College and Career Night tries a little too hard. With its lattes. And its biscotti. And its Ryan-Seacresty young adult pastor. Still, the guy makes you think. And the biscotti melt like magic in the coffee.
It’s two nights before Valentine’s Day. Derry pushes a thready clump of hair from his eyes. Spots a table with a too-cool dude in painfully tight jeans, a silently panicking thing, and a pretty punk chick.
As he climbs up onto a chair-stool, Pastor Seacrest 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? Hollywood hype? Maybe. But why does the Big Love idea persist? Have you met yours yet? 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.
“Yep. I think Too-Cool is hanging with his church buds. And Shrinking Violet just—“
Derry has a sudden desire to dip her smirk in his coffee. “You wanna go first?” he asks.
“Nope,” she says, tossing 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, “short for Derrick. And, laugh if you want, but I really do believe The One is out there. I mean, it’s not like I sit around watching Lifetime movies, but… Well, me and my high school girlfriend Heather…”
Punk girl smiles as if to say, “‘Heather.’ Of course.”
“We used the L-word a lot. But she was just the Catholic school training wheels version, you know? Just enough to convince me the real deal is out there, the—”
“The BMX of Love?” punk princess asks.
Derry snockers, then quickly wipes his nose. “I was going to say, ‘the love of my life.’ Laugh, but that pastor guy is right. Why does the Big Love idea persist? I mean, why does it seem like it’s what we’re made for? So I’m not giving up. Who knows, maybe I’ll find her here.” OhGodOhGodOhGod, he thinks, You idiot!
Bam—punk girl’s tire spikes go up. “This isn’t a singles group.”
“So all of this sounds pretty lame to you, huh?”
“No, just…” Her voice trails off.
Vulnerability—was that vulnerability? “The guys on my high school football team called me ‘Mush Bucket.’ They also called me ‘Poet’ because I wrote—”
“What? No, I mean… Oh, kidding, right?”
She smiles. Without subtext. “Uh-huh. Go on, Mush-Bucket.”
“Well, I’ve always been pretty religious. So I made a deal with God: ‘If you let me find her—'”
“Exactly. ‘If you let me find her, I’ll be pure and go to church and walk the straight-and-narrow and all that…’”
“’And all that.’ So have you?”
“Pretty much…kind of…trying.”
“But you still haven’t found her.”
“I will! How about you?”
“Megan. ‘Megs.’ Well, I’m not religious. I had a boyfriend in high school who was Mr. Profound. You know, talked about the meaninglessness of life, quoted Nietzsche, smoked clove cigarettes. Then I found him not-exactly-talking with two—two—pre-fab Barbies. So I figured it out. People use each other. That’s it. Forget the soul mate crap. Sometimes they call it love, but in the end it’s really just—”
“Yep. Or power. Or both. So I started using people. And a lot of the time I got used back. Until after a while I started to feel—”
“So I quit.”
“Humans. Bailed. Didn’t want to be used any more and didn’t want to use anyone either. Just me and my cat, ‘Mr. Right.’”
“That’s your cat’s name, ‘Mr. Right’?”
“Yep. Pretty jaded, huh?”
“Yeah.” Pretty. And jaded. “So that’s it? You don’t believe in love just because some jerk—”
“Did I say I was done?”
“Sorry. Go on.”
“So about six months ago I wander in here. I have no idea why.
“Really? I just assumed you were, you know, a newbie like me.”
“Nope. Got my six month chip.”
“They give out chips for—?”
“Kidding. And then one night I met him.”
“Yep. The love of my life.”
“Whoa! I thought you didn’t believe in—”
“Didn’t. Till I met him. Totally blind-sided me. We just started talking, you know? No big. But then—I don’t know why—I started to tell him stuff I’d never told anybody else. And it didn’t freak him out, didn’t make him back off. He wanted to hear it all. I always figured if anyone ever loved me, it would be despite who I was, not because of it. But the more I told him…”
To Derry’s shock, her eyes begin to water.
“The next day I couldn’t stop thinking about him. And I realized, ‘I’m falling in love with him! How is that possible?’”
Derek begins scanning the room, looking for the one who won Princess Jaded’s heart. “Whoa, that’s awesome, but I thought… I mean I was kinda—“
Bright light! Bright light! “Well, yeah, sort of,” Derry admits. “But, I mean… Is he at another table?”
“He’s at all of them.”
“What? Wait, how can…?” Click. “You mean God, don’t you?”
“So…you’re saying that it’s not if we love people, we can love God the same way, but—”
“The other way around.”
“Exactly!” Derry shouts, like a person who’s just found the key to a lock he didn’t know existed. “So maybe that’s where the whole Big Love idea comes from. It’s not made up and it’s not from Hollywood, it’s from…
Megs smiles. And Derry suddenly realizes she’s the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. Maybe that the world has ever seen. “Still, just because God’s Number One,” he ventures, “that doesn’t meet you don’t need a Number Two.”
“Whoa! Hit the showers, Mush Bucket!” She’s not offended. “Look, I’m still new to this Big Love bit, so right now I’m just focusing on Number One, OK?”
“OK.” Stop being that guy! “I get it,” he says. And he really does. In a newly-ex-that-guy kind of way. “So Happy Valentine’s Day, God girl.”
“Back at you, Poet.”
To download a performable script version of this story, click here.