I’ve always believed in love. I guess you could call me a hopeless romantic. Devin says it’s simultaneously one of my best and worst traits, and she’s not wrong. I have a special kind of faith reserved for cinematic love, a certain dedication to every kind of meet-cute. You might be imagining your stereotypical happy white suburban middle-class family as my upbringing, given my general outlook on life. That part of my life has been marked off as a big, fat maybe-but-instead. If my dad hadn’t lost his promotion, maybe he wouldn’t have gone to the bar down the street from our old house. If the bar hadn’t been promoting their Tuesday night special, maybe he wouldn’t have gotten so drunk. If my mom was working that night, maybe she wouldn’t have gone with him.
If my dad hadn’t driven off the road when I was seven, maybe I would still have parents.
But instead, I have Alisha and David. Alisha’s a little bit too pinch-faced for her own good, but her intentions are good, and once you get past David’s initial awkwardness, he’s really sweet. The three of us have settled into a comfortable routine. Familiar. And that’s partly what makes me believe in love. Because of my second chance. Because of the foster parents who were willing to take a chance on an older kid who didn’t talk much. Even my namesake, Juliet, is a tragic romantic. Not that I promote suicide; obviously Romeo and Juliet could have handled their problems much more efficiently. But you have to admit that there’s something so effortlessly romantic about being ready to give everything up for someone else.
You see, I know a lot about tragic love.
I think that my penchant for theatrical true love is what has me doubting this blind date. That, and also the fact that this is a terrible idea. One of Devin’s worst, in fact, extremely unlike her usually bright theories.
“Stop worrying,” Devin commands, tugging at my hair with a plastic brush and wincing as the bristles snag a nest of honey-colored snarls. “I can hear you thinking.” I wouldn’t be surprised if she actually could. This is how Devin and I operate. DevinandJuliet. JulietandDevin. I fall down the deep, twisty tunnel of my thoughts, and she shines down her brilliant flashlight of hope and offers me a ladder. Every time, without fail.
“You know that this is a spectacularly terrible idea, right?” I ask, tilting my head and scrunching my eyes shut as she works at the nape of my neck with the comb.
“Juliet, this is a brilliant idea. I haven’t a clue what you are talking about.” That’s the other thing about Devin. She is hopelessly stubborn, too cocky for her own good and unwilling to step down from a fight, even if she’s backing the wrong horse. She’s definitely chosen the wrong side this time, but I know she won’t pull back.
I look at myself in the mirror before us. Devin’s actually managed to somewhat tame my tangles into a semi-respectable knot at the back of my head. I hate my hair. Usually, it’s dull and frizzy, but something Devin’s done has made it shiny and slick without looking too greasy. She takes a nub of an eyeliner pencil now, and starts to work away at my features. Everything about my face is dull in contrast to Devin’s face. She’s all sharp, broken angles, with her crooked nose and piercing green eyes. Her appearance matches her internal fierceness. Devin’s a special brand of tamed fury that I can only hope to achieve one day. You know when she loves you, because she loves you with her entire heart. No holding back. On the other hand, everything about me is soft. The loose skin at my stomach, the dull blue-grey pavement mixture of my irises. I often marvel at how Devin chose me, the pathetically sentimental bookworm, to be her best friend.
“Hey, I know this isn’t how you wanted to meet someone,” Dev says, biting her lip in concentration as she tries not to stab me with the mascara wand. “But think about it! Maybe you’ll hit it off! This could be really good for you, Juliet.”
“Easy for you to say,” I grumble. “You’ve got Paul.” Paul is Devin’s obnoxiously beautiful boyfriend. They met through an online dating service and have been together for two years as of last month. I think he’s part of the reason why Devin is so convinced that a blind date is the answer to all of my problems. I’ve only met him a few times, and haven’t seen him in months, though. Him and Dev don’t seem to be the type to call each other every night. Quietly, I don’t mind. Devin takes up a good deal of space in my heart, and I like to imagine there’s enough room for me in hers. Devin grunts noncommittally.
“I’m just saying. Give it a chance. Don’t shut them down right away, yeah?” She’s done with my makeup now, and stands back with both eyebrows raised to give me the full condescending effect. I look away.
“Yeah, okay.” Maybe she’s right. Dev’s usually right. Which is why I was so surprised when she insisted on setting me up with one of her friends who goes to a different school. She hasn’t even told me their name. How am I supposed to build a swoon-worthy movie romance when I don’t even know my co-star’s name?
“Put on the grey sweater,” Devin says, “and let’s go.” I’m about to say something indignant, but then just sigh and change out of the blouse I had on, trading it for a soft sweater with a deep V-neck. Dev nods approvingly, then swishes out of the room without waiting for me, leaving me feeling dizzy and a little exhausted. Sometimes that’s what happens when we’re together; she leaves me feeling drained. Like all of the oxygen in a room is at her beck and call, and follows at her heels wherever she goes, even if it means whoever is left behind chokes.
I guess that’s what happens when you’re in love with your best friend.
I go out and get in the car. Devin’s already gone, but I’m not surprised. We’ve been friends for so long that we both come and go whenever we please. It’s like there’s an invisible thread attached to our hips. We can leave, but we’ll always be pulled back together eventually.
I turn on NPR and pull out of the driveway, carefully checking my rearview mirrors. A copper-voiced newswoman is reporting the death of some old actor, a famous ghost of the past who people nod in recognition of, but haven’t actually seen anything they’re in. No last words. They died in their sleep. They faded from the world slowly, and then all at once.
I’ve actually put a decent amount of thought into what I want my last words to be. Most people overthink this, but for me, the answer is simple. I’ve decided that I want my last words to be “I love you”. Sure, it’s sappy, but quite in character for me. Because if I can say those three little words, to my parents or friends or partner or children, then I can attest to a well-lived life and die in peace. I don’t stress myself thinking about the end of the world, because when it all boils down, if I can look at even just one person and tell them I love them, then I must have done something worthwhile. It must have all been worth it.
I guess, simply put, I can have faith in life because I have faith in love.
Which is why this blind setup is a horrible idea. I nearly slam the brakes and turn around right then and there, but I keep driving, resigning myself to my Devin-induced fate. By the time I’ve pulled up outside the restaurant, I’ve decided that I’ll go inside, and politely tell my waiting company that this was all a big misunderstanding, and I am not, in fact, looking to date. I mouth the words over and over again to myself as the waiter leads me back to a booth. I’m sorry. I’m sorry Devin made you do this. I’m sorry Devin made me do this. I’m sorry you’ve wasted your time.
I’m sorry I’m sort of pathetically in love with somebody else.
“Hi, uh, I hope you haven’t ordered drinks yet, I’m not staying,” I blurt quickly, sliding into the booth the waiter points out.
But then I look up. I look up, and there is broken nose intelligent eyes sharp tongue fiery spirit and there is Devin. And I know that while cinematic embellishments might be false, love is real.
“Hey,” she breathes, the bow of her lip dipping as she gives me a soft smirk. I know that she’s nervous, though, because her forehead is wrinkled. I want to smooth it with the pad of my thumb.
And I know that I am staying for a long, long time.
this might be the happiest thing i've written :)
thoughts & feedback, please!
reviews are always amazing.