Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused. ― Paulo Coelho
Love is an untamed force. Indeed. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to understand it and in the end realized that the torture of asking why, what if, and if only served to deepen the wounds of memories whose sharp rusted edges tear and bruise one’s heart and spirit each moment they live above the surface of that restive cauldron that never cools. I’ve realized that it’s the mind that eventually falters and in time the pitted patina of our youthful losses fade into a gray-blue surreal scene with black edges and dark contrasts. Peace comes when the mind hears and no longer recognizes the sound of that first anguished cry.
Edward approached his teacher, Miss Hart, and stood pensive next to her desk until she looked up. He knew from experience that a smile or a frown would show which way his day was about to go. Fearing a reprimand, he cast his eyes down away from his teacher’s gaze.
Julia Hart taught eighth grade English forty years in her small Southern community. Now, at sixty-two, she was looking at retirement and realized she hadn’t planned for it. Secretly, she believed she would not live to that day when the state forced her to go home and leave her students to someone else. Someone she hadn’t met yet. The thoughts of her impending departure and the gray-blue mist of long dead hope swirled in her thoughts like a wet smoldering fire.
She won her job without hesitation from the principal and school board directly out of college. They all knew her story but none ever spoke of it. At least not to her. She never married, rarely dated, and had no goal to ever leave her children. Year after year she devoted her life to teaching the kids what she thought was the ticket to their escape from the same insular and suffocating life she chose.
She felt if they could read and write well, they would outshine their peers in the workforce out there where she dared not venture. She wanted to make sure her children left her care with the foundational skills and desire to go on to live wonderful lives. Julia Hart wanted the children to have the life she wanted with a quiet and lasting desperation. The life she forbade herself all these years.
“What is it Edward?”
Edward slowly held up a small diamond ring. The silver band glinted through the tarnish and deep scratches. The diamond was gray and lusterless from the silt trapped underneath the setting. Julia gave Edward a cursory smile to put him at ease as she lifted the ring closer to have a good look.
“Where did you find this Edward?”
Edward explained he found it in Little Creek, near the bank, in shallow water while hunting for tadpoles. The lines in Julia’s forehead deepened. Her mouth fell open with stunned slackness as if she wanted to speak but dared not. Inside the band was an inscription darker than the band from tarnish and grit in the tiny crevices left by the engraver.
“Eternal Love JH 1968.”
Julia slammed her hand to her mouth as the ring dropped to the desk, bounced, and sounded with a crystal clear ping as it hit the floor. It was too late. A great cry pushed past her fingers and filled the room. Julia sobbed out loud. It was the sound of a wounded creature. It was the sound of forty-six lost and confused years suddenly coming to reason with the truth.
Edward ran from the room, not looking back or thinking of his prized finding at the creek. He ran tormented by the haunting sounds and his own words.
“What did I do wrong? What did I do?”