We see our perfection through the imperfection of others. Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love.

My cell phone rang and I looked at the screen to see a smiling photo of my friend Cooper. I hit the answer button. “Hey Cooper, what’s up?”

The time was 8pm at night and I was going through my shut down routine, hunkering and getting ready for bed.

            “Hi Jane?” Cooper said. “Can I come talk to you?” His voice sounded shaken and desperate.

            “Why Cooper? Something wrong?”

            “No. My girlfriend and I just broke up and am feeling a little low.”

            “You and Nicole broke up?” I didn’t realize that I had said the words out aloud.

            See, here’s the thing. I’ve always had a crush on Cooper since years ago but I had never had the guts to tell him. Cooper was handsome, funny and smart. He made me laugh and we clicked in a way that I clicked with no other guy. We liked the same things too: movies, watching sports, taking walks, reading books and going to church on Sundays. Cooper was the kind of guy you could bring home to your family and not worry about what they would think or what he would say. But there was only one problem and her name was Nicole. Nicole: long-legged, stunning body, hair and looks of a model. Nicole was every man’s fantasy girl and my Cooper was no exception. Did I just say ‘my Cooper?’ Forgive me but sometimes I forget.

            My heart pounded as I put the cell phone back into my pocket. Cooper was coming over! And for the first time, he would be single. This was my one chance to tell him about my feelings! I could hardly wait.

            Cooper arrived at 9pm looking a little rough on the edges. I poured him a glass of wine and we sat in the living room next to the fire. I had cleaned out the room before his arrival and the air had a scent of Georgia Armani perfume.

            “I can’t believe Nicole,” Cooper said. “How can she be so insensitive?”

I didn’t say anything but waited for him to unwind.

            Cooper continued. “Every time I call her, she’s with some guy, hanging out. And when I question her company, she says that he’s just a friend.”

            I wanted to say, what do you expect, Nicole is hot and every guy wants her, but I didn’t.

            “I’m done with this bull,” Cooper said vehemently. “I told her that it’s over! We are finished. I’m not gonna be the one sitting at home waiting for her!”

            My instincts told me to just listen. Cooper wasn’t here for advice but to offload and I was the shoulder to cry on.

            A few glasses of wine later and feeling giddy, Cooper suddenly remembered my existence. “I’m sorry Jane for prattling on like this. Tell me, how have you been?”

            Cooper moved closer and I felt my face flash with excitement. I wasn’t hot in appearance but I was descent looking and could hold my own when it came to men.

            “I’m good Cooper,” I said. “I hate to see you hurting like this. You deserve so much better. You deserve a woman who can be there for you all the time.”

            “Yes I do!” Cooper reiterated. “And you know what, I will find one and move on.”

            The conversation shifted on to softer topics and the mood in the room changed.

            “How come you don’t have a boyfriend?” Cooper suddenly asked.

            I shrugged my shoulders. “I just haven’t found the right one. You know what they say, all the good men are taken.”

Cooper laughed. “Not this good man, not this one.”

            It was almost midnight now and we hadn’t noticed the time. That’s just how it was with cooper and I: time was of no essence. Cooper yawned and finally asked, “You wonna hang out tomorrow afternoon?”

            I didn’t hesitate. “Sure! I would love to,” I said jubilantly. The thought of spending an afternoon with Cooper was a dream come true for me. Things were looking up and Cooper hadn’t mentioned Nicole for the last two hours of the night.

            The following day I waited for Cooper at the library as I pretended to read a book. Every time someone walked in through the library entrance, I would look up expectantly only for my face to fall at the false alarm.

            Three hours later, the Librarian announced the closer of the library and still Cooper hadn’t arrived. Had he said afternoon or evening? I wondered. He must have said evening, I thought as I tried to find a logical excuse for his absence. The time was almost five when I looked at my cell phone. No missed calls, not even from my mum. What kind of a person was I?

The library closed and I wondered whether something had happened to Cooper. I dialed his number but nobody answered. I became really worried and replayed all the worst possible sceneries. Maybe, a car accident? No, not my Cooper, I prayed as I made my way home.

            At home I watched a movie till 8pm then tried Cooper’s number again and this time it was switched off. I watched another movie and at around 11pm at night my phone suddenly went off. It was Cooper sounding tired and groggy.

            “Hi Jane. Sorry I didn’t return your call earlier,” he said nonchalantly.

            “Cooper! I was worried about you when you didn’t show up at the library,” I blurted out in a rush of excitement.

            “Oh, sorry Jane. I hope you didn’t wait for me. Nicole called me and we got back together. She promised to change for better. I’m so tired. Can we talk tomorrow?”

            My head wanted to explode. My heart wanted to crumble. I felt like I was in the middle of the ocean floating on a straw. I pulled myself together. “Yes, sure Cooper. We’ll talk tomorrow,” I said with forced bravado.

            “Goodnight Jane, you are a good friend.”

            “Goodnight Cooper.”

            The clock on the wall read midnight, the lights in my bedroom were off. I sat on my bed in the darkness like a statue for a long time thinking of nothing at all. I was incapable of rational thinking at the moment. A blinding rage flushed through my blood and if there was a night that I wanted to kill myself, then this was it!

How could someone endure so much hurt and pain? I placed my hand over my heart and started laughing but halfway through, laughter turned into an avalanche of sobs. Why me? Why was this happening to me? Wasn’t I lovable? Did I really deserve this punishment? I cried relentlessly deep into the night and no matter how much I tried sleep just wouldn’t come. My mind was too bogged: I entombed myself in a mountain of grief. The pain feasted on me like a virus.

            A week went by and I promised myself to never talk to Cooper again. I was done with this…unrequited love. Why waste my time and thoughts on someone who didn’t love me? I was like half a loaf of bread sitting on a table, molding. It was time to move on. Cooper was dead to me!

Two weeks later at midnight, my phone went off and I looked at it sleepily and saw Cooper’s smiling face. I hesitated then answered the call. “Yes?”

            “Hi Jane, can I talk to you. I really need to talk to you, please?” Cooper sounded like he was standing on a cliff about to fall, and I was the only one who could rescue him.

            “Did you guys break up?” I asked as I sat up in bed.

            “Yes! I walked out on her, this time for good!” Cooper’s voice was full of conviction and my heart skipped a beat. I was suddenly awake. Cooper wanted to come over!

            My mind flashed back to the last night Cooper and I had spent together drinking wine on the couch and suddenly Cooper coming over sounded like a great idea. I paused and did a double take, maybe this time it was real. Maybe Cooper and Nicole had truly broken up.

            “Jane?” Cooper interrupted my thoughts.

            “Okay”, I said. “You can come over.”

            And as soon as I said the words, I felt hollow inside. I had betrayed every virtue that my parents had instilled in me: dignity, integrity, pride and most important self-respect. I was no longer my father’s daughter.



A few months later, I moved out of Stuttgart to a new town four hours away on a new job and it was here that I found my niche. I called Cooper a few times and we made polite conversation but when I realized that I was doing all the calling, I trickled down then finally stopped. The distance helped and I buried my head down in the sand and focused on my teaching career. On weekends, I spend time in the library doing research and reading books and it was here that I met Jonathan. Jonathan and I started by nodding at each other politely and it was never love at first sight. Each weekend we said halo to each other and walked away until finally one day, he found the guts to stammer and ask me out. Later on, I realized that Jonathan asking a lady out was as rare as the eclipse of the sun. Jonathan was an introvert in the social life but tenacious in his accounting career line.

            When I finally went to Jonathan’s house, I was shocked at the size of his bungalow: two cars in the garage, a front yard and a fenced back yard.

            “You wonna go say hi to my parents?” Jonathan asked casually.

            “What? Now?” I fumbled with the words.

            “They live down the street,” he clarified.

            “Am I dressed appropriately?” I asked.

            “Common,” Jonathan took my hand. “You look great!” I doubted it but said nothing. His parents were wealthy and the shocker came when I realized that I was the first female Jonathan had ever brought home.

“You must be special,” his mum pointed out as they got to know me better. “Jonathan has always been shy with women.” I had already made that conclusion.

            Jonathan and I liked to read books on weekends, watch movies, take walks on the beach, and visit close friends for a chat. Parties? Not really… Jonathan liked an occasional beer and I liked to dance, but we never went overboard … never got silly drunk or partied like rock stars. We were, as the modern society termed us ‘a boring couple.’ But in my eyes, Jonathan was the sun and the moon: the other half of the loaf of bread.

            Jonathan made me happy and I loved him because he paid attention to my needs and listened to me. He told me that he loved me and bought me flowers and teddy bears. What more could a girl want?

            Well, as much as I was having fun, it was time to take Jonathan home to meet my family and I fore warned him that my family wasn’t anything close to normal. We were not rich and drama in my little town was the order of the day.

            So, five years later, I returned to the town of Stuttgart with my new man in my arms. Needless to say, the red carpet wasn’t rolled out for us and the fireworks didn’t explode to announce our arrival. Folks in my town didn’t welcome the idea of their little girl getting married by someone from another town.

            “What’s wrong with the boys here?” they asked. “How about that boy you used to run around with… what was his name, Cooper?”

            Cooper. The name came with a flood of memories. I met Cooper on my second week back home and he invited me for a drink. I accepted and didn’t tell my man about the date. Don’t ask me why I agreed to go or why I kept it a secret. Cooper was a past secret that I had buried from my present life.

            “Jane!” Cooper hugged me and as he pulled a chair. I sat down and took a good look at him. His handsome face took my breath away.

            “You look good Cooper,” I said.

            “Thanks Jane. Wow, look at you, all grown and looking pretty… I heard that you were in town and I was like I have to see Jane.”

            Cooper ordered some beers and we sipped and made small talk. Country music hummed in the background and the noise was dismal. After two beers, it began to feel like the good old days and suddenly I remembered why I had loved him like so.

            “I keep thinking to myself,” Cooper said. “This could be me and Jane.”

            “What.” I was suddenly paying attention. “What was that you said Cooper?”

            Cooper took a long sip at his beer then said. “I was thinking that maybe this could have been our time Jane, me and you, getting together, if things had been different.”

            I laughed nervously. “Yes, Cooper, if things had been different.” I pointed out. Then as an afterthought I asked. “Whatever happened to Nicole? I mean are you guys still together?”

            I saw a sharp pain cut across Cooper’s face and I knew it before he said it. He had been burned. Nicole had broken his heart just like he had broken mine.

            “I left her,” Cooper lied. “I’m a single man Jane.” The words came out like an offer and I knew that the old Jane would have jumped at the chance. But that was five years ago, a lifetime of pain.

            Suddenly I felt sorry for Cooper. He was trying hard to put on a show but I could see that Nicole had left a scar. I raised my beer bottle in the air and said. “Good for you Cooper. To the good old days and to new beginnings,” I toasted.

            “To new beginnings,” Cooper said without sounding very enthusiastic.

            I stood up, kissed Cooper on the cheek and said goodbye, but as I neared the door, Cooper suddenly ran after me and grabbed my hand. I turned around startled.

            “Jane, can I see you again?” he asked. “I really need to. Seeing you has brought back so much memories and I now remember why I liked you so much! Please… can I see you again?”

            And now I felt really sorry for him. Without long-legged Nicole beside him, he was a sight for sore eyes.

            “I can’t Cooper,” I said. “I have a new life now.”

            I took a step back towards the exit door and suddenly Cooper looked like a desolate ocean. I walked out of the bar with my head held high and my heart full and never once looked back.

We see our perfections through the imperfections of others, a wise lady had once said. My eyes were wide open. My man Jonathan had never looked more perfect than he did at the moment.

 

Two days later, my phone rang and I saw Cooper’s smiling face.

            “Who’s that?” Jonathan asked me.

            I put my hands around my boyfriend’s waist and hugged him close as I ignored the call. “Just an old friend honey. Just an old friend.”

            We walked down the streets where I grew up and I told Jonathan funny stories about my past. I showed him places I had stolen sweets: the adults who I had gotten in trouble with: my favorite restaurants and the best places to catch twilight. At the end of the main street, we climbed up a small hill and watched the orange of the sun fade in the horizon. The country air smelled of fresh cow dung.

I never told Jonathan about Cooper and my crush for him. That was a Pandora box that I would never open. My new life was ahead of me now and I was happier than I ever would be.

            “What’s that?” Jonathan suddenly asked. He was pointed at the grass.

“Where?” I looked as I parted the grass. With the last glow of the sun I saw the gleam of a shiny object. I grabbed it and screamed in delight. It was a ring.

I turned and saw Jonathan on one knee.

“Will you marry me, Jane?” he asked.

I jumped on him and we rolled on the grass. “Yes! Yeeeeeees!” I yelled at the top of my voice. There were tears in my eyes and Jonathan reached out and wiped my face.

“It’s okay my Jane,” he said. “The past is behind you now. The present is here.”

We kissed passionately on the grass for a long time as the stars danced above us. A welcome darkness descended and I closed my eyes as I heard Jonathan’s words.

“The Universe is full of love, you just have to follow the music.”

           

           

           

 



News

Off to AFRICA

 

My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.

 

The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen

 

Contact

 

mrobertto@yahoo.com

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