. I held her tight, and she took my arm. I was not looking at her, but instead was peering out into the night. I thought I felt (and heard) a slight kiss on my cheek. I hesitated a moment to wonder what to make of this. And then I kissed her. M______ later insisted that she had never kissed my cheek and that my thinking so was an accident. In fact, she held that my kiss had taken her totally by surprise. Whatever the case, we both parted that night smiling. Quite a fortunate accident.
The next day, we found that both of us had made it into the cast. We stood there, and both of us signed our initials next to our names. She whispered to me that she did like me and was going to accept the role. Her voice was low as she said this so only I could hear. She said it with a pang in her voice—a pang that was cautious, but sure. I liked the way she talked.
The road was dark, and it was getting late. I drove along, thinking only of M______. We had broken up long before. It had been more than a year since I had last seen her, but she was still with me, there in my head. I had thought about her often since we had parted ways. What she was doing. How her art career was going. Why she had never gone to college. If she was still living at home. What her house might look like all decorated with her prints and sketches. Who she was talking to. This is what I thought about. And I was tired. Tired of thinking. I drove along the road&151;my road, not our road. Our road had split long ago. Someone once told me that nothing good happens after midnight. That is not entirely true. I left M______ behind that night. That was something I was never able to do before. She was with me when I left the house that night, but when I returned, it was only me. I finally accepted what had been definite for more than a year. We were not to be. We would never talk again. Not after what had happened to destroy that original pang I felt (and heard) in her voice as we gazed at the cast list for the play. Writing about togetherness is an easier task than writing about losing such a sacred bond. Accepting it is even harder.
Jason Stevens is a junior from Massillon, Ohio, majoring in Political Science and History.