by Joella Sun
You wore a white dress to the party. It was new and you felt like a princess when it swished around your body as you walked. Your friend Stacy joked that you looked virginal-the sweet and innocent girl you were. You thought you looked terribly romantic, like the Lady of Shalott.
His name was Evan. He was thin and gaunt, with hair like David Bowie. You started talking to him because you didn’t know anyone at the party, aside from Stacy, who was off chatting with boys. He spoke of wanting to be a teacher. Helen Keller inspired him. He had a soft spot for animals. You and he once saved a fallen sparrow that you found lying on the ground. You were holding hands and walking to the video store. You remembered how he took off his jacket and tenderly cradled the bird as you drove to the animal clinic. This is the kind of lover I want, you had thought. Evan became your first boyfriend. You gave him your virginity. He was the third boy you had kissed. Last year on the bus, you watched a man lovingly kiss the top of his girlfriend’s head--gently as if he were breathing out love. And that’s all you ever wanted.
So the first time he cheated on you, you laughed. His ex girlfriend had called and left a long, cruel message on your answering machine. But how could the person that had so gently cradled a bird in his jacket hurt you like that? This wasn’t the way love was supposed to be! The second time he cheated on you, you felt numb. And two weeks later when you stumbled upon letters from her, you screamed at him and tore up the letters. He held you as you cried. He wiped away your tears and kissed your eyelids, then the top of your head. For a second you felt better. You were the sparrow.
Your friends said you deserved better. You made excuses for him because he meant well, you said. When you told people that you loved him but you weren’t in love with him, they shook their heads. You understood their confusion. You too had once believed the two were the same thing. You didn’t know it could be separated so easily -- like the yellow and the whites of an egg.
At the bagel place you worked, you became friends with a vegan. A boy with no hair who gave you daisies when you worked together. You exchanged wistful glances. The first time you hung out together after a shift, he helped a homeless man and his kindness tugged at your heart. And eventually he wanted you to choose: It’s me or him, he said.
You thought it over. You respected and admired him. You related to his empathetic nature and you both liked the songs of Leonard Cohen. He was sweet and wise. He read Keoruac.
But you stayed with Evan. You weren’t ready for real love. You started writing the vegan a letter telling him this-that you were afraid of being loved but you never finished it. You rationalized your decision to choose safe option number one: you liked being in control of your feelings; you didn’t like being vulnerable.
* * *
You were sick and missed work so the vegan brought you echinacea tea. An hour later, when Evan came stumbling into your place, you knew before you smelled the alcohol on his breath, that he was drunk. The vegan and you took care of your boyfriend until he passed out on your bed.
That was the last time you saw Evan.
Sometimes, you catch a glimpse of him on your bike when you whiz past the Paradise, his favorite bar. You always wave. But you keep pedaling and the rush of the wind whipping through your face and hair is exhilarating. You are free.
About the author:
Joella Y. Sun has lived in Seoul and London in her twenty-something life. Currently, she resides in Madison, WI but is eagerly planning her escape from the Midwest. She has interviewed indie rockstars for "Action Attack Helicopter" and "Unpop."