College and Career Night tries too hard. With its lattes and biscotti, and its hip young pastor. Still, he makes you think. And the biscotti melt like magic in the coffee.
It’s two nights before Valentine’s Day. Derry pushes a clump of hair from his eyes. Spots a table with a hipster in painfully tight jeans, a silently panicking thing, and a pretty punk princess.
As he climbs up onto a stool, the pastor microphones, “OK, in honor of Saint Valentine, tonight’s Big Question is, Who’s the love of your life? Your Soul Mate? The One? Corny? Maybe. But why does the Big Love idea persist? Talkers, start your tongues!” Even before he’s done, tight-jeans and panicking-thing leave.
“So…just the two of us, huh?” Derry says to the punk princess.
He has a sudden desire to dip her smirk in his coffee. “You wanna go first?”
“Nope.” She tosses back the shoulder-length hair from one side of her head. The other side is buzz-cut. It looks like a summery hillside. Derry wants to roll in it.
“I’m Derry,” he says, “and I really do believe The One is out there, you know? I mean, it’s not like I sit around watching Hallmark movies, but, well, me and my high school girlfriend Heather, we used the L-word a lot. But she was just the training wheels version. I know the real deal is out there, the—”
“The BMX of Love?”
Derry snockers. “I was going to say, ‘the love of my life.’ That pastor guy’s right. I think love is what we’re made for, so I’m not giving up. Who knows, maybe I’ll find her here.”
Punk princess’s tire spikes go up. “This isn’t a singles group.”
“Sorry. The guys on my high school football team called me ‘Mush Bucket.’ They also called me ‘Poet’ because I wrote—”
“Laundry lists?” She smiles. “Go on, Mush-Bucket.”
“Well, I’ve always been pretty religious. So I made a deal with God: ‘If you let me find her, The One, I’ll be holy and go to church and all that.’”
“’And all that.’ So have you?”
“Pretty much…kind of…trying. How about you?”
“Meg. Well, I’m not religious. I had a boyfriend who was Mr. Profound. Quoted Nietzsche, smoked clove cigarettes. Then I caught him being very un-profound with some pre-Fab Barbie. So I figured, People use each other. That’s it, that’s ‘love.’ Forget all the soul mate crap. In the end it’s really just—”
“Yep. Or power. Or both. So I started using people, and got used back. Until after a while I felt—”
“Yep. So I quit. Now it’s just me and my cat, ‘Mr. Right.’”
“That’s your cat’s name?”
“Yep. Pretty jaded, huh? Then about six months ago I wander in here. I have no idea why.”
“I figured you were a newbie like me.”
“Nope. And then one night I met him. The love of my life.”
“Whoa! I thought you didn’t believe in—”
“I didn’t. Till I met him. Totally blind-sided me. We were just talking, you know? And then—I don’t know why—I started telling him stuff I’ve never told anybody. And it didn’t freak him out, didn’t make him back off. He wanted to hear it all. Everything. I always figured if anyone loved me it would be despite who I was, not because of it.”
Her eyes begin to water. Derry scans the room, looking for the one who won the Princess’s heart.
“The next day I realized, ‘I’m falling in love! How is that even possible?’”
“Is he at another table?” Derry asks.
“He’s at all of them.”
“What? Wait, how can…?” It suddenly clicks. “You mean God, don’t you?”
“Wait–so you’re saying it’s not that loving people helps us learn how to love God, but—”
“But the other way around.”
Derry lightning bolts, “Maybe that’s where the whole Big Love idea comes from!” Meg smiles, and Derry suddenly realizes she’s the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. “Still, just because God’s your Number One, that doesn’t mean you don’t need a Number Two.”
“Whoa! Hit the showers, Mush Bucket!” She laughs. “Look, I’m still new to the Big Love bit, so right now I’m just focusing on Number One, OK?”
“OK,” he says, “I get it.” And he actually does. “So, Happy Valentine’s Day, God girl.”
“Back at you, Poet.”
To download a performable script version of this story, click here.